Using AI And RPA To Foster Remote Work
If you’re like me, read this while working from home. One of the biggest changes due to the coronavirus pandemic is the shift from in-office to remote work. But it wasn’t easy for many organizations.
I’ve heard reports from IT departments working 72 hours straight to prepare for employees to work from home and friends whose work has been interrupted by constantly failing systems.
Industries that haven’t adopted advanced technology may be particularly unprepared. When organizations want to prepare for remote working, be it this emergency or natural disasters and others that are sure to come, choosing the right artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) tools can help companies overcome legacy technology problems . It can help them focus on the keys to working efficiently from home (and in general): people, processes, and technology.
As a board member of a low-code platform that helps organizations use RPA and AI to eliminate technology silos and the current CRO of a location intelligence platform, I think AI and RPA can address three remote working challenges :
1. People: make it easy. For companies with older technology systems that are difficult to access and difficult to use under the best of circumstances, AI and RPA solutions let you integrate data and processes into modern user interfaces, easily on a laptop, tablet or phone use. This can help you be significantly more efficient, both when your team is remote and when they are back in the office.
2. Process: employee agility. Agility is all about processes, and this is where AI and RPA can shine. RPA is designed to use technology for red tasks and give people the freedom to use their creativity. Interestingly, Prithwiraj Choudhury, lead author of a Harvard University study of remote working, was recently quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying that “you need to create new processes that support remote working.” He mentioned syncing across time zones and fostering a sense of camaraderie over distance as two key challenges. With RPA, remote workers don’t have to worry as much about basic processes, and neither do they when they’re back in the office.
3. Technology: Providing remote access to the information you need. If a lot of your critical data is still stored on a server in the office closet, it is probably time to move to the cloud. Employees generally cannot access information on “on-prem” servers when they are away from the office – and if they fail someone needs to be able to get into the office to restart them. You can use AI and RPA to pull information from legacy platforms and move it to cloud-based platforms and processes that employees can use to access it online and even on their phones.
Is it too late to adopt new technology solutions to handle situations like the current one? It may seem surprising, but it isn’t. AI- and RPA-driven solutions are becoming more and more ubiquitous and often offer ready-to-use applications for common processes such as document processing and other tasks that are often more difficult to do remotely than in the office.
How do you find the right solution for you, especially when you are under pressure to correct mistakes during difficult times like these? Here are a few important points to keep in mind:
• Assessment of your real needs versus minor issues: It’s easy to come up with a much bigger solution than necessary to solve the one annoying problem the CEO has. Don’t let side issues lead you to a system that is a burden in the long run. What is your main business and what processes support this business? Find a solution that will make these processes run faster, smoother, and generate more revenue to solve other problems later.
• Adjust to your weaknesses: Unless you have a tech-savvy workforce, choosing a platform full of bells and whistles will not solve your problems. If you have a small IT team and have little hope of expanding, implementing a system that requires huge adjustments and constant maintenance is unlikely to help. For most businesses today, a low-code SaaS solution that accomplishes its goals with advanced APIs that connect to other systems is a low-maintenance solution that can help them move forward. Don’t forget to focus on the user experience and push for the type of support you will get after your purchase.
• Building for the future: Choosing a solution that is extensible or can grow in various ways to meet future needs is very important. Don’t box yourself in and create another silo. This will re-create your current problem another time.
Once you’ve chosen a platform, you need to plan for success. This spans multiple departments including IT for implementation, operations for rollout, marketing for communications, and learning and development for change management. And don’t forget about business: leaders should be prepared (and trained) to lead from scratch by adopting the technology and pointing their teams to solutions there. Otherwise, employees may see the technology as optional or something that is unlikely to be available for long.
In short, there’s a lot to consider, but you won’t be doing yourself a favor if you delay moving to more modern platforms – or to AI- and RPA-driven connectors that help your legacy platforms work together.
If you are unable to invest now, these technologies should be considered as you look to your budget for the next year and the future. Improving the efficiency of your systems and the ease with which employees can work with and with each other is not only a key to enabling remote work, but also a step that can help create a more agile environment for your business – regardless of the circumstances.