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Man and machine: Working together ‘intelligently’ for a sustainable tomorrow

According to PwC’s 24th Annual Global CEO Survey, nearly 49% of CEOs plan to increase their rate of digital investment by 10% or more over the next three years.1 With digitalisation fast becoming a precursor of growth, organisations today are recognising the importance of creating a business strategy that aligns closely with their digital strategy.

With technology at the centre, there is a clear and fundamental shift in how people and organisations work and operate. There is a unique opportunity to reprioritise the way technology is leveraged to make decisions and to positively impact work, the workplace and the workforce. Enterprises across sectors and industries are harnessing the potential of digital technologies to gain significant competitive advantage. Intelligent automation (IA) is most often the first step and a crucial component of the digitisation agenda. It is fast becoming mainstream as organisations move higher up the digitalisation maturity curve. Under immense pressure to digitise operations, organisations see a future where human work can be equipped and augmented with software robots.

Equitable growth and sustainability

While technology remains at the centre, people form the core of the transformation that leads to equitable growth. Due to the pandemic and resulting uncertainties, organisations have also realised that people are not just anonymous elements of a hierarchical structure. They form the most significant and powerful asset, and when combined with technology solutions, help sustain the transformation and deliver scale at speed. As organisations transform themselves into modern workplaces enabling a synergy between the human and digital workforce, the former assumes responsibilities for strategic and customer-centric initiatives while the latter executes repetitive activities.

In today’s technology-driven competitive landscape, maintaining a motivated and action-oriented human workforce is important for businesses to advance and sustain their digital transformation journey. The layering of the technology stack (low-end automation tech [robotic process automation or RPA] and intelligent technologies such as smart optical character recognition [OCR], natural language processing [NLP]/natural language generation [NLG], artificial intelligence [AI] and machine learning [ML]  enables organisations to transform the way they work. Fast-evolving product capabilities complemented by ease of use for a non-technical workforce are fuelling growth and further enabling a ‘human-led, tech-enabled transformation.

Traditional enterprise

Traditional enterprise

Machine learning

Machine learning

Natural language processing

Natural language processing

Deep learning

Intelligent enterprise

Intelligent enterprise

Traditional automation

Augmented Intelligence

Conversational Intelligence

Unlock value and real-time decisions


Executes rule-based and repetitive processes by mimicking what users do on their computer


Recognises content and extracts information from an image or scanned document


Conversational automation which integrates with systems on the backend


Automation using its own historical data to provide deeper insights, enabling real-time decision making

Having said that, one needs to understand that whatever the technology, it boils down to a human/experience-led transformation. We know that no transformation can happen without technology, but no technology can be adopted if people aren’t ready to use it or cannot use it easily. Both need to happen.

Creating a human-led and tech-enabled sustainable enterprise

The pandemic is making organisations revisit their strategies around sustaining digital growth. The cost of inaction and failure to adapt and sustain is massive as organisations risk missing the digital wave in the absence of a workforce that is ready for the future. The time to act is now, because a digital divide is set to have long-lasting effects that will compound over time.

History is full of instances of competitive advantages being nullified due to non-responsiveness to change. Human capital that does not evolve along with technology could very soon turn into a liability.

Challenges for organisations to support the sustainable digital enterprise

Opportunities in the road ahead

Organisations are placing their trust in their people and enabling them with new skill sets to bridge the gap between the skills they have and those needed for jobs in the digital world. This is where the concepts of up-knowledge and upskilling come into play for the human capital.

Giving people more control over what, when and how they learn and apply new digital skills, backed by strong governance, ensures a change in the organisation’s trust in its people and builds a culture of connectedness along with the ability for large-scale ideation and transparency. The current work environment requires flexibility, new skills and new ways of working. Technology continues to drive how and where people work, making upskilling a necessity rather than a business differentiator.

This harmony between the human and digital workforce is key to The New Equation. People and technology work hand in hand as human ingenuity combines with technological innovation and experience to deliver faster, more intelligent, and better outcomes while building trust across the value chain.

The future of IA will push people to become skilled and creative, enabling them to develop the ability to create better solutions by leveraging the benefits these digital tools offer at every step. As automation moves beyond repetitive and standardised tasks, there is bound to be an increase in meaningful work for people across the experience spectrum. IA will become mandatory for organisations to survive, grow and be fit for the future. This in turn will lead to a better quality of jobs and a better quality of work-life balance for a better tomorrow.

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Sumit Srivastav

Sumit Srivastav

Partner and Leader, Intelligent Automation, PwC India