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Intelligent automation will let the public sector focus on people

Simon Perks, Head of Robotics and AI at Agilisys, considers how the next industrial revolution will transform our working lives and why the public sector needs to seize the opportunities ahead.

The Government recently invested £1 billion to ensure the UK leads the world in artificial intelligence (AI), but we’re not the only country stepping up to seize the unprecedented opportunities ahead. According to a recent IDC report, global spending on cognitive and AI systems will reach almost $58 billion by 2021.

These enormous numbers make it clear we’re on the cusp of a new industrial revolution, one that will fundamentally transform all our lives. Yet, amid so much excitement, it’s easy to get lost in semantics. AI, machine learning, virtual assistants, robotic process automation, chatbots—there’s an almost endless list of new capabilities entering the lexicon.

This powerful array of tools all boils down to one thing: intelligent automation. Essentially, machines are now poised to automate not just manpower, but brainpower—transforming knowledge and decision-based jobs.

From steam to electricity, prior industrial revolutions were all about automating work—but the next one will humanise it too. The onrush of intelligent automation won’t replace people’s ingenuity, intuition and compassion—but it will enable us to use these very human qualities at work more, rather than wasting our time on mundane and monotonous tasks.

Microsoft recently found that 58% of UK business leaders believe automating routine tasks creates time for more meaningful work, with the organisations now using AI also outperforming their peers by around 5% in areas like productivity, performance and business outcomes.

This isn’t just great news for public sector leaders, it’s equally good for staff and citizens. By embracing intelligent automation, the public sector can work faster, smarter and more cost-effectively, while transforming the staff and citizen experience for the better.

Imagine essential services that can operate around-the-clock, process-driven tasks that no longer take weeks but minutes, and contact centres that can resolve more problems, more quickly and more effectively. Meanwhile, staff can pursue more fulfilling tasks and take the time to better support citizens on a personal level. All this is only the first inkling of what intelligent automation can achieve.

Many in the public sector are already investing in this future. We recently found that the majority of organisations plan to have advanced capabilities like AI and robotic process automation up and running in just two years’ time. As just one example, Newcastle City Council has automated the process of applying to take household waste to the tip, transforming it from a task that could take weeks into one that takes 90 seconds. The council also now uses automation to triage adult social care queries, ensuring citizens rapidly get the support they need—whether it’s best provided by a human or a machine.

Nowadays, people often worry that robots are coming for their jobs, but the public sector’s future will in fact be a symbiotic relationship between people and intelligent automation. Some jobs will vanish, more will change, and many new roles will emerge. However, life will be much more interesting and fulfilling as part of tomorrow’s Digital Workforce, with people and intelligent automation uniting to achieve more together than either could alone.

With austerity continuing to bite, the public sector shouldn’t wait to embrace this potential. With technology evolving faster than ever, the need for transformation is inevitable. Now’s the time to start exploring intelligent automation and upskilling staff for a future where machines augment their roles like never before.

Automating Work. Humanising Jobs.


Thanks to our new partnership with award-winning intelligent automation provider Thoughtonomy, and two decades of experience enabling the public sector to go further and faster, we’re in a unique position to help. From building the business case for change, to identifying the areas where intelligent automation can best be applied, our experience and expertise will help you take the first steps on this journey.

Learn more about the potential of intelligent automation in the public sector and how Agilisys can help you get started.