Business / Tech

A bot on your office computer could be sizing you up

Bloomberg

Imagine a bot on your work computer that tracks your every click and keystroke, helping determine which of your tasks could be handled by one of its robot brethren.

Call it automating automation. It’s McKinsey & Co.’s entry into robotic process automation, which is spreading “robots” from the factory floor to the office cubicle as advancing technologies make it easier and more economically feasible for software to perform cognitive tasks now done by humans.

It’s transforming office work across the world, including in the Philippines’ offshoring business processing centers, which employ more than a million people and generate annual revenue equal to about 7.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. It could cost a lot of people their jobs, but as McKinsey noted in a report earlier this year, it could also help their companies stay competitive and even capture a bigger market share.

If bots haven’t reached your office yet, just wait. The digital team at McKinsey has no shortage of numbers that show how AutoMate, as they call it, can pad a company’s bottom line: It cuts manual labor hours needed in roles across industries by 20 percent to 40 percent. The greater speed with which people can open bank accounts, for example, provides a competitive advantage that translates into a revenue increase of 5 percent to 10 percent, McKinsey says.

The team began running AutoMate in their own Chennai office last year, and it’s being deployed in Poland, with select clients now primarily in telecommunications, financial services and advanced manufacturing.

Pascal Bornet, a Singapore-based associate partner at McKinsey, says AutoMate was born of necessity. Just 20 percent of worldwide work is industrial, manual labor — the other 80 percent being targets for the next wave of automation, which should accelerate service processes like applying for a mortgage, he said.

Still, Bornet urges people not to fear.

“Automation has always created more employment than it has destroyed,” he said.

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