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Time for humans to relearn for the intelligent augmentation era

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Thabo Ndlela, CEO of Amani Business.
Thabo Ndlela, CEO of Amani Business.

Automation has given way to intelligent automation and paved the way for an era of intelligence augmentation: in this new environment, humans will have to adopt new mindsets and develop a culture of lifelong learning to thrive and optimise the opportunities.

This emerged during a round table discussion hosted this week by Amani Business, in partnership with ITWeb, on automation in banks, financial services and insurance.

Panellists from the financial services sector noted that while intelligent automation did raise concerns about job losses, it in fact presented opportunities to elevate the human role.

Dr Roze Phillips, futurist and group executive: People & Culture at Absa, said: “We have an opportunity now to unlock the digital dividend, not just to do things better, but also to do better things.”

Instead of just focusing on the shareholder benefits of intelligent automation, organisations should bring ethics into the equation and focus on broader stakeholder benefits, she said.

Phillips said automation should be seen as augmentation of the human role, which would allow the human to focus on higher value work.

"The skills employees need in the world of intelligent automation are different – listening, empathy, asking the right questions and problem solving."

Dr Roze Phillips, Absa Group.

“Augmentation is maybe the gospel we should be talking about,” said Thabo Ndlela, CEO of Amani Business. “Often when we talk about RPA, people think about losing jobs.  But intelligent automation allows human workforces to perform more efficiently, reduces costs, and improves compliance."

Said Phillips: “Machines are still just machines; now that we have intelligent automation at our disposal, we need employees to become more empathetic, be more in listening mode than answering mode. The skills employees need in the world of intelligent automation are different – listening, empathy, asking the right questions and problem solving. We need to be investing more time in reskilling the people to adapt to this, and developing a culture of lifelong learning.”

Intelligent augmentation is not just about technology – supplementing technology with human ingenuity is where the real magic happens.

Warren Hero, Webber Wentzel.

Warren Hero, CIO and CDO at Webber Wentzel, said: “The ability to get rid of routine work through automation gives us the ability to focus on value added work. Intelligent automation is about platforms working autonomously with real time adaptation; chatbots learning from customer engagements; sales and marketing systems able to better predict buying intention and dynamically prioritise leads. Intelligent augmentation is not just about technology – supplementing technology with human ingenuity is where the real magic happens.”

Hero  said there were now opportunities to produce ‘citizen developers’ throughout organisations and communities, to build automated solutions using low-code or no-code tools. “We need to think about two levels of intelligent automation maturity – the technical capabilities,  and the ability of enterprises to adopt the toolsets. We need to start having a digital mindset on blurring the lines between digital and physical.”

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