Digital Transformation » Technology » Striking a balance between automation and the human experience

Striking a balance between automation and the human experience

Automation speeds reporting, but human expertise is crucial. Can peak productivity be achieved through automation without sacrificing human experience? asks Russell Gammon, chief solutions officer, Tax Systems

Automation is being increasingly adopted within the tax industry, most notably in the form of technology, such as robotic process automation (RPA). RPA employs software ‘robots’ to manage large volumes of repetitive, rule-based tasks.

Its applications span various industries, including banking, insurance, healthcare, telecoms, and finance, and can provide a range of benefits, such as increased staff and operational efficiency, cost reduction, and improved customer service.

This area of the technology sector is currently experiencing substantial investment and growth and is projected to increase from just over $3 billion in global revenue this year to around $13 billion by 2030.

AI is another area where great progress is being made. AI algorithms can be trained to read and understand tax regulations, which can help ensure compliance with complex tax codes.

AI-powered tax compliance software can also automate the process of gathering financial data, preparing tax returns, conducting audits, fraud detection, risk management and tax planning. The advent of technologies, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google Bard, demonstrate just how far we have advanced, providing a natural language interface that can handle complex tax queries.

The upsides of AI and RPA are clear: they eliminate the grunt work of transferring data between multiple spreadsheets, they help streamline processes, they boost efficiency, and they lower costs.

However, there are, understandably, concerns about tax expertise being lost if the basics are automated. Previously, people have become experts by spending hours doing data entry,  learning the ropes, as they work their way up. Automating the process obviously has some great benefits, saving time which can be reallocated to adding value to the business, but how do you train somebody to be a specialist when you’re cutting out the basics?

The fact is that work-based learning is essential for professionals who want to develop their careers within finance. But, a better way of training those entering the industry is to work with an experienced expert when they are reviewing and checking returns generated by automation, rather than spending hours inputting data, which is rarely a productive use of time. A balance between human expertise and automation is therefore essential and key to productivity.

Finding the right balance

So how can we introduce automation and AI to the workplace without compromising the training and development of existing employees? Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Identify which tasks can be automated: Start by identifying which tasks can be automated and which ones require human intervention. For example, data entry and calculations can be easily automated, but complex tax planning or providing personalised tax advice requires human expertise.
  • Re-skill and up-skill employees: Rather than replacing existing employees with automation and AI, companies can provide training and development opportunities for their employees to learn new skills that complement these technologies. For example, employees can be trained in data analysis, machine learning, and programming, which can enhance their ability to work alongside automated systems. Offering support and advice, e.g. through workshops and mentoring, alongside these opportunities will ensure that employees are comfortable and confident in using the new technologies.
  • Involve employees in the implementation process: Companies can involve employees in the planning and implementation of automation and AI systems, soliciting their feedback and ideas to improve the process. This can help to reduce resistance to change and build buy-in from the beginning.
  • Focus on higher-level tasks: Automation and AI can free up time for employees to focus on more complex, high-value tasks that require human judgement and creativity. Companies can restructure roles to ensure that employees are focused on tasks that add strategic value and benefit employee progression and growth.
  • Prioritise customer experience: Automation can make processes faster and more efficient, but it should not come at the cost of customer experience. As we have encountered with automated phone systems and chatbots over the past decade or so, customers don’t like speaking to robots, and it did not get rid of the demand to speak to an actual person. Customers will always be more trusting of people than technology. So, businesses must ensure that automation is designed to enhance the customer experience and not hinder it.
  • Monitor and evaluate: Continuously monitor the automated processes to ensure they are working effectively, and evaluate the customer feedback to make improvements where necessary. Regularly assess the balance between automation and human experience and make adjustments as needed.

It may seem like a daunting task but the adoption of robust automation systems has the potential to transform your business and how your employees work. By eliminating the tedious repetitive data crunching, it will free employees to add more value without sacrificing human experience.

Whether you are a graduate or a seasoned professional, you can use technology to effectively analyse hundreds of terabytes of data while using individual skills to apply the appropriate tax rules. The human element will always be the most important and valuable asset. Investing time into learning is therefore essential for developing automation skills and to improve employee retention. With an ever-growing skills shortage, this is especially important within the tax sector. Introducing AI and RPA is one way to make the job more attractive, yet we must remain mindful of its impact on employee development.

Was this article helpful?

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to get your daily business insights