UPDATED 18:00 EDT / OCTOBER 23 2019

mike-gilfix-ibm-data-and-ai-2019 AI

IBM aims to increase business productivity with ‘digital workers’

There is no doubt that automation technology helps enterprises increase scale and productivity. But there is always room for improvement. To leverage business results with automation, IBM Corp. is increasingly focused on using AI in this process and, as part as of its Cloud Pak for Automation, has announced a new capability called “digital workers.”

“The idea is that you can leverage a digital workforce,” said Mike Gilfix (pictured), vice president of digital business automation at IBM. “You can manage them like people, they can work alongside your people, and they can help to free up your people to be much more productive.”

Gilfix spoke with Dave Vellante (@dvellante), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the IBM Data and AI Forum in Miami, Florida. They discussed new trends and challenges for business automation (see the full interview with transcript here). (* Disclosure below.)

Taking robot process automation to a new level

To develop this new application, IBM has partnered with robotic process automation vendors. While RPA is more dedicated to repetitive and mundane tasks, digital workers can perform more critical and complex assignments, according to Gilfix.

“If you really look at where RPA is making its strides today, it is in data entry and sort of automation of input and data,” he explained. “The digital worker works just like a person does. It can sift through documents to find out what to take action on, help with decision-making processes, figure out when to act, how to prioritize work, and it can integrate into those people’s workflow.”

The digital worker comes with a set of tools that can be adapted to the functions of each job. “The approach is from the perspective of the job role. Tell me about the person, not the point thing that I want to get involved,” Gilfix pointed out. “RPA is not excelling today in the area of dealing with unstructured data or figuring out how to integrate into workflows directly. So, it’ll extend RPA.”

A critical issue for customers in enabling digital workers is how to make sure that they will do the right thing. “If I’m going to turn over work to this digital worker, how do I know that? For example, it’s not going to sell inappropriate goods to minors because it doesn’t know. It hasn’t been taught those things,” Gilfix stated.

To address this issue, IBM added some business controls. “You can specify in natural language so you understand exactly what your digital worker does and it knows when to get a human involved,” Gilfix said. “So, it is not an isolated thing that runs just as automation. It is truly a synergistic collaboration between both humans and the digital worker.”

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the IBM Data and AI Forum. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the IBM Data and AI Forum. Neither IBM Corp., the sponsor for theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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