Most service organisations are still at the stage of small scale trial RPA deployments summarised as "if x is true, then click button y". So how do we go on our voyage of discovery, and move from where we are now to a more automated enterprise?

Going Where No Man Has Gone Before: What Does the Future Hold for Automation in the Service Industry?

Kit Cox | enate


The press is awash with talk of robotics, AI and cognitive computing being the future for enterprise automation. However, most service organisations are still at the stage of small scale trial RPA deployments summarised as "if x is true, then click button y". So how do we go on our voyage of discovery, and move from where we are now to a more automated enterprise?

Surprisingly, the crew of the Starship Enterprise can tell us a lot about the mix of capabilities and tools that we need to create the next generation of services.


Starship Enterprise

Spock: The logician. Spock draws logical conclusions from the application of deterministic rules. In this way, Spock represents the role of ‘Robotic Process Automation’ (RPA) and other ‘Intelligent Automation’ (IA) tools. He’s a pretty sophisticated operator and delivers results, but he struggles when softer skills are required. Let’s break it down even more - because after all, Spock is half Vulcan, half human.

Spock’s Vulcan half is more like RPA tools. These are purely logical rules that work within strict constraints. RPA tools can deliver results fast, but struggle to cope with high degrees of variance and complexity.

Spock’s human half is more like some of the cognitive and pseudo AI tools that are starting to appear. Whist they go beyond simply applying rules, they fall short of reasoning, intuition and humanity.

Bones: Is the most humane of humans and the Enterprise doesn’t work without his subtlety and humanity. He is the emotional counterpart to Spocks cold logic. In the same way, smart service organisations won’t deliver subtle and beautiful services that customers love without people contributing.

Kirk: Is the orchestrator and conductor of operations. Kirk is the man who deploys members of the crew to boldly go where no man has gone before. In this role, he understands where human traits are key and makes best use of them, and he is able to see where logic and rules make the most sense and where he needs to lean on Spock.

Kirk takes the role of Service Orchestration technology in the enterprise. Increasingly, analysts and industry experts are recognising that automating the enterprise is not possible without Service Orchestration. Service Orchestration allows you to plot your automation journey and bring humans and intelligent automation together to seamlessly deliver beautiful services.

Scotty: Scotty is in the engine room and let’s face it, he has an unhealthy obsession with his dilithium crystals. The dilithium chrystals are the fuel that drives the enterprise forward and Scotty is always there to care for them.

You need fuel to deliver great services in the 21st century too - and that fuel is data. Data gives us the energy and information to drive our services forward, improve them and shape them to our customer’s needs; but just like the Enterprise, the data doesn’t do this by itself, you need a Scotty to make it work. Scotty is like the data scientist and analytics guru, he is constantly tending the engines and fuel to make sure it is working for the Enterprise.

Analysis of ‘Service Stories’ shared on social media shows that the majority of the ‘good news’ stories aren’t about delivering the service in line with the strict policies and rules. People tend to share great news when a human has gone out of their way to make the service special for them. Almost the equivalent of a random act of kindness. Humans’ ability to understand how and when to deliver exceptional and surprising service will still be key, as long as we let them be human.

Over the next decade, we will see much wider deployment of robotic technology, automation and orchestration technology within the enterprise. Whatever the new, ‘smarter’ technologies are brought into play we will still need Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty to really get our Enterprises to boldly go where no one has gone before.


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