Article | 4.1.2022 

Transformation of knowledge work: This is how robots alleviate employees’ everyday tasks

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The transformation of knowledge work has been a hot topic in the business world for some time now already. The topic has caused apprehension and even fear in some – are robots taking our jobs?

How is knowledge work transforming?

The transformation is driven by technology, digitalization and organizations’ need to boost efficiency, ensure agility and competitive advantage. Continuous technological innovation offers new methods of improving business processes and organizations are keen to exploit those methods. Meanwhile the pandemic increased the speed of digitalization even more when people and organizations were forced to move interaction into online environments.

 

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) play key roles in the transformation of knowledge work. Research suggests that about 80% of Finnish organizations are already using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate their repetitive routine work.

 

RPA accelerates the transformation of knowledge work by reassigning manual, repetitive routine and operational tasks from employees to a machine. Software robots can process large amounts of data much faster than humans, and on top of that, execute that without errors. RPA also enables producing more data and enriching existing data.

 

Due to this, the role of employees shifts more into the actual expert work which is interpretating and utilizing the information that robots generate. Both employee and customer satisfaction typically improve when robots work side by side with employees, enabling faster and error-free service.

How do robots alleviate employees’ everyday tasks?

Robots should be viewed as virtual assistants for the organization’s functions. In customer service, robots can process applications, send automatic customer messages, gather information or documents from different systems, handle service requests or update customer data. This allows customer service agents to focus more on customer interaction instead of manual routine work when robots take care of that. Robots also alleviate the workload during high peak season: when we implemented a robot for a Finnish housing organization Hoas, the robot halved the housing applications times.    

 

Financial administration has typically been the first function in many organizations to start using robots as their virtual assistants. And it is no wonder, as the processes in financial administration are by nature excellent targets for RPA: they are rule-based, repetitive and high in volume. Robots assist employees in financial service by creating, validating and approving invoices, producing and checking reports, handling master data and more.

 

In some cases the process to be automated is not rule-based and requires logical reasoning. Then RPA automation can be fortified with AI – creating intelligent process automation. Intelligent automation allows automating more demanding processes, which involve predictive models or processing images or documents. We created an intelligent automation solution for our customer Kekäle to boost their invoice processing. As a result, most of the invoices go forward automatically and don’t require manual processing. This has freed up a lot of employees’ working time from monotonous storing of invoices to other more meaningful tasks.

 

Automation in HR and payroll enables faster employee onboarding, more efficient routine task processing and employee exit handling. Robots process job applications, add new employees to distinct systems, and provision or delete user names and tools. Robots can also help with work shift planning, salary invoicing and payments, reporting and saving salary information or holiday accounting, and perform tasks related to business travel accounting.

 

In sourcing and procurement, automation drives efficiency, quality and execution speed. In sourcing robots help supplier management by assisting in RFQs and offer screenings, managing contracts, and collecting supplier details from their systems. Robots can generate spend analytics and tail spend consolidations, market analysis and benchmarking, and do demand planning. In procurement robots process purchase orders and approvals, place orders in supplier systems, make reports, update and match delivery dates with orders, maintain supplier master data, and more.

 

There is a myriad of tasks robots can perform that are not constrained with functions-specific tasks. Here are some more general examples of how robots can assist employees:

  •  REPORTING

Robots produce routine reports from multiple sources and find mistakes

 

  • INFORMATION PREPROCESSING

Robots join and enrich the content of different information sources

 

  • APPLICATION PROCESSING

Robots check applications and return those with errors or faults

 

  • CREATING NEW DATA

Robots produce novel information from turnaround times and amount of mistakes

 

  • MOVING INFORMATION IN BUSINESS PROCESSES

Robots move information between different business process systems and share data to multiple systems

 

  • SAVING INFORMATION

Robots move data to various locations

Author: Paiju Koivula

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