The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is a hot topic at the moment, but there’s still a  lack of knowledge and understanding of what it actually is – and what it means for business. This  tech revolution is something of a silver bullet that is set to kill off a number of jobs – solving for a host of needs  in various industries, but with a very real knock-on effect for the people that the technology will  replace.

The average boardroom lacks the 4IR general knowledge required to reap the benefits of employing 4IR  tech. It’s not just down to the CIO to understand the nuts and bolts – the entire leadership needs to  understand what 4IR entails for both the present and the future of the business. The lack ofunderstanding is one of the reasons that the market has been slow to adopt automation. However, forecasters predict that this is set  to change in 2020.

Early Adopters
Having said that, there are companies which have seen the potential benefits and wholeheartedly  embraced automation. They’ve already been through an entire implementation lifecycle and come  out the other side realising that they’ve goverened their automation processes like they would have  an IT system – and now it’s become inflexible.  This is a conundrum because one of the benefits of automation is supposed to be flexibility – you  employ people for their ability to be flexible, so you expect systems which are designed to make  their lives easier, to be flexible as well. The challenge is implementing flexible automation that is  responsive to the changing needs of a business, without overgoverning. These early adopters are  grappling with the problem of how to become agile again. On the up side, those who are only  considering implementing automated processes now, have a plethora of data to draw on, thanks to  those early adopters – which can only help accelerate the curve of acceptance.

Intelligent Automation
Many software vendors have woken up to the fact that automation platforms have come in and  bridged the gap between their software and other systems – and they don’t like the idea that this  has made their software seem more a necessary evil than a necessity. They’ve started building bot  capabilities into their core systems to help add value, which is actually great for the industry.  Look at ERP systems – they are required to manage scale, but they’re seen as a necessity rather than  a tool that changes the way a company does business. Automation, AI and machine learning are the  tools  which aid that change – so to see them becoming a fundamental part of the base software, is  hugely encouraging.

Embracing Bots
Oddly enough, consumers are more accepting of bots than companies are. Consumers readily adopt  automation in processes on things like their smartphones, because there are immediate time-saving  benefits. From a corporate perspective, there’s a resistance to ‘handing over’ processes that can  actually be automated to deliver great benefits to the company. That’s probably down to the fact  that consumers see it as a time-saver, while a company sees it as a cost in terms of a job being made  redundant.
What companies need to realise is that the very benefits their people see in terms of time-saving  and ease, in their personal interactions with technology, are a micro-scale example of what is  possible within the enterprise – and embracing that can have myriad benefits for the company,  when applied at much larger scale.

RPA, AI and Machine Learning Come Together
The ease of use of AI and Machine Learning means that anyone with a good data scientist can  actually start using the tech to improve their processes – but when you combine those two with RPA  (Robotic Process Automation), you can do so much more, so much quicker.  Within our own business, we’re seeing the benefit of the combination of these three technologies to  deliver IA – Intelligent Accounting. The combination is enabling  accountants to lift more than their bodyweight in terms of work. Automated Accounting is also  possible with an increased adoption of the tech, with the result being the delivery of business and  industry insights which weren’t available before.  The massive trend for 2020 is companies discovering how they can fit these three tech jigsaw pieces  together to deliver maximim benefit. The power lies in the flexibility of the tech – we can now  demonstrate the benefits of an automated process within days, at a fraction of the cost of an entire systemic overhaul.