Let’s start with a definition. A digital workforce comprises a variety of technologies for automation working alongside the human workforce. These technologies include, e.g. driverless vehicles and AI, but the term is currently mostly used to describe software robots or robotic process automation (RPA). We have seen the digital workforce evolve from car manufacturing robots and CNC machines to more integrated supply chains, through IoT to its current incarnation where RPA, chatbots, digital assistants (e.g. Siri) and the like are almost becoming separate entities. Hence the term workforce.
The benefits and challenges of a digital workforce for SMEs
The most obvious benefit of a digital workforce is that it does not require rest, holidays or even a desk. Arguably the most critical factor in favour of ’employing’ a digital workforce is that robots can perform routine tasks much faster and more accurately than humans can. And they do not get bored in the process. In other words, the human workforce no longer needs to work on a routine, tedious and often time-consuming tasks that, mostly, provide little satisfaction. In a way, that is its most significant challenge; the human workforce can easily perceive robotics as threatening their jobs so SMEs should consider this.
The previous automation and internet revolution created more jobs than were lost; however, an adjustment took place in the type of work we, the humans, do. In the coming 10 to 20 years a much larger shift than we have seen before will likely occur, but there is no reason to believe that the emerging new technologies will not create many new jobs. They will, however, require a different skillset. Not only that but the pace of business will increase. As robots can work between 4 to 10 times faster than humans, productivity can improve immensely. Think of the time