No-one wants to be worked to death, or to live in a state of struggle. Over many thousands of years, humankind has developed tools to make life easier. As workers become increasingly enabled through digital transformation, people don’t just stop working; we don’t sit by idly, as “DJ Roomba” cruises by to drop us an iced tea. But the future of work is still unclear.
Andrew Yang, a 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate, has championed the concept of a “Freedom Dividend,” bringing conversations about what it will look like when people economically profit from automation to the mainstream cultural dialogue. Theoretically, in Yang’s vision, people will collect money, and automatons will conduct work. Yang is an optimistic futurist, who believes that we will be enabled to live more creative and fulfilling lives, and rethink the value of different types of “work”, potentially enabling people like stay-at-home-mothers or other forms of work to receive shares of a shared, automated productivity. During the debate, Cory Booker offered a gentle pushback to Yang’s vision, stating that there needs to be dignity in work, and that raising minimum wage would be more effective than a Universal Basic Income (UBI). Booker’s comment implied that a UBI robs individuals of some facet of the dignity that would accompany being a creator, someone who builds things, for example an auto worker, or a steel worker.
How Automation and Process Engineering Affect Businesses, Customer Experience, Future of Work
The role of being an auto worker was created by the Industrial Revolution and Fordism, just as the role of being an automation manager, Business Systems lead, or application manager is a role created by what Yang calls the “4th Industrial Revolution.” As the Industrial Revolution made capital and consumption of the fruits of capital a standardized practice, Fordism is described as a Taylorist labor process. Frederick Winslow Taylor developed his theories around the American manufacturing industries, including steel. His theories were about optimizing workflows through process-engineering, for maximum efficiency, minimal waste, and standardization of practices (ie, the now-ubiquitous phraseology “best practices”.)
The syntax of digitization takes this scientific efficiency to the next level, requiring a fine-tuned procedural map down to the last semicolon, in order to accurately and efficiently re-create processes by running software. As businesses implement SaaS solutions and iPaaS / Enterprise Automation connectivity to automate workflows, and automate the automation of workflows, and someday undoubtedly automate the automation of automating workflows, businesses are enabled to cut costs, improve customer experience, and perform at a faster pace with greater accuracy and efficiency. For consumers who enjoy the benefits of low-stress, positive experiences with transactions, this can feel like they are reaping the “DJ Roomba cruising by with an iced tea” type of benefit of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Overwhelmed by the proliferation of SaaS
SaaS apps provide many benefits: they are fast to deploy, always on, and allow lines of business more control over their workflows. Still, despite their many pros, their rapid adoption can leave employees feeling overwhelmed by the number of applications that they need to use each day. It can inhibit results-oriented, goal-oriented work, and make the future of work seem bleak, rather than inspired.
Fragmented data and “app fatigue” can feel Kafkaesque
Workato CEO Vijay Tella acknowledges this “dark side of SaaS,” which is that business intelligence is splintered across an array of SaaS applications, and employees have to hop between applications, often transferring data by hand from one to another. These types of multi-application workflows can actually feel depressingly Kafkaesque and even result in inaccuracies and data transmission errors, rather than catalyzing workplace satisfaction and productivity. You start to see the “dignity of work” argument emerge- do we really want people to be spending their time transferring business data from one platform to another, endlessly engaged in a bureaucratic shuffle instead of creating value and creatively troubleshooting and streamlining aspects of their work, such as human relationships and process design?
Enterprise Automation Elevates Employee Experience
Automation affects manual laborers and office workers differently, but some of the concerns overlap. For example, office workers who do manual data entry may share many of the concerns that an auto worker may have about automation, the future of work, and UBI. Additionally, employees, regardless of the field or industry they work in, want to have a dignified work experience. Enterprise automation can elevate the “dignity of work” for employees, by freeing them from repetitive tasks and allowing teams to focus on adding strategic value and other higher-order functions of consciousness.
Enterprise Automation reduces “app fatigue” and ameliorates the sense of repetition and wasted time that can be caused by an excess of data entry tasks and administrative shuffling. It allows companies to not only integrate systems and cloud apps, but also take advantage of technologies like AI, Machine Learning, and bots when creating workflow automations. Employees find satisfaction and a sense of achievement in being able to focus on the aspects of work that are fulfilling- building relationships with their customers, thinking creatively to design and improve processes, and working toward results.
Automation frees the mind for creative, human tasks
Digital intelligence functions mathematically, using a series of logical frameworks like boolean algebra, if / then statements, loops, and arrays. Even the most mathematical machine learning is based on the application of patterns. We need human beings, with our self-awareness, our ability to situate phenomenon within the context of the “big picture”, our ability to create emotional experiences and connect with customers, and our ability to re-design and change existing processes, to make a business work. But software excels and outperforms humans at performing repetitive tasks accurately and without fatigue. Understanding where to apply digital intelligence allows humans to focus on what we do well, and to live happier and more fulfilling work lives.
Workato strives to create a more meaningful and productive work life, and a more inspired future of work. Want to see how Workato has transformed high-growth businesses like Coupa? Get our free ebook, The Transformative Power of Workato >
photo: The Flint strikes in 1936-1937 were a crucial moment when auto workers’ unions went from being an isolated group of local unions to the UAW, United Auto Workers, that we know today. After a long and difficult strike, workers were able to acquire such basic rights such as the right to talk during lunch. During a recent Presidential debate, the UAW was on strike against GM. Candidates discussed the new era of automation, and how it’s affecting workers, including auto workers, and what the future of work will look like. Photo credit: Dick, Sheldon, photographer. Sitdown strikers in the Fisher body plant factory number three. Flint, Michigan. Jan.-Feb. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2017790326/.