The role of digital workers within organisations is expected to increase by 50% over the next two years as companies wake up to their benefits.

This is according to research company IDC, which has surveyed 500 senior decision-makers in large enterprises.

Digital workers are software robots that carry out some workplace tasks, designed to work alongside human workers. Although there have been fears over the increased presence of Artificial intelligence coming at the expense of human jobs, this type of technology is designed to be human-centric, handling repetitive processes and leaving employees free to focus on other aspects of their job.

The findings suggest that there has been a shift towards human-machine collaboration, with more organisations recognising the benefits of digital workers in augmenting human employees.

Digital workers to become the “new normal”

Holly Muscolino, research vice president of content and process strategies and the future of work at IDC believes that this will soon become the “new normal” for many businesses:

“A growing number of employees will find themselves working side-by-side with a digital coworker in the future as technology automates many work activities. Think human and machine. The human-machine collaboration is not just the future of work, but it is the new normal for today’s high-performing enterprises.”

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By GlobalData

IDC predicts that the intelligent process automation (IPA) software market, which includes robotic process automation (RPA), will grow from $13.1bn in 2019 to $20.7bn in 2023, with businesses expecting to increase spending on content intelligence technologies over the next year by an average of 31%.

As well as predicting the increasing role of digital workers over the next few years, the survey also shed light on the impact of the technology on businesses. 40% said that they had experienced a “notable increase in customer satisfaction and employee productivity” after deploying content intelligence technologies. Over a third said that they had also seen an improvement in responsiveness to customers.

However, with the introduction of new technologies comes challenges with 75% of respondents said their organisation was finding it difficult to recruit digital skills, pointing to the digital skills gap currently being experienced by the technology industry. Over 20% cited inadequate worker skills and/or training.

Neil Murphy, VP Global Business Development at ABBYY, which sponsored the survey, said:

“The IDC survey proves that automation can and should be human-centric, augmented with artificial intelligence. Ethical, responsible automation will create a more productive, happier future where human workers can focus on higher-level, creative and socially responsible tasks, and customers get better experiences with faster service. Businesses that are early-adopters of incorporating content intelligence within their automation platforms will gain a significant competitive edge.”

Read More: “There’s not an industry that we don’t touch”: How Automation Anywhere is building a digital workforce.