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Why automation is the answer not the enemy

What happens when artificial intelligence starts replacing jobs; if processes are automated and people are redundant?

These are legitimate questions that are in the thoughts today of business leaders and workforces alike as they consider what their work environment might be like in 5 or 10 years’ time.

However, while we are living in a time of economic and political uncertainty, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear that European workers are feeling pretty upbeat about it.

That’s one of the key takeaways from Ricoh’s World of Change research, which we commissioned earlier this year. Rather than fearing technology, workers are hugely optimistic. 95% of those surveyed believe the changing landscape will benefit their business in 2017. And when asked to identify positive trends, 57% of respondents highlighted automation.

Throughout the research we found that people see technology as a solution. It’s not something that replaces jobs but enhances them.

Automation should be a priority area of investment for business leaders. Employees know it can speed up their administrative efforts, cut costs and help them expand into new areas: 42% said they expect this technology to perform their roles better and be more productive. And if there are fears that certain job roles will disappear, we’ve consistently seen through history that each technological wave brings about new opportunities. Thirty years ago could you have imagined roles such as data scientist, social media manager, or UX designer?

Rather than a negative outlook, automation is seen as a way of enhancing job roles while also providing immense benefits to the wider business. Often it can excel at non-strategic, procedural tasks that are removed from core business goals. This can free up employees from paper-based workflows; allowing for greater levels of productivity and creativity in the workforce.

Removing document-intensive work encourages employees to focus on business critical activity that provides real value to clients.

That’s exactly what we’re helping businesses do with, for example, the launch of Ricoh Click and Post: a new workflow application that automates single mail items such as letters.

These jobs on their own are time-consuming to create, costly to produce and may breach company branding and governance policies.

Ricoh Click and Post offers greater efficiency by enabling staff to send high quality and low cost printed communications without leaving their desks. This helps improve customer satisfaction, while also supporting businesses in their transition to the digital workplace.

Employees know how crucial automation will be in increasing their productivity at work – and this is one great example. Businesses should promote collaborative working practices while simultaneously intelligently investing in the necessary tools to bring them about.

Process enhancing technology and artificial intelligence are the answers rather than the enemies. Perhaps 10 years from now we’ll be struggling to imagine what working life would be like without the aid of automation.

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