Here at Tata Consultancy Service (TCS), we believe that a machine-first philosophy is key for our customers to thrive in the era of Business 4.0.

But it is important to stress from the outset that machine-first does not mean the exclusion of humans. It is more about giving machines the first right of refusal of any work, while channeling the skills and talents of human workers to a higher level of capability.

Here are some important things to remember, as we move along the journey of embracing a machine-first culture at work and shifting our own attitudes as part of that transformation.

1. Automation is not a magic solution

It is an ongoing journey rather than a quick fix. There needs to be a systematic adoption of machine-first models, but there will be different waves of technological innovation in different parts of the business at different times. Continual assessments and re-evaluations need to be built into the process as the adoption of new technology will not necessarily be sequential.

2. The machine-first delivery model is not only about automation

Automation is far too narrow a definition. Yes, machines may be able to automate the repetitive tasks on your daily to-do list. But they are also able to accelerate forward planning, for example, spotting operational deficiencies and improving processes. That means they will be able to predict changes in volume or capacity needed over the years ahead, taking on much more of a strategic role.

3. Think outside the IT department

Automation needs to be relevant to all parts of the business and address the needs of all the stakeholders. IT departments should start talking about addressing business needs rather than talking about networks or services being down, for example. And relevant information on the progress and benefits of the machine-first model should be available to all stakeholders at any point. Within that, security is paramount. Every job should embed security as part of the design, and inbuilt security should be inherent from the moment you start building the framework.

PR Krishnan speaking at TCS Summit Europe

4. The role of humans is about to change

Change is hard, but – at the end of the day – humans have a natural ability to adapt. In fact, it’s what we do best. Just think about evolution and survival of the fittest. But it does require a change of mindset. One of the most important things about a machine-first model is that it can learn from its own mistakes. And when the machine gets into trouble, humans will be there to fix the problem and reset the systems. Companies, in effect, need to build learning platforms with humans who can manage the ongoing learning of the machines.

5. Continual learning

This last point is perhaps the biggest transformation that is facing the modern workplace. But it is achievable. For instance, in my own department at TCS, we used to have around 200 system administrators spending their days monitoring screens and processing messages. Today, those former-administrators have learnt to code so that the machines perform those tasks instead of them.

And while these team members have successfully transferred their skills to machines, their learning is far from complete. Instead, they are now on a path of continuous learning.

This doesn’t just apply to office workers, but also to managers. The more senior people in an organization have often been the problem-solvers. But in the machine-first model, these managers teach machines how to solve the problems.

The workplace of the future is likely to be in a state of perpetual transformation. Machines may be doing much of the work, but humans will be the experts, leaders and architects. We at TCS would like to partner with our customers on this journey, ensuring that, together, we are all equipped for the workplace of the future.

PR Krishnan, Executive Vice President & Global Head, Enterprise Intelligent Automation, Tata Consultancy Services