Au­to­ma­tion and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence: What it means for ev­ery Juan

Business World - - THE ECONOMY - AN­GELO L. BASUAN AN­GELO L. BASUAN is a se­nior man­ager with the Man­age­ment Con­sult­ing prac­tice of Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers Con­sult­ing Ser­vices Philip­pines Co. Ltd., a Philip­pine mem­ber firm of the PwC net­work. +63 (2) 845 2728 ext. 3108 an­

Ro­botic Process Au­to­ma­tion or ‘RPA’ has taken the mar­ket by storm since its in­cep­tion. The adop­tion of new and tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced ways of work­ing has be­come nec­es­sary in or­der to trans­form global com­pa­nies and var­i­ous in­dus­tries into dig­i­tally en­abled en­ter­prises, and to stay rel­e­vant and com­pet­i­tive.

RPA is part of a wide spec­trum of In­tel­li­gent Au­to­ma­tion, along with Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI), Aug­mented Re­al­ity (AR), drones and other ma­chines that have the abil­ity to learn such as Nat­u­ral Lan­guage Pro­gram­ming (NLP) and chat­bots. The im­pacts of th­ese tech­nolo­gies are felt across mul­ti­ple sec­tors such as health care, govern­ment, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, en­ergy, au­to­mo­tive, re­tail/con­sumer and aero­space. What does this “in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion” mean for ev­ery “Juan” or for each work­ing Filipino and our econ­omy? Let me pro­vide an in­sight on what we can ex­pect with In­tel­li­gent Au­to­ma­tion and AI.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­for­ma­tion Technology and Busi­ness Process As­so­ci­a­tion of the Philip­pines and a num­ber of re­search pieces pub­lished by con­sult­ing firms last year, the Philip­pines is one of the top Busi­ness Process Out­sourc­ing (BPO) coun­tries in the world. BPOs and Shared Ser­vice Cen­ters have pro­lif­er­ated in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion and have also reached the Visayas and Min­danao. Both are part of huge multi­na­tional com­pa­nies quickly adopt­ing and ex­plor­ing RPA.

Re­cently, I led a suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of some RPA pi­lot projects across South­east Asia for a multi­na­tional com­pany. Our team cre­ated soft­ware ro­bots and au­to­mated se­lected pro­cesses from HR, Fi­nance & Ac­count­ing and Mar­ket­ing. The goals were to prove that th­ese ‘ bots’ can work within the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s technology en­vi­ron­ment and to quan­tify the RPA ben­e­fits.

The re­sult was mind-blow­ing; re­turn on in­vest­ment of around 200% over five years, a dig­i­tal work force that can work 24/7, re­duced pro­cess­ing turn­around time up to 40%, an er­ror rate from 0% to 0.05% and im­proved com­pli­ance and con­trol. Th­ese are some of the tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits, which is why RPA has be­come hot in the mar­ket to­day.

The RPA project helped the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­lease ca­pac­ity and do two things — 1) al­lo­cate re­sources to shift fo­cus from trans­ac­tional work and move to a more com­plex value-adding work such as data an­a­lyt­ics; and 2) ab­sorb ad­di­tional work with the same amount of re­sources — mak­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion process-ef­fi­cient and cost-ef­fec­tive.

RPA con­sists of soft­ware-con­fig­ured ro­bots that sit on top of ex­ist­ing sys­tems to per­form tasks that are per­formed by hu­mans. Th­ese bots can un­der­take struc­tured, re­peat­able and com­put­er­based tasks and can ac­cess mul­ti­ple sys­tems (e.g. ERP, CRM, e-mail etc.) to com­plete the process. The bots will ex­e­cute the steps to com­plete the process based on what it is pro­grammed to do. For ex­am­ple, it can log in to an ERP (En­ter­prise Re­source Plan­ning) sys­tem and gen­er­ate a list from a re­port, val­i­date the re­port, trans­fer and save the re­sult into a spread­sheet or doc­u­ment, and send the doc­u­ment to a cus­tomer via e-mail. While th­ese bots de­liver ex­pected out­puts, they have lim­i­ta­tions; they are not ca­pa­ble of learn­ing trends, an­a­lyz­ing data and mak­ing de­ci­sions.

RPA pi­lot projects can be com­pleted in five to 10 weeks de­pend­ing on the com­plex­ity of the process be­ing au­to­mated. The pro­cesses that fit well with RPA are those that are trans­ac­tional in na­ture or rou­tine with few or no hu­man judg­ment needed. Note also that th­ese bots can only read dig­i­tized in­puts, which means they can­not process or rec­og­nize hand­writ­ing or scanned text… at least, not yet.

With the iden­ti­fied lim­i­ta­tions of RPA comes a more ad­vanced technology in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence or AI. Ac­cord­ing to An­drew Ng, founder of the Google Brain deep learn­ing project, “AI could be as im­por­tant to trans­form­ing the econ­omy as elec­tric­ity was 100 years ago.”

AI in­cor­po­rates “ma­chine learn­ing,” which means hav­ing the abil­ity to learn by pro­cess­ing data with­out the need to be pro­grammed. This ma­chine-learn­ing ca­pa­bil­ity gives com­put­ers or bots the abil­ity to do pat­tern recog­ni­tion and con­struc­tion of al­go­rithms that pre­dict data pro­vid­ing fast and ef­fi­cient datadriven de­ci­sions.

AI is use­ful in a va­ri­ety of sec­tors. The use of AI for drug dis­cov­ery, pre­dict­ing im­pact of con­tain­ing and spread­ing dis­eases and ro­bots in surgery may be uti­lized in the health in­dus­try. In the me­dia in­dus­try, AI are able to per­son­al­ize, gen­er­ate and fil­ter con­tent (Think of Net­flix). In trans­porta­tion, Uber uses AI to find the best route to your des­ti­na­tion. As re­ported by Bloomberg, Uber also started to use AI to charge cus­tomers based on what they are likely will­ing to pay for a trip to serve more peo­ple in more places at fares riders can af­ford.

“Chat­bots” with NLP ca­pa­bil­i­ties are quickly be­ing ex­plored in BPO call cen­ters. Th­ese bots can let you choose flight seats, buy a ticket, change an ap­point­ment, or­der at a res­tau­rant, etc. More than that, the chat­bots are quickly evolv­ing with the pos­si­bil­ity of read­ing emo­tions through the fa­cial features and in­flec­tions in tone of voice of the per­son they are com­mu­ni­cat­ing with. They can also use your In­sta­gram feed to tell whether you’re clin­i­cally de­pressed.

AI evolves rapidly to the point of at­tempt­ing to mimic the way our brain pro­cesses in­for­ma­tion. Take for ex­am­ple some­thing as sim­ple as pre­dict­ing your buy­ing be­hav­ior and re­ceiv­ing mar­ket­ing ads in your so­cial net­work ac­count to an in­tel­li­gent per­sonal as­sis­tant with “Lan­guage Pro­cess­ing” ca­pa­bil­ity like Siri for Ap­ple and Alexa for Ama­zon Echo. Th­ese in­tel­li­gent PAs are ca­pa­ble of voice in­ter­ac­tion, pay­ing your bills, pro­vid­ing real time in­for­ma­tion, con­trol­ling “smart homes” and even driv­ing your car such as a Tesla. In gam­ing, both IBM’s Wat­son and Elon Musk’s OpenAI de­feated game cham­pi­ons in Jeop­ardy and Dota 2. All of th­ese ca­pa­bil­i­ties are driv­ing in­no­va­tion at the cut­ting edge of AI, which can be seen in var­i­ous ap­pli­ca­tions to­day.

An­other technology soar­ing in pop­u­lar­ity is Drones as a Ser­vice. The use of drones is greatly ex­pand­ing in the com­mer­cial and pri­vate sec­tors in North Amer­ica and Aus­tralia. Po­lice de­part­ments are fly­ing drones to help with crowd con­trol. My client uses drones to al­low sur­vey­ors to col­lect ac­cu­rate spa­tial data in min­ing sites, which vastly re­duces risk by min­i­miz­ing the times th­ese staff spend on site.

Ev­ery Juan needs to be aware that there are more in­no­va­tions and ad­vance tech­nolo­gies ahead. It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to learn and un­der­stand its im­pact to our work and econ­omy, be­fore be­com­ing afraid. When elec­tric­ity, the in­ter­net and mo­bile phones were first in­tro­duced, many jobs were re­placed but many jobs were also cre­ated. Tread lightly; how we up­skill our ca­pa­bil­i­ties and quickly adapt to the change will pre­pare us for what’s to come. But it is not all up to Juan. The govern­ment and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions should be pre­pared to sup­port and equip the work­ing Filipinos with the new knowl­edge and skills and help to make them avail­able.

The next three to five years are in­deed very ex­cit­ing as well as chal­leng­ing for ev­ery Juan in the realm of technology ad­vance­ment.

The views or opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are solely those of the au­thor and do not nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sent those of Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers Con­sult­ing Ser­vices Philip­pines Co. Ltd. The con­tent is for gen­eral in­for­ma­tion pur­poses only, and should not be used as a sub­sti­tute for spe­cific ad­vice.

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