Stepping up may be an option for only a small minority of the labor force. But a lot of brain work is equally valuable and also cannot be codified. Stepping aside means using mental strengths that aren’t about purely rational cognition but draw on what the psychologist Howard Gardner has called our “multiple intelligences.” You might focus on the “interpersonal” and “intrapersonal” intelligences—knowing how to work well with other people and understanding your own interests, goals, and strengths.
Finally, stepping forward means constructing the next generation of computing and AI tools. It’s still true that behind every great machine is a person—in fact, many people. Someone decides that the Dunkin’ Franchise Optimizer is a bad investment, or that the application of AI to cancer drug discovery is a good one. Someone has to build the next great automated insurance-underwriting solution. Someone intuits the human need for a better system; someone identifies the part of it that can be codified; someone writes the code; and someone designs the conditions under which it will be applied.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is an emerging field that specifically automates artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. Although the technology is getting savvier, RPA mimics high-volume, repeatable human tasks, leaving more abstract duties such as relationship building to the humans. RPA complements BPA, after it streamlines your processes.
BPAs can be implemented in a number of business areas including marketing, sales and workflow. Toolsets vary in sophistication, but there is an increasing trend towards the use of artificial intelligence technologies that can understand natural language and unstructured data sets, interact with human beings, and adapt to new types of problems without human-guided training. BPA providers tend to focus on different industry sectors but their underlying approach tends to be similar in that they will attempt to provide the shortest route to automation by exploiting the user interface layer rather than going deeply into the application code or databases sitting behind them. They also simplify their own interface to the extent that these tools can be used directly by non-technically qualified staff. The main advantage of these toolsets is therefore their speed of deployment, the drawback is that it brings yet another IT supplier to the organization.