How will Automation disrupt the market place and industry?

By Faisal Parvez, Director - IT Delivery & CIO Business Partner, AMEA, BT

Institute of Robotic process automation (IRPA) describes Robotic process automation (RPA)as the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. RPA digitizes labour through the use of advanced machine intelligence, engagement, analytics, big data, social media, mobile technologies and cloud computing. It is predicted that five million jobs will be performed by robots in the next ten years. However, RPA is expected to ultimately expand the job market according to some economists and researchers.

Cliff Justice from KPMG states that cognitive robotics advancements will have a major impact on the labour market, shifting the knowledge worker framework from one of labour arbitrage, which reduces costs for relevant functions by anywhere from 15% to 30%, to one of labour automation, which reduces costs by 40% to 75%. The concept of outsourcing, which has been a vehicle to move things to low-cost areas, is today a dead concept. RPA will transform the whole concept of how businesses operate.

The initial wave of automation will undoubtedly disenfranchise many workers. However, RPA won’t necessarily cause hundreds of millions of knowledge workers to lose their jobs. New RPA technology will fill some roles currently performed by knowledge workers, but a portion of the displaced workforce will be freed up from doing repetitive administrative tasks to focus on innovating and generating revenue.

Automation brings opportunities to transform mundane back office processes, improve efficiencies, together with increasing efficiency and productivity of the company, hence providing greater operational abilities of the platform. Instead of looking to untapped geographic regions, looking for the “next offshore”, to drive greater profitability, the new untapped potential will be found through digitization and automation.

From business point of view, in order to achieve successful RPA, management must fully understand how this process works in practice. The cost of deploying RPA can be high and over taxing, and the flexibility of demand management plays an important role in deploying RPA. If successfully implemented however, staff can easily drive customer satisfaction and increase overall business value, while reducing the risk of non-compliance.

From an IT perspective, a well-established RPA system requires the company to provide good maintenance of IT infrastructure and networks, a resilient systems health maintenance, and total visibility of all systems and software. On top of that, customer’s security must be placed as the highest priority.

Further a few researchers state that RPA will have various stages of maturity. The first stage would be the basic process automation, which includes building of macros, screen scraping and business workflow technologies that sit at presentation layer of OSI. The second stage focuses more on automating processes. The third and most impactful category in terms of transformation is the implementation of an autonomic/cognitive platform. Where the technology can understand your customers, and run queries against rules engines. If the response falls within parameters, the technology can then inform the robot to carry out a transaction and perform functions that once required a human decision-making process. For queries that produce results outside a given set of parameters, the system can route the request as an exception to a human employee, who can review it and follow up if necessary.

A key element of RPA is the scalability of labour automation. With labour arbitrage, costs generally rise along with the scaling upof a business. Labour automation however, follows the price-performance curve, not a labour curve. Technology is developing much faster and cheaper, whereas labour doesn't scale the same way. RPA “robots” are revolutionizing the way we think about and administer business processes, IT support processes, workflow processes, remote infrastructure and back-office work. RPA provides dramatic improvements in accuracy and cycle time and increased productivity in transaction processing while it elevates the nature of work by removing people from dull, repetitive tasks.

Daniel Jessop who heads strategic Transformation initiatives globally for BTGS said that “BT Global Services are committed to transforming the Service Experience of our customers.  We are currently investing in Robotic Process Automation as we see great opportunity to improve Customer Experience by reducing dwell in our processes, increasing the quality of the interactions we provide and delivering the changes that the business demands more quickly than would be possible with a traditional platform. Robotic Process Automation will change the way we work as it will free up our people – moving them away from repetitive low value tasks, allowing them to focus on how we better serve the customer”

Several renowned researchers in the industry, including Andrew McAfee from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have concluded that robots will eventually create more jobs than we could ever have imagined. This concept brings massive disruption and creates a conducive environment for innovators and also creates massive amounts of opportunity for entrepreneurship. 

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