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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Here’s how McKinsey’s bot on your office computer could be sizing you up

McKinsey & Co is developing robots that can soon perform cognitive tasks now done by humans.

tech Updated: Jul 24, 2019 16:03 IST
Michelle Jamrisko
Michelle Jamrisko
This picture taken on July 17, 2019 shows autonomous cleaning robots moving on a platform during a launch in Singapore.
This picture taken on July 17, 2019 shows autonomous cleaning robots moving on a platform during a launch in Singapore. (AFP)

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% 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%-40%. The greater speed with which people can open bank accounts, for example, provides a competitive advantage that translates into a revenue increase of 5%-10%, McKinsey says.

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The team began running AutoMate in their own Chennai office last year, and it’s being deployed in Poland and 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% of worldwide work is industrial, manual labour -- the other 80% 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.