Building your digital workforce - and making humans happier in the process - TechCentral

Building your digital workforce – and making humans happier in the process

Ever since the advent of industrialisation, we’ve been fearful that machines are about to put us out of work. In South Africa, in the face of increasing, widespread unemployment, it’s a particularly acute concern. Won’t digital automation just take over jobs that could go to people?

The evidence – and our experience – suggests otherwise. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2019 finds that “although technology may be replacing workers in some jobs, overall it raises the demand for labour”.

What is changing is the nature of human work. The same report found that since 2001, the share of employment in occupations heavy in non-routine cognitive and socio-behavioural skills has increased from 19% to 23% in emerging economies and from 33% to 41% in advanced economies.

Automation frees human employees to pursue more rewarding, value-adding labour. For example, in our work with large financial institutions and telecommunications operators, we saw the same issue arising: Highly paid software engineers were beginning their days with a manual check on server functions. It’s critical work, but not exactly demanding. It took up their time and frustrated them. It’s also exactly the sort of task that can be effectively automated. Automation frees humans to do what they do best: to think, creatively and intelligently, and add value – while automating the rote, repetitive, error-prone aspects of their jobs.


The other argument for automation preserving, not threatening jobs, is that in this economic climate sustainability of businesses is a very real issue. Automation is a cost saver and revenue enhancer, and that means more robust organisations and more sustainable employers. If we are able to automate some back office functions for a retailer being squeezed by the pressures of Covid-19, we can allow them to reallocate those resources and prevent layoffs. What we typically see is that employees affected by automation are upskilled to perform higher-value-adding tasks, thereby progressing them along their career path.

Companies are under pressure to stay competitive. In response to market drivers such as cost and risk reduction, governance and compliance, and employee and customer satisfaction, automation is a compelling solution. That’s why 42% of CEOs have begun digital business transformation¹, and 49% of firms are aiming to implement automation within the following 12 months.²

At iOCO, human-centred design is key to how we think about automation and what we prioritise. It’s a philosophy that sees us focus first on the business pain points to identify the underlying problem, and then find the best technology to solve them.

We view automation as an iterative, scalable process that begins with an in-depth review and analysis of business operations and their suitability for automation as well as the impact on company cost and revenue. From there we collaborate with functional and industry leaders within your organisation to provide a fully end-to-end process view and enterprise digital transformation, while assisting with change and talent management throughout the robotic process automation (RPA) journey.

Ultimately, we help you manage a prioritised, comprehensive portfolio of automation across platforms to deliver tangible results. Which means that a digital workforce, alongside happier, more productive humans, might just be the future of your business.

¹Gartner, The CEO Survey
² Forrester, The New Frontier Of Automation: Enterprise RPA

About iOCO
Established to simplify ICT, iOCO is Africa’s leading integrated technology services company, with the largest concentration of skills on the continent. As a level-1 B-BBEE end-to-end ICT managed service provider and cloud systems integrator, iOCO operates with over 20 years’ experience. Its team of more than 4 500 specialists delivers custom development and integration, open source, enterprise applications, data and analytics, compute and platforms, digital industries and manage and operate solutions to over a thousand top-tier clients.

Inspired by digitally native Internet organisations (iO) and creative organisations (CO) of the future, iOCO helps customers navigate the path to an exponential future. To achieve this vision, iOCO holds strategic OEM partnership agreements with more than 90 global leaders. iOCO is part of the EOH Group of companies.

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  • Christiaan Kriel is iOCO cluster executive, automation and CRM
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