01. The basics

What is a digital worker?

Digital workers, also known as digital employees, are software-based labor that can independently execute meaningful parts of complex, end-to-end processes using a range of skills. For example, an accounts payable digital worker might assist an employee in any of three traditional job roles (customer service representative, billing agent, or cash applicator/dispute resolver) to complete an Order to Cash process. The digital worker operates side-by-side with the human employee, performing basic tasks like collecting documentation from customers or generating reports.

Digital workers are designed to:

  • Execute specific steps in a complex process (often with a human in the loop).

  • Work across systems to break down work and data silos in order to support better decision making.

  • Understand human intent, including asking and responding to questions in natural language.

Why digital workers?

A 2022 LinkedIn survey (this link resides outside of ibm.com) found that 74% of CEOs see skill shortages as a threat to sales and revenue growth, with 64% viewing it as a challenge to their ability to attract and retain staff.1 In an effort to address workforce productivity and effectiveness issues – whether caused by skill gaps, talent shortages, burnouts, etc. – businesses are considering, or already using, digital workers to support their existing workforce.

A frequently cited benefit of digital workers is that they enable human employees to spend more time on higher-value work. But what does that really mean – for employees and managers? One way to look at it: digital workers could help retain talented employees by helping them avoid the death zone (this link resides outside of ibm.com) of their jobs – the situation where they’ve mastered their role to the point of boredom and are at risk of languishing or leaving.

Digital workers have the potential to reinvigorate these employees by saving them time to work on new projects, solve new problems, and expand their skills – making jobs better jobs, for employees and the business.

What’s the unique value of digital workers?

Chapter 2

How are digital workers different from other digital labor solutions?