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The Rise of the Robots

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The Rise of the Robots essay
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By revolutionising business processes and workflows, Robotic Process Automation offers a multitude of financial and non-financial benefits. However, most companies are concerned how their workforce will respond to RPA amidst fears over job loss.

The Digital Workforce is Here

The world is changing faster than anyone could have envisioned at the beginning of the 21st century. With technology at the forefront of every disruption across industries today, every element of an organization’s business model is being challenged. In this digital age of cognitive sciences, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and robotics, organizations will need to balance multiple competing priorities to navigate through challenging times ahead and make optimal use of opportunities

The impact of Robotic Process Automation (commonly referred to as RPA) on a company’s operations and competitive positioning is significant on several fronts: economic value, workforce advantages, quality and control improvements, and flexible execution. In fact, a couple of RPA’s greatest benefits are often overlooked: its ease of deployment and the speed and agility it confers on the enterprise. But given the inevitable disruption caused by RPA, business leaders should focus on a few key implementation principles: automate as much as possible, focus on frontend processes, maximize productivity, and aim for 100% auditability. RPA can help companies organize themselves for the future. It is a foundation for machine learning, artificial intelligence and a more autonomic enterprise.

Change is already here and it’s inevitable for organizations to adapt.

Every enterprise organization is under immense pressures to digitize and automate all aspects of their operations, yet many organizations still rely on manual tasks for vital business processes, such as collecting, reviewing, and inputting information between systems, websites and portals—internal and external. These repetitive, remedial tasks require your employees to log in and out of multiple systems, copying and pasting data between different sources and formats. In addition to being mind-numbing work, manual tasks are also notably inefficient and inaccurate – especially when compared to the predictability of automated work processes. But, as IT departments struggle to respond rapidly to the more pressing needs of business groups, key automation initiatives tend to get postponed, rescheduled or forgotten. The result is manual work lives on, and the status quo for inefficient operations remains.

The Power of Automation

The spectrum of automation expands from simple rule-based automation to advanced cognitive and artificial intelligence automation. Hence, the task of exploring and understanding automation often appears more daunting than it is. Let’s take a step back and deconstruct this spectrum of automation in detail. The ability of the tool/solution to automate depends on three factors: the type of input it can read; the amount data it can process; and the nature of output it can generate. Typically, as the variability of the input increases, the amount of data to be processed multiplies and the output moves from being deterministic to predictive, i.e., the solution moves from left to right on the automation spectrum. RPA lies at one end of this spectrum.

Don’t Alienate Your Workforce

To increase acceptance and adoption of RPA into operational processes, effective change management and communication strategies that ensure workers understand the facts and benefits of RPA are essential. In discussing RPA, it is important to acknowledge that some jobs and job roles might be affected, for example, help desk, insurance and loans processing, data entry, data assembly and formatting based roles. Some of these roles may be automated entirely, while others will only be impacted at defined workflow stages.

Further, new job roles will be created by the need for RPA programmers. The potential of RPA to disrupt traditional workflow processes does not undermine the multitude of employee benefits that RPA offers. It should be emphasised to staff that RPA enables employees to focus on the more interesting and challenging higher order tasks, rather than monotonous and administrative processes. RPA doesn’t solely reduce work – it can create new types of work in the form of RPA programming, new workflows, processes, metrics and support to enable the business to get the most benefits from an RPA implementation.

A report by the Institute for Robotics Process Automation predicts that over 100 million existing FTEs could be replaced by automation software in the next decade. The business case for the implementation of RPA is well substantiated. However, most companies are concerned about how to integrate it successfully, and, whether it will be accepted by their staff. Since RPA replicates manual, customer service and cognitive tasks, most of the barriers to adoption relate to fears that it will make existing jobs redundant.

Although RPA will certainly cause some form of economic and employment disruption, especially for lower-order tasks, this disruption does not necessarily equate to unemployment. Businesses must help their employees prepare for this technological disruption by educating employees on the benefits, impacts, use and limitations of RPA.

Automate Your Business

RPA enables you to create a digital workforce that works side-by-side with your employees to drive greater efficiency. RPA eliminates almost any manual data-driven activity, where software robots comprised of powerful and dynamic process flows automate the tasks that humans would otherwise perform, while complementing other automation platforms such as Business Process Management (BPM). These software robots mimic specific actions your employees take while working on a computer. This includes actions taken when interacting with an enterprise application, website, web portal, legacy system, or desktop applications including email, Microsoft Excel, and more. Unlike basic desktop automation tools or costly in-house development projects, RPA leverages a simple no coding or low coding methodology, automating virtually any human activity involving accessing and acting on information.

Final Thoughts

As the world is moving toward a resource crunch, organizations need to find ways to be optimal yet effective. Simply put, RPA is one step closer to making an organization lean. Companies that seek to leverage technologies such as Robotic Process Automation to improve their business processes should look beyond the simple, straightforward answers. By understanding how to use multiple enterprise automation technologies in concert, organizations can make their digital transformation initiatives more effective and gain the edge over their competitors.

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