Blue Personal Objects

Easy mental model to understand digital workers

Introduction

If you are a business executive or a business owner and asking yourself how to get more done with less people (increase productivity), let me introduce digital workers.

IBM defines digital workers as “software-based labor that can independently execute meaningful parts of complex, end-to-end processes using a range of skills”.

To apply the concept to your own business, think of digital worker as a robot that transforms some information inputs into (information) outputs and communicates over defined channels.

The model

The mental model has four main components: results, inputs, communication and compensation.

Results (units of work)

Most importantly, understand what will be the robot’s output. It can be many things: certain information saved into an ERP system or customer portal, prepared reports or declarations, processed cases, or sorted emails.

Results should be defined simply. Imagine you had a part-time intern who can take over just one task from your department to help out with the workload. How would you explain to them what you need done?

Inputs

This is what the robot will be working with. What triggers the work for the person currently responsible for this task? May be an email with a certain attachment, changed delivery status in the ERP system, one of your vehicles becoming available, or incoming service ticket.

Communication

How will the robot receive inputs and deliver results? Most common channels are emails, company’s IT systems (e.g. ERP), API (Application Programming Interface), or saving documents to a certain shared folder.

Compensation

Our robots are paid for the work they do, by the unit. How long does it take an employee to complete this task and how much salary does that correspond to? The robot will typically be able to perform the task 2x cheaper.

A person works 160 hours per month and earns €4,800 per month, or €30/hour. They must prepare 150 customs declarations per month, each takes 4 minutes. That makes 600 minutes = 10 hours, which costs the company €300 or €2 per declaration. An F-ONE robot would be paid ~€1 per successfully completed declaration.

Summary

Use this simple mental model to understand digital workers, or robots, and start thinking how your company can benefit from them.  

What next?

Dive into 3 real-life examples of creative application of digital workers by logistics, industrial and financial companies. Examples are structured along the same model, making them easy to understand and compare with your requirements. 

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