Enterprise technology is on the cusp an inflection point afforded by the leaps made in automation to re-shape how businesses operate in the recent years. Robotic Process Automation, or RPA in short, where a software or a ‘bot’ mimics human interactions has become prevalent and is increasing in demand by organisations in their digital transformation journey.
These bots are now being onboarded as virtual workers across various business functions to eliminate repetitive, error-prone activities that are dependent on manual effort.
What does this bode for the future?
There are enough stories making rounds in the media to create paranoia among the best of us with virtual workers taking away jobs. A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute suggests up to 800 million jobs may be taken over due to automation. This is enough to set the alarm bells ringing. But how much of it holds merit?
When personal computers began to be adopted by businesses, there was the similar talk of the many jobs that stood to being eliminated. While true, it also accelerated the growth of businesses and economies such that it created more jobs with the opportunities that followed.
Workers were able to pick up new skills relevant to these opportunities to find new jobs. Today, automation faces a similar moment, and if we look ahead, offers more possibilities for growth that can create demand for work to offset any displacement in jobs.
One of RPA’s most talked about benefits is the value addition it brings to the business, and to the employees. Employees constantly choked with repetitive tasks that take a lot of time can now look at RPA as a savior.
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It frees up a significant amount of their time which allows them to focus on more productive activities and makes the workforce move up the value chain with the technology to augment their efforts and reduce the workloads. For example, a Finance and Accounting team for a large enterprise would be spending a lot of time on processing vouchers, invoices, claims, payments and more. These are repetitive processes, and a huge time sinks when considering the daily volume.
With Robotic Process Automation, all this can now be automated with a bot, and it can perform these faster than a human would, without any fatigue. With such bots performing such tasks easily, the workers can now focus their attention towards more productive tasks where they would be engaged better. This would improve the team’s efficiency and output, thereby increasing their service capacity.
With RPA, the quality of processes is also improved significantly – as close to perfection. By eliminating commonly made errors in processes that are dependent on manual effort, it increases the turnaround times and improved customer satisfaction. This is vital in sensitive areas such as customer support. On the other side, it allows businesses to worry less about compliance benchmarks and audits with every process now documented and easy to monitor.
It can also go beyond performing such repetitive tasks. A self-learning cognitive bot can learn by itself how to perform and manage processes with minimal human intervention, flagging up cases that require attention, taking decisions on its own after observing situations. It can also analyze the entire data that passes through the workflow to indicate trends and patterns that can further optimize the process.
With these benefits and more, an automation tool would be a welcome addition to any team, as a tireless, super-efficient colleague.
Finding the balance
When there is an increase in the volume of business, there is a considerable strain to accommodate more processes and to handle more data. This impacts employees more than anyone else as there is more pressure to increase their productivity.
The success of any organisation depends on the employee morale and their willingness to take on new challenges, and automation is key to relieving their stress that comes with these challenges. This need to come without the added pressure of employees constantly looking behind the shoulders in fear of losing their importance in the organisation.
It requires equal participation from the organisation and the employees to understand and educate themselves on a mutual partnership with automation as an enabler.
Aligning business strategy
With advancement in technology and automation tools, there will be new roles and jobs as a result. Business leaders also need to ensure that there is a smooth transition of existing roles to the new ones, and this requires a strategic approach towards building the requisite skills within the existing workforce. This can be done by helping workers adapt and train them to remain viable.
Enterprise transformation will be facilitated by automation, but it will be sustained only with the human and digital workforce co-existing and working with each other.
[This article has been co-written by Kris Subramanian and Subin Perumbidy are the Co-Founders of Option3 is a niche automation and data analytics product company focused on providing affordable automation solutions for companies, big or small, across the globe.]