Ed Sant’Anna: Robots in the Workplace

The New Normal – Robots in the Workplace
By Ed Sant’Anna


Consider that…
According to Gartner, 15% of all customer service interactions will be handled solely by AI by 2021.

And, 31% of companies already have invested in AI in an effort to get ahead of the competition. (Accenture)

These numbers get larger by the day because the application of AI into customer service is growing as Natural Language Processing and speech recognition solutions mature. The task that businesses face to refine data into actionable insights is a daunting challenge – and businesses increasingly look to machine learning to make sense of all that data.

The application of artificial intelligence is occurring with growing frequency to increase automation across both the front and back offices of the enterprise. There, AI helps employees and remote workforces to be more productive and satisfied with their user support. AI is also being applied in customer support processes to provide an efficient and satisfying customer experience.


In the front office the application of chatbots and virtual assistants is on the rise. For example, chatbots are a growing market, and research suggests that 80% of companies are considering the deployment of a chatbot by 20201. And, why is that happening?

First, it is worth noting that while chatbots are most commonly associated with simple text-based interfaces, the term also covers a number of permutations such as virtual assistants and virtual agents. These so-called “voicebots” have grown in popularity with the evolution of Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use “chatbot” to describe all the above.

We believe that the trends being observed along with the approach we should take must be one driven by business outcomes rather than the underlying technology itself. The possibilities unlocked by chatbots are only relevant for the benefits they bring to the business, which are aligned to their goals.

Despite not being a new concept2 chatbots are now prominently featured as holding the potential of one day replacing many of the tasks currently performed by humans. Chatbots have gained momentum due to the combination of two trends: people now using messaging apps as a core communications channel, and the evolution of Artificial Intelligence techniques, such as Machine Learning (ML).

More specifically, developments in Natural Language Understanding (NLU) are enabling machines to emulate human-like conversations. It includes being able to identify which language is being used in a specific text, understanding its syntax, extracting key phrases and determining its emotional sentiment, i.e., positive, negative or neutral.
Indeed, it is estimated that AI could deliver global economic activity of approximately US$13 Trillion by 2030, the equivalent of 1.2% GDP growth per year3. Chatbots are an integral part of this potential growth.

Much like we’ve seen with the consumerization of IT in recent years, the trend towards businesses providing customers with messaging interfaces to interact with them is an upwards trajectory. Not surprising, this is being driven by consumers who are already blending conversation and commerce.4 For example, consider these statistics from Facebook Insights5:

• 67% of those surveyed expect to message more with businesses over the next two years

• 53% say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via chat app

Now, let’s shift gears and consider the back office where today businesses continue to be bogged down by outdated, repetitive and manual processes that do more to add cost and complexity than effectiveness, but this too is changing rapidly.

Here, too, digital platforms, including Getronics’ Polymath technology, are increasingly available in the market to improve operational efficiency across an enterprise through the use of Automation, powered by Analytics and AI.


Organizations typically have numerous business processes that involve highly repetitive and manual work across the functions of the enterprise. Discussions with CIOs and CTOs across North America and Europe, for example, on where to apply Getronics Polymath to their processes underscore how value can be created with a measurable impact to productivity and the bottom line.
These industry leaders believe the digital and business transformation journey must be predicated upon the automation of the repetitive and time-consuming tasks their employees perform on a regular basis. For example, relevant business processes ripe for automation include this list of ‘low hanging fruit’:

• Data entry & Validation
o Logging into multiple applications (often legacy software)
o Copying and pasting data
• Rules-based decision making
o Testing via scripts
o Data extraction for report generation
o Reconciliations
o Following “if/then” decisions and rules
• Data Import & Export
o Collecting website statistics
o Opening emails and attachments
o Making calculations
o Filling out forms
o Moving files and folders
o Merging data from multiple sources
o Extracting & reformatting data into reports
• User notifications and mass e-mailing


Finding ways to leverage AI is top of mind for CEOs, CIOs and CTOs of every industry.

Research by MIT says that 85% of executives believe that AI will enable their companies to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage, but only about 20% have incorporated AI in some way.
Like Getronics’ Polymath, the technology is still in its infancy, but it is producing successes in the market that demonstrate how transformational it can be to businesses. When implemented appropriately it can reduce costs, improve employee productivity, raise brand awareness, increase revenue, and positively impact customer satisfaction.
And this is only the beginning.

1 BI Intelligence, based on Oracle survey of 800 decision makers across France, the Netherlands, South Africa and the UK
2 Chatbots (or “chatterbots”) can be traced back to ELIZA, a computer programme created in 1966
3 McKinsey Global Institute, AI Frontier, Sep-2018
4 Getronics, “Chatbots: A Conversational Revolution”, July, 2019
5 Facebook IQ insights: The Message Heard Around the World, 2016


Ed Sant’Anna is Head of Product Development at Getronics including leadership for its Polymath automation technology. Based in the UK, Ed is an entrepreneur, technologist and business consultant with nearly 20 years of industry experience having worked with leading technology providers, including Vodafone, WWT, Fujitsu and NEC.

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