Bots would not take away (all of) your work, but they will help build a more creative workplace.
Businesses should not be developing bots and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions just because they are trendy, or because they think they can replace their employees. Smart businesses will use these technologies to free employees from mundane business processes and allow them to be more creative and “human” at work.
Less Admin, More Freedom
Few business owners wake up and say “Yay! I get to do my invoices today”. Sage’s recently launched chatbot called Pegg was developed to hide the complexities of accounting and let entrepreneurs manage their finances through conversation. Pegg takes away a lot of the pain by making it as easy as chatting to a friend on Facebook.
Automation can give accountants more freedom, too. By taking over manual tasks like scanning receipts and updating expenses, bots will free up the accountant’s time to focus on serving as strategic advisors to their customers and offering a more personalised service.
More Time for Higher Value Tasks
Jennifer Sutherland, Innovation Capability Builder at Standard Bank, believes that bots and automation could help unlock a friendlier and more human workplace, rather than taking us into a cold, dystopian future. Supported by automation, people serving customers will be able to focus on higher value tasks, be more creative, and take more initiative.
“Creativity is a mind-set. Many people believe they simply are not creative by nature, when in fact there are techniques to bolster creativity,” says Sutherland. “But they need the time and space to explore new things. When they are busy for eight hours a day on their core job, they do not have time to learn something new, solve problems, or explore a new technology.”
AI, she believes, should serve to free up time for things like encouraging creativity, and help bring motivation and purpose back to the frontline of customer service. Building Friendly Bots
One of the important elements of a chatbot is the personality it projects – it must be likeable and adaptable to the personality of the user. We will be spending a lot of time with bots in the future because they will be our virtual assistants, so we must be able to enjoy interacting with them. We, at Sage, place a big focus on building “nice” robots.
At the same time, we should embrace “botness” and build bots to be bots, not to be like humans. Humans are not naturally the most optimised for tasks like intelligent automation, which is what we are developing bots for in the first place. Bots Should Not Imitate Human Biases As bots are set to become a prominent feature of the future, it is important that they reflect the diversity of the audiences they serve and do not replicate human biases.
For example, many virtual assistants today use female voices, building on the stereotype of associating women with administrative and personal assistance work. I developed Pegg as a genderneutral bot for this reason. Bots should be inclusive and feel welcoming to people irrespective of gender, language, or culture.
To get this right, we should consider not only how the personalities of bots are projected, but also the diversity of the teams that make them, and the diversity of the data that bots use for their inputs.
Kriti Sharma was recently named in Forbes 30 under 30. She built her first robot at the age of 17, designed to bring chocolates to its controller. The software bots she works on at Sage today are designed to help business builders do less admin, giving them more time to do what they love.