Learn about digital workers and how they can help your workforce to achieve faster and better outcomes.
In the past, the term “digital worker” described a human employee with digital skills, but more recently, the market has defined it as a category of software robots, which are trained to perform specific tasks or processes in partnership with their human colleagues. More specifically, Forrester offers the following definition for digital worker automation: It is “a combination of [intelligent automation] IA building blocks, such as conversational intelligence and [robotic process automation] RPA, that work alongside employees. They understand human intent, respond to questions, and take action on the human's behalf, leaving humans with control, authority, and an enhanced experience.”
IBM Automation observes digital workers similarly, defining them as software-based labor that can independently execute meaningful parts of complex, end-to-end processes using a range of skills. They leverage artificial intelligence capabilities, like machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing, to execute a sequence of tasks within a given workflow. For example, a digital accounts payable worker may be able to autonomously perform parts of three traditional job roles — customer service representative, billing agent and cash applicator or dispute resolver — to complete an Order to Cash (OTC) process. Since digital workers increases the bandwidth of their employees, they have largely been adopted through digital transformation efforts, allowing companies to reallocate their workforce to more strategic tasks.
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In order to initiate your digital workforce, you should consider the human element. Enterprise design thinking can help you determine how you want humans to interact with digital workers to enable the intelligent workflow. From there, you’ll want to go through the following steps:
The IBM Automation Services team has put these steps into practice, supporting multiple clients in our business process outsourcing practice. Below is an example of a digital worker that they created.
Ocash is a digital cash application specialist: the latest recruit for the finance and accounting function. It’s often helpful to consider and position your digital workers in the roles that they would fill within your enterprise’s operations.
To create Ocash, the IBM services team began with the workflow outcome in mind. They sourced data from ERP systems to deconstruct the OTC process and identify its component parts. From there, the team focused on one of the more manual aspects of the process. They automated the tasks where they could and augmented those that still required human workers. Ocash was designed to execute tasks that were best suited for automation, calling upon its human colleague(s) only when needed. They also took this opportunity to optimize the process. For example, automating the verification of invoice accuracy with a customer at the start of the process can significantly eliminate the number of payment disputes later on.
While digital workers can extend beyond digital tasks, they have primarily been utilized for support work across a variety of business functions. Some examples include:
While digital workers provide process efficiency gains, there can be challenges in implementing a digital workforce. Some of these barriers to success include:
From your business workflows to your IT operations, we’ve got you covered with AI-powered automation.
Hand-off time-consuming tasks, such as creating job descriptions or pulling reports, to personalized digital workers.
Drive your intelligent workforce transformation with AI-driven robotic process automation (RPA) tools from IBM.
Design, build, and run automation applications and services on any cloud using pre-integrated automation technologies in a single flexible package.
Explore the differences between these three types of automation and learn about when to use them in your organization.
The IBM Institute for Business Value, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, surveyed 1,500 executives from around the world as part of a comprehensive study on the impacts of intelligent automation initiatives today and in the near future.