Digital workers are essentially software robots designed to do the work people shouldn’t have to do. They interact with applications and interfaces in the same way people do and can be programmed and trained to automate specific tasks, make decisions and facilitate work in end-to-end processes. And they do this work incredibly well – they do it faster than their human counterparts, with fewer errors and less rework, and they do it all year round without holidays, sick days, or time off.
With cognitive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), automation is becoming even more intelligent. Digital workers are doing even more for their human counterparts, enabling everyone to do their work even better. Whether working independently ('unattended' mode) or with your people ('attended' mode), digital workers are an integral and essential element in your organization's digital transformation efforts.
We’re going to explain what digital workers are, how you can use them, their key benefits, potential challenges, and what you’ll need to get started in your automation journey.
What Are Digital Workers?
Digital workers are the frontline to intelligent automation (IA): a combination of technologies including robotic process automation (RPA), business process management (BPM), process and task mining, no-code development, natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
Six Characteristics of a Digital Worker
- Robust: Available 24/7, all year round
- Fast: Perform tasks 5x faster than people
- Accurate: Perform tasks with fewer errors and fewer reworks
- Smart: Capable of learning and handling complex situations
- Scalable: Deployed when and where you need them
- Adaptable: Support lots of different scenarios and use cases
Where Can Digital Workers Be Applied?
At their core, digital workers are designed to mimic human actions, taking over the work that people really shouldn’t have to do. For example:
High-volume tasks and repetitive work
Digital workers are great at handling work that is both high in volume and highly repetitive. Automating this type of process will maximize your return on investment (ROI) and deliver continued savings from your deployment.
Use of multiple applications
Digital workers don’t just mimic human actions; they connect systems. If you have a process spanning multiple applications or interacting with other departments, this makes you a good candidate for intelligent automation (IA). Even if it’s not possible to automate the end-to-end process, these intelligent software bots can expedite the work and alleviate some of the more boring work people. Digital workers are particularly powerful at working across existing legacy IT systems and processes that are otherwise difficult to integrate.
Plenty of business operations only happen occasionally. Think about monthly or annual tasks in financial services or administrative processes.
For example, team members might be pulled from their regular tasks to handle monthly accounting runs for accounts payable or address an influx of customer orders following an advertising push. With volume increases accompanied by workforce surges and periodic or seasonal fluctuations, processes, and tasks like this can often be assisted, if not replaced, by digital workers.
Reproducible, documented workflows like an instruction manual used by contractors, are an excellent beacon to an IA candidate. This type of systematic procedure is typically the first to be automated. Since digital workers mimic human workers’ actions, these defined workflows can be an easy way to speed up your throughput.
Use of structured data
You likely have processes using a well-defined data format. For tasks where data is clearly defined, such as predefined, standardized forms and documents, digital workers can easily access, classify and utilize this data within the workflow.
And with AI and ML, intelligent process automation is becoming more efficient with its integrated intelligent software bots, so digital workers can do even more for their human counterparts. With AI and ML, your intelligent automation practice matures, and the characteristics of your ideal candidates expand considerably.
Digital workers let their human counterparts do their work even better:
- Helping a customer service agent during a customer call with real-time information, prompts, etc.
- Discovering non-routine work that’s poorly defined or has multiple variations
- Making sense of unstructured data for better utilization
- Complex decision-making for better optimization
Your automation program could be leaving whole swathes of work to their digital co-workers to complete while human effort can be focused on other, higher-value work.
Benefits of Digital Workers
SS&C Blue Prism’s digital workforce is designed to work with as little intervention as possible to achieve operational efficiency. Digital workers are the future of self-managed, enterprise-wide orchestration and they bring numerous advantages to an organization’s processes:
Cost and efficiency savings
At its core, a digital workforce helps organizations do things in a fraction of the time and cost of your people-based workforce, with exceptionally high levels of accuracy to prevent rework and delays. That alone helps your business deliver a compelling return on investment.
Freeing up resources
Achieving a people-centric employee experience while continuing to perform traditional tasks is problematic. This problem rolls up to leadership, who devote too many resources to transactional details like researching and assembling reports.
Digital workers can change all that. By combining the power of a digital workforce with the ingenuity of your leaders, IA can accelerate action and growth. In fact, digital workers are helping address the top priority items on every board agenda today: staff shortages and skills gaps.
Help your people thrive at work
There’s plenty of fearmongering about the “threat” of automation; but ultimately, stellar employee experience means providing opportunities to grow and do more meaningful work, with a career path that supports peoples’ goals.
The power of AI-enabled digital workers is that it empowers your people to be even better. And that has a direct impact on the employee experience. Firstly, they’re freed up from doing the duller work so they can focus on the rewarding work—work that matters more and suits a human’s perspective. That in turn opens all sorts of opportunities that may not have been available before.
Automation helps overcome or redress the massive trend we’re seeing today with "quiet quitters" – the millions of people who aren’t working beyond their allotted hours and are just meeting their job description. It also helps overcome one of the main reasons people leave their jobs today: career growth opportunities elsewhere.
Providing better customer service
Best of all, automation is a virtuous circle; happier employees are more engaged and more focused on delivering the best results for the organization. Research by Gallup suggests “companies with a highly engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability than companies with a disengaged workforce.”
Excellence in front-line customer service is one of the greatest advantages your team can provide. With human employees freed from simple, repetitive tasks, they’re able to spend more time with the customer, ensuring positive customer interactions and rapid, empathetic, and comprehensive customer service.
And the results speak for themselves: happier, focused, empowered employees means happier customers.
Focus on strategic business outcomes
Most departments want to be strategic business partners handling more than just day-to-day operations. With digital workers easing the burden from most of these tasks, your Line of Business teams can have more time to think about how the people organization works within the overall business strategy.
By allowing your entire team to have a razor-sharp focus on strategy and innovation, they can successfully drive its execution forward to deliver the transformational results your business deserves.
Where Digital Workers Can Be Applied
In practice, digital workers can perform a multitude of functions across industries. Digital workers can interact with a variety of applications via websites, APIs, databases, spreadsheets, and user interfaces; the opportunities for where they can be applied are limitless.
Digital workers perform a variety of common office processes:
- Data reading, data entry, importing and exporting information
- Mass email generation, follow-ups, tracking, archiving, and extracting
- Repetitive keyboard tasks and activities
- Retrieving information for chatbots or mobile apps
- File transfers, reading, and updating websites
- Updating databases and audit logs
- Common use cases include: Payroll Automation or Back Office Automation
Digital workers can also do more advanced, complex activities:
- Detecting fraud
- Routing complex tasks to subject matter experts
- Adapting to and optimizing ever-more complex tasks to entire processes
- Analyzing and processing claims
- Preparing documents and proposals
- Answering product questions for customers
- Verifying stock quantity and pricing
Challenges and Concerns
Before you integrate automation into your organization, you should address one of the most common concerns associated with it. You’ve likely heard people express their worries about digital workers taking over their jobs.
In truth, digital workers open the space for higher-value, more focused work for employees, thereby alleviating them from monotonous tasks. Digital workers help make employees' jobs better and transform the work they do. In short, digital workers deliver a better employee experience across your organization.
We have doubled our ROI each year and have scaled our spectrum of automation to include RPA, Desktop Automation, ALM, OCR, machine learning, and data visualization."Ashish Jha Director Automation Solutions, Innovation and Capabilities
Learn more about Invesco digital workforce
At the start, our team members were worried that bots would be taking their jobs away; the reality was that bots took away the tedious work they didn’t like doing and freed them up to do more complex, higher-value work and focus on the most important work for our team members."Ray Macdonald Senior Director of Artificial Intelligence and Software Development at ATB Financial
Learn more about ATB's employee experience
As with most technological advancements from the past, jobs evolve as the landscape changes. The digital sphere is no exception. In fact, one of the most valuable opportunities with automation is realizing the best ideas are probably sitting in the minds of the people doing the work today—because they know the business best. And by tapping into that, you’re democratizing the automation responsibility.
Getting your non-IT folks—those people sitting in the business itself—involved in identifying, validating and even developing processes is going to empower them. Because they’re making their jobs better and improving outcomes for the business. This is called citizen development and it’s incredibly beneficial because it:
- Enables rapid, business-specific innovation and reduces the TTM for that innovation
- Doesn’t burden IT
- Allows ordinary employees to be part of something bigger—thereby increasing employee satisfaction
Before Deploying Digital Workers
Before automating your organization’s processes, you should ensure the minimum requirements are in place. Integrating IA and its associated technologies takes planning and forethought if you’re going to yield the highest potential ROI.
Set up good processes
Firstly, you should have good processes in place before you start automating. Automating a poorly designed process will make it difficult to scale your automation enterprise-wide. Understand the process in its current form, including any inefficiencies or bottlenecks, and repair those before automating.
Identify the highest-value automated processes first
You can simplify the identification of these key areas with process mining. Process mining reads unstructured data to create a picture of current processes, giving you valuable insight into inefficiencies and opportunities. It examines routine processes to find the process suitable for automation and helps you identify the processes that will maximize the returns to your business by delivering the highest value outcomes.
Check for system gaps
Look out for integration and capability gaps in your organization’s core systems to ensure they can run digital workers. Your automation needs a stable foundation to run effectively.
Prepare your teams
Prepare your staff for integration and clearly communicate what’s expected of them. Affirm their job safety and lay out a plan outlining the roles and responsibilities for integrating and managing digital workers.
You should determine who will have user management of the control room and where your digital transformation efforts will be focused. Establishing a Center of Excellence (CoE) in your team will ensure your process automation is structured, optimized, consistent and compliant.
Communicate with executives and stakeholders about what they can expect from a digital workforce, including the ROI and your plans to increase corporate efficiency.
Integrate your digital and people workforce from the onset
The best way to get the most out of your digital workforce is not to consider them as a separate entity. Instead, you need to think about the entire, potentially infinite workforce at your disposal—both the people and their digital counterparts. This means being prepared to onboard, train, develop and manage your digital workforce just as much as you do your people-based workforce.
The ultimate goal is unifying the digital labor of your digital workers with your people into one powerful, collaborative workforce that seamlessly delivers the right outcomes for the business. In other words, using people wherever you should and automating whenever you can.
Launching your digital workers
Once you’ve established and optimized your processes for automation, you can put your digital workforce to work. It’s important to monitor and maintain your digital workers and always be looking for further growth opportunities in the program.
Establish clear documentation
Document your processes to ensure your digital workers are trained correctly. If there are any problems, it’s best to catch them early so you keep striving toward your organization’s overall goals.
Training your digital workers
When training your digital workers to handle tasks within a workflow, you need to ensure they’re following the correct procedures and maintaining governance and security.
Monitor the digital workers’ performance as they operate. You want to check they’re running smoothly and generating your desired business goals and ROI.
RPA from SS&C Blue Prism
SS&C Blue Prism combines a robotic process automation (RPA) platform with cognitive technologies and business applications, providing a secure and scalable digital workforce blended with human workers and systems. This platform allows you to quickly optimize your digital workforce while being cost-effective, so your automation can be scaled enterprise-wide.
Your intelligent SS&C Blue Prism digital workforce reduces time to market and quickly delivers efficiencies. It frees and enables your employees to spend more time on higher-value work, such as delivering excellent customer service, all while facilitating your business to grow exponentially and increase profitability. And it does this while ensuring the highest levels of security, compliance and governance.
Key Features of Digital Workers and Intelligent Automation
Digital workers can be augmented with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to learn and solve problems within business processes. Using RPA, you can automate your business processes and create a digital workforce that is deployable across the business.
Design studio (IA & RPA)
No-code, drag-and-drop process automation with reusable ‘objects’. The Design Studio allows you to build an object once and reuse it across the business for rapid scalability.
Control room (IA & RPA)
centralizes the view of your digital workers’ performance and assigns processes on demand. The control room enables SLA-based orchestration to ensure the highest priority work happens first and gives you the monitoring capabilities for stable and secure automation across your business.
Controls, monitors, and integrates user management of your digital workforce with APIs. SS&C Blue Prism gives you expanded API frameworks to allow for modular, plug-in innovation and customization with complementary digital technologies, together with smarter orchestration across your business. It fuels digital worker decision-making skills by utilizing AI and ML from the Digital Exchange (DX).
Browser-based control interface
Quickly assesses dashboards and data views to tailor workflows, track automation and monitor digital worker health so your processes run smoothly. This control interface empowers your business with data insights so it’s easier to identify the most intelligent process automation for your operations. It gives you the power to orchestrate digital workers easily and effectively and is a way for you to observe and monitor your multitasking digital workers from any device, anytime and anywhere.
Incorporates top-tier security standards and development practices by using strict user-access controls and multi-level approval. SS&C Blue Prism’s automation software automatically logs every action in the system to provide detailed and trusted audit trails and give full visibility to process workflows.
To learn more about SS&C Blue Prism’s full product portfolio, visit our portfolio page.
Digital Workers: Key Takeaways
Digital workers are software robots able to fulfill high-volume tasks, freeing employees from menial tasks and improving corporate efficiency. With the right setup and monitoring, your digital workers can enact digital transformation for your entire organization’s system processes.
Before implementing digital workers into your processes, you need to prepare your people and systems. Good preparation and planning will help you achieve your overall automation ROI goals and get your enterprise innovating for the future.
Digital workers are an extremely valuable part of your organization’s automation journey when utilized correctly.