Robotic Process Automation: Robots, Humans & Work As We Know IT

Virender Jeet, Sr VP - Technology, Newgen Software Virender has been associated with Newgen for 27 years now and has payed a significant role in the company's strategic decision making and growth story so far

Since the debut of the word 'robot', in the play R.U.R.(Rossum's Universal Robots), written by Karel Capek in 1920, one of the most popular refrains in the sci-fi world has continued to be the rise of robots as they replace humans and eventually take over the Earth.

While the traditional sci-fi concept of robots still belongs largely in pop culture, we are in the midst of a huge technological shift where in robots, or more accurately, bots and bot-driven processes, are on an exponential rise. The use of bots to automate business processes or Robotic Process Automation (RPA), has now become one of the most common focus of future thinking, customer centric companies. In fact, according to The Economist, '93 percent of enterprise companies see intelligent automation and RPA as the ‘kickstart' to digital transformation'.

RPA refers to the use of configurable software bots to perform repetitive routine tasks across multiple systems. These bots fil in automation gaps and streamline business processes to increase accuracy and efficiency. RPA at its core is used to automate and standardize repeatable business processes, thereby freeing human workers to perform more constructive tasks predicated upon judgement, reasoning and customer interaction.

What Does This Mean For Human Workers?
In an increasingly technologically driven society, a question that comes-up often is, ‘will jobs traditionally held by humans now go to robots?’ While this idea seems straight out of a Spielberg film, the question is not so far fetched. This question was posed during the industrial revolution in the US during the technological revolution across Asia and will continue to crop-up during every period of rapid advancement in the future.

So, will jobs traditionally held by humans now go to robots? The
dynamics of the modern workforce will be more complicated than just yes or no especially as the implementation of RPA becomes increasingly common. According to McKinsey & Company,‘partial automation is more likely than full automation in the medium term and the automation technologies will provide new opportunities for job creation.

The dynamics of the modern workforce will be more complicated than just yes or no, especially as the implementation of RPA becomes increasingly common

Furthermore, as RPA begins to relieve human workers from having to perform repetitive and unskilled tasks, people will be pushed to do more interesting work. According to Leslie Will cocks, a professor of technology, work and globalization at the London School of Economics, 'The evidence is that it's not whole jobs that will be lost (to humans) but (uninteresting and repetitive)parts of jobs'. Not only will RPA allow people to do more stimulating work but it will also freeup more time for human innovation.

How Will This Change The Face Of Innovation And Productivity?
One of the most unique attributes of humans as a species is our proclivity for innovation and creativity. So imagine what our potential for innovation within the workforce could be once the burdens of undifferentiated repetitive tasks are lifted.

Imagine an accountant who spends 10 hours a day at work. Of those 10 hours, at least 5-6 hours are spent on repetitive, mundane tasks that could easily be automated. Now imagine, with RPA implemented across this accountant’s processing systems, they have 5-6 extra hours in the workday. This time could be devoted to more client work, more continued education, or even time spent reworking and developing new processes. Whatever the case may be, if automating one accountant’s processes can have such a profound effect on efficiency, innovation, lifestyle, and even overall happiness, imagine the difference it can make across entire organizations.

Top industry analysts have found that companies employing intelligent automation technologies can realize substantial performance gains and take the lead in their industries. In fact, studies show that ‘at a macro economic level automation alone could raise productivity growth on a global basis by 0.8-1.4 percent annually’.

So, What Does This Mean Practically?
RPA is relevant in almost every department of every industry worldwide. Wherever there is a process, there is at least some potential for automation. And one of the most valuable features of RPA is its scalability. It can be used across all systems, including, and especially, legacy systems. As Shane Jason Mock a VP at American Fidelity, puts it, ‘implementing RPA on their legacy systems without having to totally rebuild them was like putting a brain inside the caveman’. Considering the versatility and undeniable value of RPA it is no wonder that Forrester projects RPA software revenue to reach $1 billion this year alone, and up to $1.5 billion by 2020.

It seems that sci-fi fans were not far off in predicting the rise of robots but these are surely not the bots they were looking for. As RPA increases in global ubiquity, humans will have the unique opportunity to capitalize upon bots in a campaign to change the face of innovation, productivity, and work as a whole.