Impact of automation on employment and changes in business processes

Executive Summary

The automation is highly adopted by the businesses these days to promote innovation and creativity in their processes and activities and to gain a competitive edge in the market. However, the automation is nowadays more related to the displacement of the human workers with the machines. This is because of more adoption and evolving growth of the technological advancement in the market. This eventually forces the organisation to foster more technical innovations and advances in the business processes. Apart from the drawbacks of getting worker displacement, the automation possesses various beneficial opportunities for the businesses as well in terms of cost reduction, workflow management, record keeping and tracking, efficiency and agility, effectiveness, high progressive levels, and successive rates. However, the growth and productivity are totally dependent on the ways organisation implement its automated procedures and related strategies. The present research report will be discussing about the impact of automation on the employment and changes witnessed in the business processes. This will also cover the factors leading automation and its obvious consequences. The ways in which automation is adapted by the Sainsbury organisation will be explored to get an appropriate idea about the subject.     

List of Abbreviations

RPA: Robotic Process Automation

IOT: Internet of Things

IT: Information Technology

AI: Artificial Intelligence 

ESP: Enterprise Resource Planning 

SCM: Supply Chain Management 

CRM: Customer Relationship Management

Table of Contents

Executive Summary 

List of Abbreviations 

1. Introduction 

1.1. Background 

1.2. Research Aim 

1.3. Research Questions 

1.4. Research Structure 

2. Literature Review 

2.1. Organisational Process Automation 

2.1.1. Business Process Automation 

2.1.2. Robotic Process Automation 

2.1.3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning 

2.2. Change in Business Process with Automation 

2.2.1. Business Process Management 

2.2.2. Human Task Management 

2.2.3. Compliance 

2.2.4. Tactical Value with Process Automation 

2.3. Benefits of Automation 

2.4. Risks Associated with Automation and Employee Alternatives 

3. Research Methodology 

3.1. Research Philosophy 

3.2. Research Approach 

3.3. Research Design 

3.4. Data Type 

3.5. Sample Size and Sampling Technique 

3.6. Data Collection Tools 

3.7. Data Analytics Tools

3.8. Research Limitations 

3.9. Ethical Considerations 

4. Data Collection, Analysis and Interpretation 

Theme 1: Organisational Process Automation 

Theme 2: Change in Business Process with Automation 

Theme 3: Benefits of Automation 

Theme 4: Risks Associated with Automation and Employee Alternative

5. Discussion 

6. Conclusion & Contribution to practice 



1. Introduction

In today’s world of business, evolving customer needs, demands, preferences, and desires force the organisations to foster more innovation in their management and business processes. This is due to the fact that increased globalization, modernization, and automation and technological advancements have taken place in the business processes of the organisations and have acquired the whole market sector (Willcocks, Oshri & Kotlarsky, 2018). The requirement of boosting agility, flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness have made crucial for the organisations to implement automated technologies in their business processes so as to gain a competitive edge in the target marketplace.

This highlights the high demand of cultivating responsive, swift, flexible, and informed organisation by implementing a strategic planning as per the external environmental changes in technology in order to survive competitively for the approaching years in the future (Abdelilah, El Korchi & Balambo, 2018). Dynamic global marketing environment encourages businesses to facilitate more agility, change adoption, and adaptation with the evolving targeted market environment. The organisations thus develop skills, capabilities, and related strategies to adapt, sense, and serve the technologically empowered customer segment while maintaining enough focus on their changing needs and expectations with the increasing technological advancements and expansion (Karbelkar & Hart, 2018).  

1.1 Background

Industrial revolutions have ended up bringing various crucial transformations in the trade activities over the past years of businesses. As a result of which employees are required to adapt to a new and growing environment to operate. The subsequent revolution is presently taking its place in the market. The revolution of robotics is associated with the converging breakthrough automations including Internet of Things (IOT), robotics, and the Artificial Intelligence (AI). These are the technologies that are responsible for the transformation of the business models and production processes in variety of organisations (Buck, 2018). The impact of automation has also reflected on the aspects of the growth, income distribution, and employment rate.

The organisations struggle a great deal in implementing the same due to the global market price fluctuations and disturbing technologies developing in the market causing dynamicity, improbability, and uncertainty in the organisations business operations and the inclusive business market environment. Nevertheless, businesses are coming up with tremendous initiatives, plans, approaches, methodologies, and strategies to develop technologies and encourage automated operations to thrive and gain competitiveness in the complex and competitive global market. As a result, such advances in technologies and enhanced competition threaten the workers of getting replaced by the demand of automation processes (Boyd & Holton, 2018). 

Responding to the changing modifications and needs of the evolving markets and its target customer base necessitates the need for companies to develop their tools and processes to that level of globalization and competition. This is initiated by the organisations to avoid their business disintegration and breakdown of their processes, products, and services. On the other hand, automation facilitates the businesses to grow more in the market as well. This is because of the reason that with the altering environmental needs and technologies, businesses tend to promote product differentiation with various means such as cost-cutting, lowering prices, innovative features and services, etc. (Brougham & Haar, 2018). 

Promoting innovation in the business activities and procedures help organisations attract a huge customer base and thereby uplifted sales, and elevated profitable margins. According to Vassigh, et al. (2019), elevated automation promotion replaces job opportunities for the employees but at the same time, develops new though challenging professions for the individuals to survive in the technologically advanced market. It is predicted that 45-57 per cent jobs would be affected in the United States by the robotic innovations and enhancements (Berg, Buffie & Zanna, 2018).
Sainsbury organisation, established in 1869 with more than 185,000 employee population, focuses on their major strategy of helping out their customers in living well for less by serving them the best they can serve to them at affordable and reasonable prices. They also find it very imperative in focusing on the evolving role of technologies and digital capabilities in supporting effective service for their targeted segment of customers (Sainsbury Group, 2018). The group has projected changes in their retail sector management structures and employee roles in their available stores to ensure an effective and strategic customer service offering. They also developed changes in Board to bring an experience wealth by building telecoms and technology sector (Sainsbury Group, 2018). 

The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is popular among the most recently carried out automation form. It is meant to be the uplifting step taking place in today’s modern and developing business processes in terms of technology and automation operations. The traditional automation process for businesses used to be built from the scratch and required the essential alignment of Information Technology (IT). However, new automation processes use an outside-in technique by keeping present information technology systems unaffected and unchanged (Lamberton, Brigo & Hoy, 2017). Thus, the business process automation adapts with the ongoing information system changes and simultaneously reduces the personnel workload and pressure by facilitating process handling automatically rather than manually. 

1.2 Research Aim

The main purpose of the study is to develop an understanding of the usage of the automation in the business processes and its impact on the employment, job opportunities, and the changes it brings about. 

1.3 Research Questions

  • How is automation being used in business processes?

  • What is the impact of automation on employment?  

  • What are the changes carried by automating organisational processes? 

1.4 Research Structure

The study will be divided into 5 major chapters and flow of structure will follow the below mentioned conduct:

  • Chapter I: Introduction 

  • Chapter II: Literature Review 

  • Chapter III: Research Methodology 

  • Chapter IV: Data Collection, Analysis and Interpretation 

  • Chapter V: Conclusion and Contribution to practice

Diagrammatic structure outline: 

2. Literature Review

2.1 Organisational Process Automation 

According to Hull & Nezhad (2016), the automation fostered in the workplaces is basically the term referred to as the process of the management of data, information, activities, processes, and tasks with the purpose of reducing operational costs, utilizing resources optimally, and lessening investment. The process automation in the businesses helps organisations enhance their productivity, quality, and efficiency in the key tasks with the support of computing technology implementation. The automated processes are facilitated by software application execution so as to promote automating everyday work and events of the business accordingly. This is done all the way through the course of instigation, implementation, termination, and conclusion while acquiring business-wide workflow efficiency and effectiveness, and thereby business productivity and organisational growth (Bresnahan & Yin, 2017).
Moreover, Janiesch, et al. (2016) mentioned that the organisations without technologies and software application installments face issues in non-automated business processes. These issues may include endless paperwork, manual equipment handling, missed activities, reduced productivity and efficiency, dissatisfied employee base, delayed approvals, record tracking failure and errors, delivery process errors, accounting miscalculations, etc. As per Oberhauser & Stigler (2017), automating the processes in the organisations is typically based on four basic principles involving integration, orchestration, and automated execution. Orchestration provides organisations a way to develop system which serves centralized administration of its activities and actions with the backup of a computing architecture. Moreover, the integration principle combines ongoing functions by assuring that the automated systems are broadened across the organisational process centric borders. The automated execution ensures the reduction of human efforts and intervention in performing multiple tasks at the same time, it however reduces the workload as well as consumes less time in carrying out the same task (Oberhauser & Stigler, 2017).  

2.1.1 Business Process Automation

The classical form of automation in the business processes depend on a predetermined set of needs and requirements and mechanize quite predefined set of business processes. These included Enterprise Resource Planning (ESP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Business Process Automation (BPA) methodologies and tools are executed with the concept of supporting organisational knowledgeable and specialized employees and staff. These were followed in order to produce greater output, enhance efficiency, successive rate, and productivity, develop work schedule flexibility, differentiate products, encourage innovation, and improve quality in the processes, products, and services (van der Aalst, Bichler & Heinzl, 2018). On the other hand, the business process automation impacted positively as well as negatively on the labour force. The promoters of automation Ehret & Wirtz (2017) argued that fostering automation ensures overall productivity of the firm as its employee base is capable of completing more tasks, projects, assignments, and cases as compared to those continued without automating the procedures and structures.
Furthermore, job automation enables employees to attend more tasks based on non-routine schedules apart from everyday tasks. As mentioned by Doshi & Desai (2017), non-routine tasks are not as much repetitive as in comparison with the routine-based activities and these also require more focus and attention towards accomplishing their final phase and stating organisational success from the achievement of the same. Therefore, more process automation encouragement in the organisations decreases the rate of errors, defects, miscalculations, and faults. Nevertheless, on the other hand of process automation, Arntz, Gregory & Zierahn (2016) argued with the saying that it threatens the employee market and predicted that approximately 47 per cent of the total present jobs are at risk in the USA which implies the fact that they are going potentially more automatic and mechanized in terms of their service offerings and organisational management.
Moreover, Staddon, et al. (2016) confirmed that the automation possesses adverse effects on the job of the employees working in the organisation due to the enhanced promotion of automation and participates in reducing employment and opportunity rates for the workforce. There are downsides of mechanization that are to be faced by the rest of the employees and workers with the increased usage of automatic business process handling. Also, Porthin, Liinasuo & Kling (2019) identified that it is being warned that human reliability on the technologies and automation negatively impacts on the lives of the human and their intelligence system or brain. This is due to the fact that the workers observing more to the screens and computers instead of actually performing the tasks within the organisation will impact on the overall capability and capacity of the employee. Thus, the technical tasks may develop their expertise but will negatively impact on their capability and manual skills to deal with the processes (Porthin, Liinasuo & Kling, 2019). 

2.1.2 Robotic Process Automation

Rajnai & Kocsis (2017) predicted that the market of robotic automation is growing at a rapid pace as it attained a market share of only $250 million in the year of 2016 and it is estimated that it will be grown up to the level of $2.9 billion growth in the year of 2021. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a new form of automation, is referred to as the technological application that facilitates a robot to configure everything present in the organisation be it management or performing actual error-free tasks efficiently, strategically, and successfully. This promotes reducing operational costs and time to carry out the same tasks the personnel would require more brainstorming and time to solve. This helps the organisation to encourage product differentiation, innovation, creativeness, and process improvement (Willcocks, Lacity & Craig, 2015).
According to Aguirre & Rodriguez (2017), the RPA system fosters robots in capturing and interpreting the present applications for processing the activities to a transaction stage and in manipulating the data and communicating the same among other digital application systems and software. As mentioned by Pedersen, et al. (2016), RPA is different in various ways as compared to the previous forms of automation. First and foremost, it promotes usage of current Information Systems in automating the specified processes. It ensures better interaction with the existing systems present in the organisation rather than replacing and aligning the same. Secondly, the robotic automation easily adapts with the changes and modifications done in the internal as well as external environment in terms of processes, complexity, structures, and policies underlying the information systems. This helps the robots in making possible handling of the exceptional cases and events dealt. Lastly, the classical type of automations comes up with the intention of workforce enhancement whereas RPA pays more attention towards employee virtualization by (Pedersen, et al., 2016). 

2.1.3 Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

 As said by Lemley, Bazrafkan & Corcoran (2017), besides the RPA demand and growth in the marketplace, a new and more advanced level of RPA is still in its early stage developmental phase. This advanced and special form of RPA engages the usage of new improvements and advancements within the area of specialization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) where the human intelligence is possessed by the machines, equipments, and technologies. These ongoing developments are something that is referred to as the term of machine learning promoted in modern organisations (Lemley, Bazrafkan & Corcoran, 2017). Lu, Li, Chen, Kim & Serikawa (2018) observed that the tools and techniques encouraged by the usage of machine learning allow the robots to learn and exhibit the human resolving abilities, talents, and skills with the increased extensive level of interaction being conducted with the employees and human staff.
These interactions with the workers help the robots to inherit the reactions of human mind in case of dealing with the same type of issues, tasks, and problems. This is confirmed by Riedl & Harrison (2016) that the humans would be having more value and importance in facilitating the practice of artificial intelligence and machine learning and will not affect the employment rates that much as it will require humans to make robots learn about specific situations and problems to react in particular manners.
Thus, humans will be playing a more vital role in promoting the same as the virtual system studies the attitude and behaviour of the humans reacting to the very same problem and also observes the implementation and application of approaches with the task execution carried out by the human employee segment. Plastino & Purdy (2018) mentioned that the same increases the potential of the robots in understanding the case more critically and successfully and in learning the traditions of executing the similar tasks in different ways following different procedural steps along with handling exceptions simultaneously. Hence, this results in the need and importance of human action and behaviour study to motivate the observational learning tool in order to set the process automation system surrounded by the business processes of the organisations.      

2.2 Change in Business Process with Automation

2.2.1 Business Process Management 

According to Van Der Aalst, La Rosa & Santoro (2016), the process automation helps managers in the organisations accurately and effectively ensure task executions of those that apt to be more time consuming, repetitive, and menial. Zur Muehlen & Shapiro (2015) confirmed that the tools and technologies are implemented as an approach to encourage more growth, successive factors, improvement, productivity, and efficiency from the desired process accomplishment. This helps the employees to reduce their work stress, workload, and efforts to the minimum by automating the processes and activities requiring more struggles and efforts. 
As mentioned by Rosemann & vom Brocke (2015), the process automation in the businesses help companies to begin planning and preparing for their project execution by establishing an accurate budget and timeframe to complete the project, cost identification, material and resource consumption analysis, and risk identification and at the same time risk management. Secondly, it helps in organising the tasks and workflows, tracking the resources, facilitating better management, and solving the issues faced by the project execution. The automated technologies help monitoring and controlling the processes of the businesses effectively with the help of tracking the budget of the projects and processes, reallocating the resources, monitoring the tasks so as to avoid downtime, tracking quality services, and evaluating performance (Rosemann & vom Brocke, 2015).    

2.2.2 Human Task Management 

With the improved automation and technological advancements in the business processes of the organisation, companies are enjoying a lot of business changes useful for their business to experience great opportunities, success, and growth. Hecklau, Galeitzke, Flachs & Kohl (2016) found that anaging the human tasks automatically helps the organisations to encourage quality interaction so as to facilitate creating additional ad hoc human activities and tasks in order to foster team collaboration for completing tasks successfully and efficiently.
According to Lacity, Willcocks & Craig (2015), introducing process automation for human task management easily especially when it comes to more complicated personnel projects and assignments require various essentials such as assignment escalation, notification of the tasks, individual directory support, added ad hoc interaction human abilities, business client support technology, etc. IBM uses a sequence in managing human tasks including WebSphere Process Server navigation, data entry, resource identification, end user interaction and feedback through business-user client technology implementation, and uploading the task completion picture into the database (Mendling, et al., 2018).  

2.2.3 Compliance

According to Nair, Levacher & Stephenson (2018), it is considered to be very imperative for the organisations to have compliance as without possessing the same leads the businesses to fail in the processes of lining up with the legal and industrial policies and regulations for the operational procedures. This is essential element of the business as it helps them in preventing high costs and promoting monitoring and controlling internally to prove the executed processes effectively.
However, Elgammal, Turetken, van den Heuvel & Papazoglou (2016) argued that most of the businesses find it difficult in ensuring the operations and processes of the organisation run smoothly as recognized and documented. This is because of the reason that the operations are not actually automated and hence require more consistency in the execution. IBM assures a great compliance within their operations by running processes consistently and makes sure that the execution of the same is in the hands of the right or specialized employees which thereby encourage regulatory compliance (Nair, Levacher & Stephenson, 2018).

2.2.4 Tactical Value with Process Automation

The mechanization of the business processes helps the organisations in gaining tactical values by collaborating the workforce, Information Technology (IT), business analysts, and management department altogether. According to Muller & Karpas (2018), bringing up resources together forms a key to the businesses as this helps them in identifying and automating the best alternative for the business processes and also assists in receiving all the advantages following the business operation automation. Nikishenko, Boyko & Obzherin (2017) mentioned that process automation guides the organisations in standardizing the process execution, reforming the multichannel operation invocation, interacting automatically, requesting and allocating right people with the help of business analyst, employee, and management.

With the teaming up of information technology, workforce, and management establishes process notifications and escalation. This also helps the business to track the business practices and processes automatically based on the business or process model with the support of employees and the analysts. Dwyer, Mazzola & McGinnis (2015) mentioned that automation provides a unified access to the data and information related to the business processes and activities for the workers requiring the same. While the process execution takes place, insight is provided to the members into execution relevant data which is used for gathering and aggregating for the concerned project efficiency. Thus, this also allows businesses to monitor the services and activities constantly to promote effective control and manage performance by improving business process continuously and according to the environmental needs and competition (Dwyer, Mazzola & McGinnis, 2015).   

2.3 Benefits of Automation

There are enormous advantages and opportunities associated with the automated business processes in today’s modern organisations. These include cost reduction, enhanced productivity, reliability, availability, and effective growth and performance. As per the saying of the Parviainen, Tihinen, Kääriäinen & Teppola (2017), in modern era of modernization and globalization, organisations facing the global pressure of increasing profitable margins from their served services and processes urge the businesses to reduce costs. Ivanov & Webster (2017) identified that automation applications and technologies ensure better and effective cost reductions to enable businesses acquire present opportunities for their growth. This helps them provide end users with enhanced services while following systematic cost reduction. The employee cost is observed as around 71 per cent of the total costs of the organisation (Ivanov & Webster, 2017). Productivity, on the other hand, is a bigger concern for the organisations to set great marks of the businesses in the target market which is increased by the back support served by the information technology as mentioned by (Bahrin, Othman, Azli & Talib (2016). The desktop productivity application propagation helps achieving substantial benefits and profits in the workplace and Human Resource environments. Work scheduling software technologies elevates the consignment throughput with the automation of the production processes. It helps saving the production time and managing money by the lag time elimination between work and operator interference reduction. 
Furthermore, Maglaras, et al. (2018) confirmed that the organisations implementing automated tools and techniques within their business sectors are more reliant on their computer systems conducting processes online like presenting order entry, reservation, assembly guidance, shipping order, and so on. In case the computer is unavailable, as a result of which the businesses experience related issues and suffers a great deal. The primary objective of Information Technology management is to offer high availability as even if the disk drive crashes but with the sufficient backup recovery by the automated technologies saves businesses from data record loss and customer base as well. This means key benefit of automating operations help saving and recovering the system and ensures high protection of the business resources from the internal as well as external frauds and threats (Maglaras, et al. 2018). Remote resources also help businesses in solving problems with the support of a single operator at the crucial comfort observing the essential functions and operations of the business all the way through the networks and set-ups. Malherbe (2018) found out that constant monitoring with the CPUs and communication overheads makes it convenient for the businesses to identify and analyse significant technological performance trends and innovations. Productivity is meant to be an apparent advantage served by the technological process automation in the businesses. Conversely, Aguero & Khodaei (2018) stated that reliability is considered as an actual pearl that sparkles with the increased technological advancements and is the cornerstone of the information technology processes department as it prevents chaotic situations and complex environment with unsatisfied users. Schuler & Gehring (2018) affirmed that the automated processes makes sure that the tasks are not missed and ensures the sequential flow or running of the operations. It also makes certain that prerequisite tasks are achieved effectively and that the data input is accurate and precise.
This also encourages special processing performance of the operations within the organisation to promote efficiency, differentiation, and creativity. As stated by Barros-Justo, Benitti & Tiwari (2019), software applications help businesses in handling complicated tasks enthusiastically and strategically with the help of predefined aspects. The implementation of information technology systems helps businesses to release work, perform backups, and ensure effective communication in the corporation. The automation systems secure operations by encouraging reliable execution with the software and alleviating operations staff from hours of tiresome and manual assignments. Performance is the crucial part of the organisations to be focused more on as it is the only element that ensures organisational growth and success through productivity and effectiveness (Schuler & Gehring, 2018). Although technological advances in computers elevate the pace of processing operations at low expenses and costs, demands on these always catches up and exceeds the capability level that the organisation’s computer infrastructure encompasses. Upgrading hardware and purchasing a newer mechanized system helps businesses improve performance measures. Also, if the system is adjusted for a particular workload and pressure, the technology brings up effective performance but when the settings get altered, systems tend to bring no longer optimum solutions (Mohseni & Ahmadalinejad, 2019). 

2.4 Risks Associated with Automation and Employee Alternatives

Automating processes is however very crucial for the organisations to achieve their long-term goals, targets, growth, and productivity but it leads to the subjugation of the humans by machines. According to Arntz, Gregory & Zierahn (2016), automated processes transfer the skills and talents required by the tasks to be performed gathered from the human mind and their ways of approaching the problem to come up with strategic and effective solutions to the machines. Therefore, in doing the same, it eventually changes human with the machine and reduces the need and demand of the skilled workforce and labour. This is because of the fact that the businesses requiring labour for the remaining manual tasks left entails lower level of skills requirement and other menial works such as manual loading and unloading of equipments and machineries, tools adjustment, chip elimination, etc. (Arntz, Gregory & Zierahn, 2016).
Thus, automated business processes facilitate degrading or downgrading the factory work and labour. This would cause labour force reduction with increasing rates of unemployment in different sectors. Arntz, Gregory & Zierahn (2017) argued that the immediate impact of automating procedures and operations will be reducing the need for human workforce and thereby displacing personnel and the staff. On the other facet of the automation, it will drastically affect the purchasing power of the customers. This is due to the reason that machines replacing workers and employees would be joining the unemployment ranks and as a result of which the workers will not be receiving the pay and daily wages they used to get required to fulfill their daily basic needs, requirements, and necessities of buying products and services for their livelihood.
Thus, with the evolving process automation initiatives taken by the organisations to develop and improve their business processes and services so as to deliver their customers with quality value and satisfy the segment completely with technological support will reduce the purchasing power of the unemployed people. Philbeck (2017) predicted that the markets would be becoming saturated with the products that the target customers may not be able to have enough money and afford to purchase. Martens & Tolan (2018) affirmed that with the same evolution, inventories will be growing at a higher speed which will bring the operations of production in the organisation to null and will ultimately collapse the same. There are various major issues that will be faced by the people in the market especially the lower rate of unemployment will reach outbreak proportions resulting in the massive economic destruction and depression (Martens & Tolan, 2018).     

On the other hand, Hong, Sepasgozar, Ahmadian & Akbarnezhad (2016) stated that automation will be affecting the organisation to a great extent as well. Increased complexity will be appearing due to the different forms of automation requiring different types of controlling and monitoring procedures. Similarly, fragility would be increased as the minor changes in sourcing systems needs change management flow across the equipments and technologies collected for process automation in order to manage operations consistently (Dalcher, 2018). Kilduff & Galinsky (2017) warned that cyber incidents may threaten the organisations with augmented damages to the processes and the data as the hackers would be able to gain an unethical access to their automated systems and information confidential to the company with the help of bots having excessive privileges and access.
Furthermore, due to the procedural setbacks, organisations would be facing implementation challenges including employee apprehension over operating with the mechanized systems, and legacy infrastructure incompatibilities as stated by Alkan, Vera, Chinnathai & Harrison (2017). Also, complexities will be experienced by the organisations in testing the automated technologies and systems which would be driven by issues in complex production environment replication. The other issues include complicatedness in recognizing the automation’s total potential determined with an extreme focus laid on cost reduction which often leads business ignoring other beneficial opportunities including enough quality, accuracy, and consistency (Alkan, Vera, Chinnathai & Harrison, 2017).   

However, the alternatives that can be taken for the human workforce and employees being replaced with the automation tools promotion may involve establishing re-training sessions for the displaced employees and moving them to other specified departments and jobs. Other alternatives include the opportunities brought up by the creation and encouragement of new jobs with the increased technologies and automated tasks for their short term as well as long term plans. Also, other opportunities for the employees set in those activities that require human skills other than robotic intervention in the processes such as consistency, quality, etc. (McAfee & Brynjolfsson, 2016).

3. Research Methodology

The section of research methodology facilitates the reader to recognize the steps, approaches, and methodologies that are implemented by the researcher for performing the desired research work and effective results. This chapter allows the reader to get a brief view and idea of the research flow together with the techniques used to carry out the outcomes of the same research work (Kumar, 2019). 

The research methodology will cover various methodologies used for the study to perform and implement the present work of research effectively, following the course of research philosophy, research approach, research design, research source (data type), sample size and techniques for sampling, data collection tools, and data analysis tools. Furthermore, the research limitations will also be covered in the same section which researcher faced while collecting the data from the organisation. Moreover, the ethical considerations taken into account by the researcher while experiencing these research limitations and other issues will also be enlightened in this chapter. 

3.1 Research Philosophy

There are three key types of philosophies used in the work of research including ontology, axiology, and epistemology. Ontology research philosophy is used to reflect upon an interpretation and elucidation of an entity about what represents a factual piece of information. The two specific types of ontology include subjectivism (interpretivism) and objectivism (positivism).  Positivism identifies the social entity position, impact, and implications in the real existence irrespective of the social actors. On the other hand, interpretivism affirms the perceptions and resulting actions of the social actors (Hughes & Sharrock, 2016). Epistemology research philosophy covers the sources, nature, and possibilities of knowledge in the area of research. However, axiology deals with the judgments regarding the own value of the researcher. The present research work will focus on the interpretivism approach so as to get in-depth analysis of the concerned subject and to ensure high validity level with the trustworthy and reliable data gathered from the same method (Pernecky, 2016).       

3.2 Research Approach

The research approach comprises of two major approaches including deductive and inductive approach to perform the required research. Inductive approach lays more stress on the qualitative data and secondary data sources, concepts, ideas, and theories (Woo, O'Boyle & Spector, 2017). In contrast, the deductive approach utilizes quantitative data emphasizing more on the analytical tools for accurate data interpretation and results with the support of theories, hypotheses, or statistical tools (Sekaran & Bougie, 2016). The current research will put into practice the inductive research approach in order to effectively anticipate concepts and ideas gathered from the data which will be collected through the interviews with the manager, staff, and customers of the organisation.   

3.3 Research Design

Research design consists of three forms including explanatory, exploratory, and descriptive research design. Explanatory research is used to analyse the cause and effect relationships with the help of hypotheses development and theories. Exploratory research design assists in formulating the identified problem more accurately and precisely along with better explanation, insights, and hypotheses development with the help of literature reviews, case studies, focus groups, and surveys. Descriptive research helps in defining the survey questions for the respondents and method for analysing the data before the phase of data collection (Tetnowski, 2015). Therefore, the research will apply exploratory research design to allow the researcher to study the defined subject more clearly, set up priorities, improve operational definitions, and develop the final research design appropriately.     

3.4 Data Type

The research data type is of two defined categories namely qualitative and quantitative research. The qualitative data helps the researcher achieve a deeper level of analysis of the insights and reasons so as to define a problem forming hypotheses and concepts for advance quantitative research (Silverman, 2016). The quantitative research emphasizes more on the data that is quantifiable and is based on generalizing a specific segment from the entire targeted sample in order to evaluate the incidence possessing various viewpoints and opinions from the same given sample (Nardi, 2018). The present research will focus on implementing qualitative data with the purpose to evaluate the data perfectly and accurately collected from the opinions and thoughts of the managers, staff, and the customers via interviews.     

3.5 Sample Size and Sampling Technique

There is a wide range of sampling methods encapsulated in two main categories including probability sampling method and non-probability sampling method. The simple random, systematic, stratified, and clustered sampling methods are the forms of probability sampling method. Non-probability sampling method includes convenience, quota, judgment or purposive, and snowball sampling technique. The probability sampling method is used to give an equal opportunity to the population subjects for getting selected as a representative sample which promotes unbiased results eventually (Emerson, 2015). On the other hand, non-probability is involved when researcher is unaware as to which entity is to be chosen as a representative sample from the entire targeted sample which may create biased outcomes (Etikan, Musa & Alkassim, 2016). 

The sample size for this research will be 10 respondents and the sampling technique to be utilized by the researcher will be convenience sampling of probability sampling approach. With the usage of the convenience sampling, the researcher will be able to collect useful results based on the willingness and availability of the participants to partake in the same stage of data gathering.    

3.6 Data Collection Tools

The primary and secondary data are the two common data collection tools for the research. The primary data is based on the real time data and is collected by the researcher itself with the help of face to face interviews, surveys, focus groups, questionnaires, telephonic interviews, postal surveys, etc.  (Quinlan, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2019). However, secondary data is collected from the existing literatures, models, facts, theories, and ideas with the assistance of journals, books, newspapers, articles, etc. This study will be developing the usage of primary as well as secondary data (Johnston, 2017). The primary data for the research work will be collected from the interviews of managers, staff, and the customers of the Sainsbury organisation. Moreover, the secondary data will be extracted from the present journals, books, and articles to get an in-depth knowledge and information regarding the concerned subject.

3.7 Data Analytics Tools

The qualitative data of the research will be evaluated with the facilitation of a narrative framework. The interview transcripts will be analysed and evaluated to gather the viewpoints of the management, personnel, and the consumers of the Sainsbury organisation regarding automated processes. Subsequently, with the estrangement of the literature review findings and hypotheses, themes will be developed based on the designed interview questions for the participants. The researcher will thus be doing thorough analysis of the participant responses based on the designed thematic framework.      

3.8 Research Limitations

The limitations and margins evolving uncontrollably restrict the researcher in collecting the data conveniently. The researcher faced difficulties in reaching out to the organisation easily as it took a lot of time to take formal approval from the entire organisation regarding the interview conduction. Also, the researcher was not capable of gathering the data of expatriates or those who had just left the organisation which may have obtained vague results. Moreover, all the journal articles related to the research were not available online or else limited access was possible for the needed materials and sources.  

3.9 Ethical Considerations

Proper decorum was ensured while taking interviews from the members of the Sainsbury and formal approval was taken from the company before commencing with the interview session. The protection of privacy and personal data confidentiality was assured to a high degree. Furthermore, the researcher has not undergone any unethical or unfair means while gathering the data and has accessed the materials which were available on the university libraries and from reliable sources. Also, the researcher has done appropriate citations with proper referencing for the information gathered from existing literatures and data of other researchers. 

4. Data Collection, Analysis and Interpretation

The environment is taking a huge drift bending more towards the technological advances and automation mechanisms. At the same time, organisations are willing to change and modify their operating and trading processes so as to make them too technically advanced. The same is desired by the corporations with the purpose of attaining more competitive advantage and strength to survive in the technologically developed and complex market environment. Artificial intelligence, robotics, business process automation, and other forms of constantly growing smart automations tend to possess the potential of bringing greater economic benefits, profits, and paybacks into the modernized countries.
The evidence proving a significant impact of robots and machines on the employment of the workers is however uncertain and unpredictable as some researchers find positive correlation between the investment in robots and the overall employment while others identify no present relationship between automation and employment rates. In the short run, the automated processes may have less influence on employees of all the academic qualification levels. However, in the long term process of automation, it may be predicted that employees with lower level of education might be more susceptible for being replaced by the machines and robots.

As per the responses gathered from the interviews taken from the managers, customers, and staff of the Sainsbury organisation, it became quite obvious that all the members of the organisation are well aware of the ongoing changes and modifications in the external as well as internal processes of their business activities. They were relatively attentive to the constant and rapidly changing new technology implementations within their organisations which have drastically impacted the process of completing their requirement tasks and meet their goals effectively. The results and responses of the interview questions encapsulated within the suitable theme framework will be explored in the below mentioned theme sections:

Theme 1: Organisational Process Automation

Organisational process automation has helped the organisations to make their processes work effectively and efficiently to manage their information, data, and regular tasks and assignments so as to reduce their expenses, costs, human labour and efforts, time, manual loading and unloading, resource consumption, and lower the funding and investments. Every business organisation desires to get most out of their available resources be it human labour, investments, and equipments. Business process automation however is used by these businesses to leverage the power of technology in their processes and everyday practices to make their toil easier and effective.
Various studies have also concluded that the robotics and automation processes utilized by the organisations will be taking an extensive space at a rapid pace assisting, guiding, supporting, and helping the human workers with the purpose of making their efforts successful in easy and most strategic ways. The facilitation of the automation procedures will be thus creating a huge competitive base in the market forcing organisations to innovate more and more so as to make suitable changes as per their organisational requirements and to strive in their targeted marketplace. Apart from the competitive perspective, there is a wide range of benefits residing underneath the roots of the processes being automated. 

The managers and the employees of the Sainsbury organisation also acknowledged the same fact that “Our Corporation has also experienced high and advanced level of automation in their day to day business exercises and practices which have helped them all to a great extent”. They stated that “We have been changing their internal and external trading processes constantly as per the continuous innovative technological alterations and advancements going on in the outside environment”. They are using some coaching classes and training sessions for their staff and employees for employing the applications appropriately and to adapt to the automatic systems effectively in order to avoid errors and miscalculations in their processes leading to process or project failure. The customers of the Sainsbury also felt very content and satisfied with the newly adapted automated and computerized work encouraged by the organisation as it helped them to serve their customers with the smart shops. Customer-1 confirmed that “The smart shops have helped me avoid long queues and waiting time to pay the cash to get my desired set of products and services from the stores”.
Moreover, the customers are now able to pay for their goods and services easily with their credit cards, debit card, discounted cards, and other coupons which guided in preventing customers from having a terrible shopping experience at the end. To be brief, the employees, customers, and managers of the Sainsbury organisation, all the involved members were satisfied with the automations and mechanizations being scheduled into their assignments and important roles and events as it has changed their way to attempt completing the projects with more productivity and efficiency. As compared to the earlier processing and operational undertaking, Manager-3 revealed that “Newly implemented mechanized and programmed procedures have helped us by employing our employees to different tasks at the same time which is reducing our operating time as well as facilitating optimum utilization of our resources”. Thus, promoting and fostering the multitasking employees within their company has ultimately supported them in eliminating additional costs and operational expenses.

Theme 2: Change in Business Process with Automation

The organisations are required to ensure prioritizing the automation within their business processes which plays a key role in acquiring their expected goals and targets. However, it is imperative for these organisations to select the right and appropriate tools for executing the same mechanized procedures and tasks. BPA, robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have brought a big change to the organisations in executing the projects and assignments effortlessly and more efficiently by ensuring better or existing workflows of the same procedures. This has helped the businesses to set a unique image among the target audience and market and has thereby backed the organisation up with more brand awareness and recognition among the potential customers as well. The changes including reduced costs, less paper work and human efforts, record tracking, proper documentation, well organized information, agility in the work, meeting new business challenges, obtaining advantageous opportunities, and so on are seen with the replacement of normal tasks to automated procedures. 

The participants from the Sainsbury’s also felt the very same thing that automated process have carried out an impressive change for the organisation making them leading in their area more devastatingly. They have encouraged smart shop options for the customers to make their shopping experience more convenient by promoting card and digital payment modes with the help of automated tools and techniques. As per the response of Manager-2 “The employees are being trained and guided to use particular automated tools and applications to put them into practice for making their everyday duties expedient. Moreover, motivational sites and benefits of the automated processes are displayed to the employees to motivate and excite them towards handling automation and related technologies to make their work easier”. The automated processes have ensured smooth flow of their processes assuring productivity and better yield. The managers are able to keep record of their employees and other related information important for the organisation. Thus, the automated processes has helped the Sainsbury’s to a great degree be it in terms of multitasking, productivity, growth, effectiveness, problem identification and better resolutions, reduced costs, efficiency, and well organised flow of work.       

Theme 3: Benefits of Automation

The organisations employing automated procedures enjoy a range of benefits. All the respondents from the Sainsbury’s also confirmed the same statement by affirming that with the automated tools and applications, they gained a lot of opportunities as well as advantages to achieve their targeted objectives easily. As per the response of Manager-1 “The organisation is able to do better allocation of its workforce required at more than one or different tasks which has helped us to free up our employees from many repetitive actions and tasks which needed less or no human intervention”. This helped them to reorganize their organisational structure and pay more attention towards promoting creativity and innovation in their work. The other benefit they grabbed from the automated tools as per Employee-1 was “The cost reduction is possible now by reducing the human intervention in the repeated tasks and attaining the output double to what was achieved earlier without the automation incorporation”.
The automated tools have also reduced the chances and possibilities of human errors and miscalculations in the business processes with the integration of BPAs which helps in eliminating the possibility of inaccuracy and faults from certain level of procedural stages. Furthermore, the team members were capable of collaborating work well and effectively. This is due to the reason that it was possible to monitor each and every member and to ensure an appropriate flow of information. Thus, project progress tracking, different team updates, and essential goal and deadline setting was possible for the organisation to put them into effect with the support of automated processes. Also, the automation allowed the organisation to have deeper insights and aspects of the business processes by analysing and digging deeper into the significant data. The Sainsbury organisation declared that they were able to see the number of leads generated and capable of comparing the same with the number of sales they attained. They reported that the same could also have been done on manual basis but whenever complex projects and assignments are obtained by the organisation, they feel it difficult to handle the leads manually as compared to automatic handling. Moreover, better insights have helped them identify problems easily and managing to implement appropriate solutions to prevent failures and losses.   

Theme 4: Risks Associated with Automation and Employee Alternatives

The main threats and risks associated with the automation is the worker displacement. However, many of the organisations counteract and argue that the workers will be getting greater opportunities and value with the change and reinforcement of automated procedures. Furthermore, the organisations may face heavy capital expenditures required by the automation investments in terms of maintenance, advancements in the technology, etc. 

The respondents from the Sainsbury’s identified that there were no threatening risks to them. The workers agreed that they are going good with the adapted innovative technologies tools and approaches to make their processes and work automotive. These automations are helping the workers to learn and gain advanced skills in their specific fields which is thereby guiding them to realize essential results of their projects and tasks more effectively and effortlessly. On the other hand, Manager-1 of the Sainsybury’s felt that “The automation is actually replacing more of our workers with machines”. Despite of the social advantages gained by the automation, the organisation is required to retrain their workers who might be getting displaced with the automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other technological initiatives. The Sainsbury managers affirmed that the employees may be relocated and replaced by the automated processes for which they need to develop appropriate approaches, skills, and talents within them to survive in such competitive environment of technologies to avoid high unemployment rates and emotional distress.
The risks that the managers believe are taking place with the automated methodologies include the high rate of capital expenditure and investment for promoting and utilizing the automated procedures within the organisation leading to the spending of millions of dollars to design, install, and fabricate the required systems. Moreover, Customer-2 perceived that “The automated tools will be eventually subjugating instead of serving the humankind as privacy of the individuals would be invaded by variety of data network ranges and sources of computerized programs”. This may endanger civilization in terms of reduced employment rates and human value as the society will be more dependent on the automation for its economic growth and wellbeing. On the consumer side, Customer-1 responded that “Our services is on threat it might be facing issues with more technological intervention as with the smart shops we will not be able to pay for their products with normal payment methods or with cash due to availability and accessibility of card payment modes in the stores only”.     

Thus, it is important for the businesses to use their automated process system wisely and strategically so as to retain their growth along with meeting and satisfying customer needs and requirements appropriately.

5. Discussion

The automated processes have changed the life of business in terms of dealing with the processes or with the customers. The companies are able to build and manage strong customer relationship, fill their workers with more talents and skills which is making them learn and gain advanced levels of knowledge related to the business process automation, and is eventually helping the organisation to grow and strive more in their particular field of specialization. This is possible for them by being more productive, effective, efficient, strategic, and gaining a competitive edge in the automation world and business world which is supporting them in attracting and attaining a huge volume of customers, sales, profitable margins towards their organisation.       

The business process automation is growing at a higher pace and is becoming an essential approach in the modern organisations to manage their tasks and processes efficiently and with less human intervention reducing the valuable time and cost of the company. The automation is also helping companies to enhance their organisational management and increasing their business outputs. The employees are able to execute multiple tasks at a time which is helping the organisations to save time and monetary investment.

However, it can also be concluded that the automation technologies if used effectively and wisely can bring a good change to the companies along with the society by yielding substantial opportunities and benefits for its future use. The organisations will be better able to serve their customers and relieve their human labour from repetitive and hazardous tasks and actions. Therefore, there are good opportunities for the organisations to trade in the automation sector if the businesses are using it appropriately and strategically which will help them to grow and yield better results to enjoy higher living standards and a better way of living life.  

6. Conclusion & Contribution to practice

In conclusion, automation is becoming a big catchphrase in the today’s technological world and businesses are paying more attention towards achieving the same in their business processes. Programming and automating the processes to run the tasks and required actions on its own on the basis of variety of data inputs transferred into the automated application for eliminating the dependence of the human labours and operators which helps saving time, energy, money, and complexity. This helps the businesses to streamline their flow of work easily and reshape the way of working within the organisation. With the automation, the processing speeds and agility is improved as compared to the previous processes handled manually or with the human effort.
This is because the automated tasks dramatically improve the processing times with the help of multithreading and computational power. Also, the workers are able to attend more tasks simultaneously by incorporating automated tools for the responsibility to handle the repetitive tasks to be done in the business. This helps the employees gain new skills which eventually helps them attain utmost productivity and efficiency in their work directing the workforce towards high job satisfaction and motivation. The reliability is another aspect that helps the organisation to ensure that the processes and activities run on time and in planned sequence which is essentially required by the project completion. The reliability factor of automated processes also ensures that the transferred data is correct and is induced without any error in it which encourages appropriate process performance and growth.    

Moreover, automated processes foster improved tracking and monitoring system within the businesses which is a considerable benefit for them when automating actions. Intelligence software is allowing organisations to process a significant volume of data and information so as to easily compile the details on the basis of the results identified. The deeper insight is allowing businesses to prepare informed decisions on the basis of the gathered information to have a clear idea of their performance and measure the level of progress conveniently. The availability of the gathered data by the businesses is also expanded which has helped the organisation significantly in terms of acquiring uplifted sales and huge segment of customers.
Automating the data also saves the businesses from losing data with the data recovery options preventing potential threat of disk loss or unintended system damage due to the human errors. Furthermore, its saves additional costs and expenses of the business by allocating workers to other important tasks possessing higher profits and revenues rather than the repetitive tasks that can be handled automatically. Eventually, with the automated processes and activities, the organisations recognize high growth and success in their target marketplace. This is due to the reason that the businesses are allowed to focus more on implementing the strategies and plans targeting growth, productivity, success, high recognition and awareness, and good reputation and image to make their business identity in the market and among customers more effective, attractive, and impressive.

However, it is considered that the automation and technological innovations may be replacing the workers in the organisations with the machines degrading the rate of employment in the industrial sectors. It is realized that the automation will acquire more capital investment in running and maintaining the machineries within the companies. Moreover, it will overpower the society by making the community more dependent on the automation and not relying on the human power and labour for economic growth and development.
However, if the businesses use these tools for automation effectively, they will be striving in the same sector irrespective of what it has got as its negative consequences. Also, human labour and efforts will be more on the demand as the organisations will need human intelligence to transfer their data and intelligence into the robots and machines to make them learn the actual values and requirement to work similar to humans and to make work much easier and effective. Thus, it is important for the businesses to implement the automated tools and processes within the organisation effectively and strategically so as to avoid the negative impact of automation over businesses, employment, society, and economy. This is due to the fact that the business will be able to acquire future automation opportunities to grow more and gain great competitiveness in their area.


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Interview Questions


  • How long have you been working at Sainsbury’s?

  • What changes in business processes took place in Sainsbury’s in the past 5 years?

  • What methods/strategies did you use to implement these changes among your employees?

  • What difficulties did you come across implementing these changes?

  • How did you explain your employees about the new change process?

  • What benefits did the changes bring about?

  • Were there any issues raised among the employees adapting to the new processes?

  • In the short run, did the technological upgrades force you to reduce manpower?

  • In the next 5 years, do you see any reduction in the employees in the workplace?

  • Do you think technology upgrade is a threat to your job?


  • How long have you been working at Sainsbury’s?

  • Have you witnessed any changes in the working style in the past 5 years?

  • Was it easy to adapt to the new technologies?

  • What was the manager’s reaction towards you during the change process?

  • Did you face any difficulties in adjusting to the change process?

  • Do you think technology is a threat for your job?

  • Do you plan on acquiring new skills?


  • Do you regularly shop at Sainsbury’s?

  • How was your shopping experience using the new technology?

  • Did you need any assistance in order to use the new technology?

  • Are you happy with the change that took place?

  • In future, would you prefer human assistance or automated machines to help you with your shopping?


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