The last “big thing” was the internet — something we all take for granted today. The internet provides us with the ability to make significant leaps in our efforts to ensure efficiency and know-how to our life and work. The internet has provided us with the integration of business strategy and technology.
The internet is fundamentally just about things:
• A set of standards for communication networks to run over existing communication media
• A world-wide collection of software standards for email, file transfers, browsers, web software and mountains of applications and data.
The internet is global. I don’t think we truly appreciate what that means in the context of information sharing. We take it for granted. The protocols and all the infrastructure are designed to withstand attacks from conventional weapons. And if you think about the internet is relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of what it provides. Because of this we saw and are experiencing the evolution of business on the internet. Think back to the 1980s and the use of email, the 1990’s and decision support systems, groupware, workflow, and multimedia all in one decade. As all this developed and expanded we saw higher bandwidth of physical media, we began to examine and understand the ways humans were interacting with the technology, and we saw the rise of serious research globally in this area such as the MIT Media Laboratory.
The internet and all that evolved with it during the 1990s and 2000s has given rise to the next big thing: Robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, The Internet of Things, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles.
We are seeing the collaborative integration of the next big things such as AI as the core driver of Robotics, quantum computing and biotechnology and autonomous vehicles.
We think Robotic process automation (RPA) as a new form of “clerical processing” using software robots and AI. True for many banks and insurance companies who are looking to gain efficiencies and accuracies in the workflow process but companies are thinking beyond the efficiency aspects of RPA and are examining the cause/effect for people, technology and expanding markets. As in all forms of change, we need to understand what the purpose is today; we need to look at the DNA of the technology. For example, RPA has its roots in screen scraping and automated workflows of the mid-1990s. AI a term first coined in 1956 at Dartmouth College and gave rise to decision support systems. Let’s not forget that RPA is a developing technology, it relies on the techniques of artificial intelligence, screen scraping, and workflow automation and transforms and collaborated these technologies to perform in a significantly improved way we have never imagined.
I recently facilitated a panel discussion internally within a company who is using RPA to automate processes, and this is a company that took a look into the future and saw more. They see RPA in new ways and across more operations than it is today. They don’t see it as a “headcount reduction” but see it as a means to allow their employees to be more strategic, more creative in problem-solving customer issues. They see RPA touching their external, customer-oriented processes as a means to drive business, expand markets and geographies, they see RPA as the collaborator between them and their customer.
As with all humans, our DNA evolved over the centuries so too with technology. We will see RPA used together with other types of techniques. Different DNA will be present as the technology emerges. The ability to trace that DNA will always be there just like us humans. Heck, I had my DNA tested by 23 and Me, and I have 281 Neanderthal traits. That is like 65,000 years ago still present today. We as humans adapted over time and our DNA adapted. So with the technology, we will RPA evolve because companies that have vision realize in the new world you cannot just have stand-alone systems. Companies that believe their operations will always exist with autonomous legacy systems will die because someone will eat them for lunch. The realization that applications will all go through a transformation and integration with other tools so we can achieve the most out of them. Conversion is the heart of the evolution. I find it most fascinating to see the similarities between the anthropology of humans and the anthropology of technology.
As the Fourth Industrial “Revolution” evolves we will no longer think of AI as something futuristic, we will see the technology as a self-learning tool and no longer be “rule-based” and will integrate with other systems. One more reason why systems will no longer be stand-alone. We see the technology of the fourth evolution shaping the needs of the organization which will mean knowing and understanding your strategy will be paramount to the evolution. As corporate DNA evolves we see the new world on the verge of the rise of the new “digital employee.” The workforces are entering a period of digital transformation.
Who is taking the lead in your company?
Who understands what the “next big thing” means for survival?
Where is your CIO and CISO in the mix?