Contribution of “digital workers” to grow by 50 percent over next two years

digital workersA new survey from research firm IDC claims to reveal the true extent of software robots supporting humans in the workplace. The IDC whitepaper, Content Intelligence for the Future of Work (registration), sponsored by ABBYY, indicates that the contribution of software robots, or what the report calls digital workers, to the global workforce will increase by over 50 percent in the next two years. These results, from a survey of 500 senior decision-makers in large enterprises, illustrate a fundamental shift to a future of work dependent on human-machine collaboration.

It is not just mundane, repetitive jobs like data input that new digital colleagues will help human workers complete in the years ahead. The growth of machine learning (ML) through human-centric artificial intelligence (AI) means robot assistants will also help employees make better decisions. In most cases, these technologies enhance rather than replace human capabilities. For example, the survey found that technology evaluating information will grow by 28 percent in two years, and 18 percent of activities related to reasoning and decision making will be performed by machines.

IDC forecasts that the intelligent process automation (IPA) software market, which includes content intelligence and robotic process automation (RPA), will grow from $13.1 billion in 2019 to $20.7 billion in 2023. Since many of the repetitive processes and tasks that are well suited for automation by RPA are document and content centric, content intelligence technologies – carried out by so-called digital workers – frequently go hand-in-hand with RPA in intelligent process automation use cases. Automation initiatives will also be enabled by process intelligence, a new generation of process mining tools providing complete visibility into business processes – the critical foresight needed to improve the success of an IPA project.

Over 40 percent of survey respondents have experienced a notable increase in customer satisfaction and employee productivity by deploying content intelligence technologies into their digital transformation strategy. Additionally, more than 1/3 of respondents saw an improvement in responsiveness to customers, new product or revenue opportunities, increased visibility and/or accountability, or increased customer engagement.

Other key findings:

  • The shift toward human-machine collaboration is presenting new challenges:
    • 75 percent of respondents said their organisation was finding it difficult to recruit digital skills
    • Over 20 percent cited inadequate worker skills and/or training
  • The top three corporate initiatives enabled by content intelligence are employee engagement, customer engagement and digital transformation
  • The top three applications that consume the data generated by content intelligence are customer relationship management, business intelligence and risk management
  • The average expected increase in spending for content intelligence technologies over the next year is 31 percent

“A growing number of employees will find themselves working side-by-side with a digital coworker in the future as technology automates many work activities,” commented Holly Muscolino, Research Vice President of Content and Process Strategies and the Future of Work at IDC. “Think human and machine. The human-machine collaboration is not just the future of work, but it is the new normal for today’s high-performing enterprises.”

“The IDC survey proves that automation can and should be human-centric, augmented with artificial intelligence,” said Neil Murphy, VP Global Business Development at ABBYY. “Ethical, responsible automation will create a more productive, happier future where human workers can focus on higher-level, creative and socially responsible tasks, and customers get better experiences with faster service. Businesses that are early-adopters of incorporating content intelligence within their automation platforms will gain a significant competitive edge.”