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Virtual delivery centers, intelligent automation, and … kindergartens

Tim Ulrich

I was recently explaining to my mother the job I do everyday at Capgemini and the impact of the automation revolution. After 20 years of repeating “I do something with computers,” I felt I should be slightly more explicit – especially as my mother has always harbored a secret desire for me to follow in her footsteps and become a kindergarten teacher.

Do you want to rule “Robontinent”?

I started by explaining that business leaders have always dreamt of increasing profit margins by getting work done cheaper, quicker, and at better quality. This dream was behind the Industrial Revolution that took place over 200 years ago, but has also been the trigger for the more recent outsourcing and offshoring waves we have seen in the last 25 years.

I went on to ask her what she would do if she became the ruler of a new continent of “robotic workers” willing to work long hours of repetitive work for a really low salary that suddenly appeared in the middle of the ocean – for argument’s sake, let’s call it “Robontinent.” While declaring that she was no dictator, she did agree that it would be logical to move the monotonous and repetitive work from the existing human workforce to our new robotic colleagues.

Virtual delivery centers and intelligent automation

I then pointed out the similarities and differences between employees vs. robots in carrying out certain business tasks, including getting work done according to requirements, ensuring transparency, and having strategies for hard-to-predict events such as changing workloads due to fluctuating demand/market share. While technically different to address for each scenario, these tasks were quite similar in structure and importance for the company.

Mothers know best

As we discussed in more detail how to instruct a robot to do certain activities, and what the boundaries are (exceptions, unclear/non-existing rules, etc.), my mother appeared to understand the situation quite quickly and said: “So this is like explaining to a four-year old child what to do and then watching closely as the child does it, except the robot really listens to you, doesn’t get creative in performing the task, and doesn’t walk away after a few seconds when something more interesting becomes available!”

Mothers always know best, and this explanation is often closer to the corporate reality than any of us should probably admit!

But now that I had her full attention, I couldn’t resist pointing out a few more complex and challenging business tasks that need to be managed, which I hoped would differentiate my “really important business job” from all the other important jobs in the world – kindergarten teachers, for example:

Business taskManaging a human workforceManaging a robotic workforce
Manage fluctuating or patterned work demandKeep staff available for “worst-case” high-demand scenarios (expensive) or use external contractors for peaks (possibly inducing additional risks).  Dynamically assign robotic artifacts (workflows) to available robots (which need to be made available on demand, but can be used for other use off peaks).
Allow for work 24/7 across time zones around the globeHave central workforce work in shifts or use different teams per geography (work needs to be managed and synchronized).  Have existing robotic artifacts run 24/7 without any further impact due to central management and monitoring.
Get new work types completed at short noticeFind, onboard, and train new employees to carry out the new work (might be challenging to achieve this quickly and at scale).  Clearly document requirements and develop and test robotic artifacts on new work types, then move rapidly to production.
Leverage workforce across different clients to make the best use of resourcesDifficult in usual business model, partially possible in the outsourcing model.Using a secure, multi-tenant environment on multiple layers, some key components can be shared (dependent on client approval).  

Although the advantages of a robotic workforce in carrying out these tasks are clearly higher than a human workforce doing it – especially if the use cases/business areas in focus qualify for robotics – in reality, these two delivery options aren’t mutually exclusive. A mixed human and robotic workforce is likely to be around for a number of years, although it’s not clear how quickly the artificial intelligence (AI) aspect of automation will prove or disprove this prediction.

Living the industrialization dream

I then asked my mother to imagine that she didn’t need to acquire, train, manage, organize, and support her “Robontinent” workforce herself, but that someone else (a service provider) with the experience and ability could do this for her based on jointly agreed success criteria. Wouldn’t it be a relief to enjoy all the benefits without the having to deal with the nightmare of micro-managing this “robot army”?

And this is exactly what differentiates Capgemini’s Virtual Delivery Center approach from organizations’ own internal automation projects. In the “Managing a robotic workforce” column of the table are some of the main areas where leveraging a Virtual Delivery Center approach can make a huge difference in contrast to managing robotics in scale internally.

My mother nodded in wise apprehension and beamed at me: “I always thought you didn’t want to work in a kindergarten, but this is exactly the service you offer to your clients!”

I hadn’t really looked at it like this before, and I wasn’t going to try to correct her new vision of my job … at least, not in the next 20 years!

Learn how Capgemini’s Virtual Delivery Center provides a virtual workforce of robots and platform delivery to power your business operations.

To learn more about how Capgemini’s robotic automation solutions can deliver enhanced value for your organization, contact:

Tim Ulrich manages intelligent automation and robotic process automation (RPA) solutions across Europe, helping clients to increase process quality and efficiency, and reduce cost by deploying leading automation technologies.