The human side of automation

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I’ve worked with manufacturing clients for many years, so I’m very familiar with automation that is often employed to perform mundane, repetitive tasks. The goal in these cases is to improve process quality and speed while optimizing resources. Or, to put it bluntly, automation is often used to replace headcount with faster alternatives.

However, I’d like to turn your attention to a different type of automation, one that’s showing tremendous potential as an enhancement to human efforts rather than a replacement. It’s being developed using disciplines acquired on the factory floor and applying them to an entirely different field: process automation and cognitive computing.

This new approach can dramatically change the course of your organization and improve the lives of your IT staff. But, as with any mention of automation, it can first be met with resistance if not all-out opposition. I’m convinced that once your colleagues learn how process automation and cognitive computing can be used to improve employee engagement —  releasing them from dull, monotonous tasks — they’ll urge you to consider it for your organization. And, even more exciting, your IT staff will embrace it.

The irreplaceable value of the IT mind

The men and women who populate IT departments are vastly different from assembly line workers who rely on their hands for their work. Your IT staff are highly trained, highly skilled individuals valued for their intellect and imagination. It’s these professionals who envision, develop and deploy innovative systems that can mean the difference between digital reinvention of your organization, or stagnation and failure in a highly competitive market.

Yet, with all their potential, they’re often relegated to the performance of repetitive tasks that require only a fraction of their skills. They’re under-utilized, bored and at risk of seeking employment elsewhere. That costs the company time, energy, and intellectual capital that would be best put to use in other areas.

Now, imagine if you could release 25 percent of your IT professionals’ time from the burden of repetitive tasks. Doing so lets your team devote their talent toward efforts that can transform your operations and improve competitive performance. That’s what process automation and cognitive computing can help you do.

The innovation of automation

Automation has been used previously for simple manual tasks in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). For example, it can build code and test execution. Now, we are witnessing an increasing demand for automating not just a few repetitive tasks, but essential decision-making processes and software delivery optimization.

Cognitive computing is a breakthrough for this revolutionary enterprise automation. Its self-learning systems, or autonomics, are particularly relevant in the infrastructure services space because they can replicate human behavioral characteristics while executing judgement-intensive IT and business processes.

In other words, cognitive-powered automation can provide application services that otherwise would be managed by your staff.

At IBM, we’re excited by new application services automation capabilities that are enabling self-healing, lights-out application development and maintenance. Eventually, using this approach, applications will be largely maintained autonomously by virtual engineers interacting with the human workforce via the control room. As a result, the level of human effort required to support and maintain the enterprise applications of tomorrow will be drastically reduced. And human intellect and creativity will be applied to uniquely human endeavors such as imagination and innovation.

We predict that those who adopt IT automation with cognitive capabilities can achieve profound cost savings, increased productivity, greater accuracy, assured compliance and more reliable security. Add the benefits of scalability and flexibility, and the increased engagement and contribution of IT professionals, and it is quickly apparent how this new technique will help organizations differentiate themselves in their market.

If you’re interested in learning more about cognitive automation and the human benefits it can provide, I urge you to invest some time watching our webinar,

For more information on IBM’s perspective on application automation, please visit

C-suite focus on automation, taken from the the Five Keys to Success of Application Automation webinar.

Vice President, Globally Integrated Capabilities, Global Business Services

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