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Best Mix of Human and Machine in Digital Transformation

Shinya Suda, Senior Vice President, Information Systems, Astellas Pharma Inc
Shinya Suda, Senior Vice President, Information Systems, Astellas Pharma Inc

Shinya Suda, Senior Vice President, Information Systems, Astellas Pharma Inc

Due to the COVID-19 circumstance, I haven't got on an airplane for more than 18 months. So, let me start this article with an airplane.

Technologies associated with auto-piloting of airplanes have kept evolving in the last 20 years. And it is said that auto-piloting is much smoother than operation of "human" pilot.

However, we have professional pilots in cockpit of airplanes. Why?

I would say that Digital x Data have 4 levers of creating values; Sense, Analyze, Automate and Engage.

These are levers to enable us to create values through digitalization and digital transformation. I would like to use Automation as an example of value.

An "Automation" could bring significant value to enterprises. Rather than having an approach of just reducing fulltime equivalent (FTE) count through automation, organizations need to prioritize their automation initiatives to bring in agility, accuracy, and resiliency. Pharmaceutical companies invest in large operations to deal with the process to intake, analyze, and report safety-related information to relevant stakeholders. These operations need to be extremely resilient under all circumstances, including challenging ones like Covid-19, which has prevented staff from going to offices. Investing in an automation approach amid challenges and during disruptions not only helps the enterprise become resilient, but also helps it accomplish a high quality of output with significantly reduced risk of errors in a shorter time.

 Rather than having an approach of just reducing fulltime equivalent (FTE) count through automation, organizations need to prioritize their automation initiatives to bring in agility, accuracy, and resiliency 

Businesses can certainly begin their journey toward becoming autonomous enterprises by automating their simpler operations. However, it is essential that they redesign their business operations to align with intelligent automation to make them independent from their current organizational structures. Employees can then focus more on refining, designing, and optimizing the process and managing the operations rather than executing tasks. Automation can augment human operations, but it takes intelligent automation to make operations smarter and help humans focus on designing, creating, and delivering value for the future by becoming a true autonomous operation.

Let's go back to the topic of pilots.

Now that AI-based deep learning has evolved, companies can use the latest data to predict the future and make decisions. However, in the future, the higher the uncertainty, the less useful the forecasts will be based on historical data.

Just as the autopilot system of an airplane is not universal, human power is required in an emergency. We often hear stories such as "If you digitize, you don't need people", but it is important to properly determine when to proceed with the autopilot and when to operate by yourself.

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