Do we fight with, or try and make friends with, the robots?

Well, it depends on a business’s ability to see the opportunities that digital and technological innovation holds to be able to boost performance, speed, and scale.  Alternatively, the inability to see these opportunities and view the robots as simply out to take jobs from the humans!

It's no secret that client expectations of the opportunities that digital innovation holds for them is increasing. Opportunities like quicker service, decreased errors, increased quality, productivity and/ or convenience.  But what does this digital innovation mean for the role of operations management in a business? Business owners are wondering if this means that the role may become redundant?

"Quite the opposite actually"

The level of advancement of digital innovation in business operations varies from country to country, business to business. But in South Africa in particular, digital innovation is still relatively new. We are seeing a slow turn of organisations to invest less in ‘traditional’operations and an increase in digital operational practices. What is becoming clearer is that operations management is not disappearing any time soon. It is simply demanding a different approach to that which has been seen previously. The demand for operations will become even more critical as technology proliferates more areas of a business's operational ecosystem.
"Business will be demanding that management operations show a high understanding of digital capabilities, as well as the ability to respond quickly and increased agility when responding to a business digital demands"

As a business gets more digitally advanced, it's capabilities will become more reliant on people to manage those digital operations. Just because a process is automated doesn't mean that the necessity for human interpretation and advice falls away. Actually, it will become more critical for people to interpret customer needs and advice before and during the facilitation of the practical operational transactions. This applies to external customers, along with internal stakeholders managing the direction and flow of work through with increased speed and accuracy.

"Both of which increase a business competitiveness,
increase in potential for growth and profitability"

So, if the advent of digital will still demand people to manage the operations, perhaps operations actually needs digital?  For example, critical to effective management of operations is the ability to assess the performance of all it's moving parts. That we know. Perhaps a digital dashboard that allows real-time data to feed into one centralised interface is a piece of technology that allows for quicker operational reaction time. The ability of the technology to feed correct data from all parts of the business will allow operational decisions to be made at an increased, and more informed, pace that enables quicker decision making and better overall performance of the business. 

Whilst these are only two, simple examples of where and how digital innovation can enhance an organisation's operational performance, the opportunities for the management of operations isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It does, however, demand that those tasked with management of operations are continuously looking for ways for people and technology to create partnerships without fear that the robots are out to take their jobs!

Robots and humans can live in harmony (for now!)