automate your work

It would be great if someone or something could help you to do your work, I’m not talking about free time for procrastination, no, just more time to focus on what’s really important, what’s pushing forward to your goals.

In our day to day jobs, an important part of the time is dedicated to boring tasks with low added value. You may delegate them to your assistant, if you have one or even to a virtual assistant. I’ve discovered this concept very lately but virtual assistants exist for years. The main idea is not to have an A.I. or a bot as an assistant, the word virtual here means a 'remote' assistant. It could be great, but I didn't try. Of course your remote assistant is located in a country where the average cost per hour is very low and the overall skills are high : India, South America, North Africa and so on.

Maybe I’ll give it a try someday, I think I will have to balance the cost, the time spent to explain how I work and the return of investment. I also remember when my company tried a virtual assistant service. It was supposed to be something automated with AI and complex algorithms. Something automated but it was just a bunch of people located in India trying to act as bots, humans acting like bots and not bots acting like humans : sad story.

robotic process automation

Another option would be to have a ‘real’ virtual assistant. Like Iron Man and Jarvis. Unfortunately, this is just a movie for now. At work, I’ve seen several bots running. It’s based on RPA tools : Robotic Process Automation. I’ve worked on Blueprism and UI Path. With these tools you can automate complex business processes like downloading data from a website, filling it in a spreadsheet, comparing it to internal data hosted in your company's private storage, creating and sending reports by email. This kind of task is not so complex but as it involves many different components it’s very often done manually. Of course, you can create an app or a script to perform the same task but it requires high development skills to achieve it. The trick with RPA : it doesn’t require a development team, you can create a process by yourself using a graphical interface. Another great advantage of RPA is that you can automate existing softwares (even old ones) because the tool is able to emulate the movement of the mouse on a screen and recognize buttons to click on it.

I’ve heard a very great sales representative talking about RPA bots as a digital workforce. A great (and a little bit scary) concept : the customer has a mission to accomplish, instead of hiring 1 partner, 2 senior managers and 6 junior staff, the customer can hire a digital workforce, a hybrid team of real humans and bots. It could be for example for the same mission : a partner (the main contact), 1 senior manager, 2 junior staff and 3 bots… We have to be prepared for this kind of team. I guess in a not so far futur, we all have to work in teams with real humans and bots.

hey Jarvis ! Are you my MUM ?

Getting back to Jarvis and the voice controlled assistant, Google, Apple and Amazon are on their ways to provide this kind of help for the masses. It’s not so advanced for now, it’s ‘cool’ to start spotify using your voice in your living room… Not sure if it will be so cool to talk to a bot all day long. Google is good at this with their famous Google assistant. It will soon be able to take phone calls for you or to talk on your behalf to real people and schedule an appointment for a haircut. I guess that bots will talk to bots for us soon.

During their last conference, Google has demonstrated how their latest A.I. can have real conversations with humans. It’s pretty impressive, moreover the A.I. has a full access to everything on the Internet so it’s full of resources. They call it LaMDA, they have also improved how AI can understand information, this is their MUM.

Tomorrow Google will be our Mum and we will ask everything to our new mother… We can consider this is as an upgrade to big brother, let's call it big mother. With google lens able to recognize anything we show to our smartphone, the power of Google translate, Google search and the smartphones in our hands powered by Android, MUM will be a powerful tool... to gather and sell personal data. Can I afford the luxury to cease my Google account ? No that is not possible, I'm not so rich.

Microsoft has definitively failed with Cortana but this company is full of resources and they have suggested something different. They choose to provide something more practical for now. Definitively their main app is MS Office (OK, it's only Excel) and it’s used by millions (billions ? I don't know) of people around the Globe. So they provide the ability to automate it with Power Automate. This tool helps you to connect your Outlook mailbox with Onedrive for example. It can automatically save all your attachments in your cloud storage. You can also flag an email and it will create a task in your ToDo list. They have a huge list of templates that you can enable in a few clicks. I’ve used it at work and it was a game changer. We were able to create complex automated workflows with this tool : we have connected a shared mailbox, planner, onedrive and sharepoint to have a fully operational ticketing system for support, a booking system for internal resources, source code testing… These workflows would have required several days of development and you know, time is money in our globalized world. Zapier is a great alternative for cloud native apps, I may dedicate a blog post to it as it has so many interesting features.

no code

So even the software developers can be replaced by bots. At least, the developers will have to develop tools to automate software development… It’s a logical evolution. Currently devs are using frameworks developed by other developers to create new software more quickly than before. The next step is No Code. This means anybody will be able to create an app without any line of code. This is something trendy, Microsoft has already a tool for this : Power Apps. The world is moving fast and businesses need to adjust very quickly, automation and A.I. are key for achieving this. I don't like to quote my homonym but Russian President Putin said :

whoever reaches a breakthrough in developing artificial intelligence will come to dominate the world.

Be prepared to work with bots and automation tools, the GAFAM are on the line to provide it. Be also prepared to live with it. Google assistant, Siri, Cortana and Alexa are on their way to be our next best friends or colleagues. Is it good or bad? I don’t think this is the correct question. For now, we should use these tools to let humans work on real added value tasks and delegate boring tasks to machines. Real bots are not ready yet, I mean bots for cleaning houses, for driving us, for cooking or for farming. Robotics is making good progress, we should see them in the near future. Associated with A.I. these bots will be powerful. Who will keep the control ? I don’t know if Sci-Fi will be a reality. It looks like very often, if the human brain can think about something, a pioneer will do it. So the good question is not “is it good or bad”, the question is when and how ?

The virtual world is already relying on machines so let them do the hard work and we can spend more time on human things, the metaverse and the rise of A.I. can wait, I am not so hurry to see it coming. If a bot can do my job, fine! For now I try to automate it as much as possible. What about the future ? Will SkyNet take my job and will I be unemployed ? I think the human brain has some magical powers of creativity and it will take decades to mimic it by bots if they can outclass it one day… Again, if we can think about it, it could happen.


#AI #automation