The “virtuous circle” comprising RPA, machine learning and analytics was the central theme of this month’s BotVisions webinar series. Joining me were Kelly Coupe, Principal Product Manager, and Abhijit Kakhandiki, VP of Products, to share their insights into how business users are integrating the execution capabilities of RPA with the cognitive capabilities of machine learning to take the business benefits of automation to the next level.
This month BotVisions, our webinar series, focused on the issue of Brexit and the Digital Workforce. I talked to both with Aris Kossoras, Partner at KPMG and Sarah Burnett, VP at Everest Group about how Brexit is affecting the movement of people, goods, services and capital.
Kossoras shares that companies with global operations will see their supply chain costs increase or their volumes of foreign sales decrease, and a large number of skilled labor is likely to leave UK which will drive wage inflation. FDI will reduce and margins for UK companies will drop. Boards will not care much about public opinion or political mood, but will always care about their shareholders putting them first. And will have to test technologies to break the paradigm of reduction in margin and cost-based increases. That will give rise to increased RPA and cognitive technologies to digitize labor.
Brexit is going to massively accelerate RPA initiatives
According to Kossoras, a shortage of skilled labor in the UK will increase local competition, which will in turn drive wage inflation. To counter this, organizations will digitize labor using Robotic Process Automation. Kossoras predicts that companies implementing RPA will have a clear competitive advantage going forward over the companies that choose to wait even a couple years. A poll of webinar attendees indicated that nearly 40% of company leaders consider Brexit to be a factor in their decisions to invest in automation.
History will repeat itself
Burnett notes that we have seen economic conditions influence technology and service adoption waves historically, and the same will happen with Brexit. The closest equivalent is 2009 where the surge of BPM and integration/automation components of BPM which grew by 80% even at the height of the financial crisis. Companies offering this technology were growing by 20-40% even at that time. Today, some RPA vendors are growing by 150% YOY—a major indicator of a dynamic market and what is to come.
"BrexBots" will become a buzzword
According to Burnett, there will be a 90% growth rate in RPA, boosted by economic pressures. CEOs and CFOs will pull the automation lever to address the need to do more with less. This will increase the number of software bots delivering services in the UK and offshore centers. This generations of bots are what Burnett refers to as ‘BrexBots”. Prior to Brexit, Everest predicted that in the UK, there would be robots doing the work of roughly 90,000 FTEs by 2018. Post-Brexit, that number will go up significantly as companies scurry to pull cost-reduction levers.
Early adopters of RPA are already turning towards the next step: AI and cognitive
Kossoras sees huge market activation for RPA now for process-heavy bots. In the front office in industries such as banking, cognitive technologies are already being applied. Trailblazing companies do have substantial cognitive initiatives underway currently, and in particular the combination of RPA and cognitive technologies with Analytics on a single platform is highly attractive proposition for several organizations.
Robotic process automation—and particularly the cognitive variety—is touted as being a way to “free” people to do higher value work. With a machine doing the repetitive, more mundane jobs, it’s clear that humans have capacity to do more. But what?
Bots can enable employee empowerment if we understand a few concepts:
Utilizing true talent
If you’re familiar with the concepts of lean manufacturing, you know that not long ago, a new source of “workplace waste” was added to the “7 Deadly Wastes” familiar to the industry: under-utilized employee talent. This concept applies more broadly to the corporate world as a whole.
Consider this scenario.
You call your phone carrier with a requirement--perhaps as simple as changing your address in their system or understanding your data plan. As the representative communicates with you and listens for information, he or she is filling in fields, validating data between systems, putting you on hold to get approvals with a manager, waiting for their approved script to be called up on the computer, or any other number of tasks. Studies have shown that while we can rapidly shift our attention between activities, the concept of true “multi-tasking” is a myth. Therefore, as this representative does “robotic” work, he or she is missing an opportunity to create a positive customer experience, better understand your needs, or find an upsell that would benefit both customer and company. These are the types of “human” tasks that RPA providers want to re-infuse organizations with.
Taking the robot out of the human
A skill like candlemaking which was extremely important for centuries, became practically obsolete when mechanized in the 1800s. Today candlemaking is a novelty hobby, not a necessary job. And if we suddenly had to begin making candles again, it would be quite a shock. It has become natural to us that candles are no longer man made, because we collectively recognize that some jobs are better left to machines
We’ve spent recent years teaching people to do jobs a computer should be doing: checking and validating information, entering data, comparing fields in Excel spreadsheets, copying and pasting information, and more. Essentially, we’ve taught people to be more robotic. Now, with the dawn of robotic process automation, we need to re-train people to rely on the traits that can’t be automated. A smattering of those traits? Understanding human needs and responding appropriately. Employing empathy. Problem solving by thinking outside the box (something a machine that relies on rules can’t do easily). Innovating. The list goes on, but the key is that companies using RPA will be able to focus on taking the robot out of the human. Instead of “making candles” they’ll be thinking of other ways to illuminate.
Enabling the modern workforce to work the way they expect
Imagine having to use a map again to get from point A to point B. (Even theme parks have GPS navigation apps now). Or not being able to “Hey Siri” for information you want immediately. People today have expectations of working alongside technology. When worries arise about how people will respond to an evolving workplace fueled by automation, it’s important to remember that many of us, as well as college students graduating into the workforce, would question doing things the other way. We expect things to be automated.
We’ll find increasingly that people will question why we’re performing robotic functions in our jobs, when there are machines that should be working for us, automating the parts of our jobs that we’re not suited to do, and might even be hindering our true potential. Furthermore, as we progress with automation, we’ll question why other things happen: heart attacks, car accidents, and food wastage, for example, could all become a thing of the past as we invest our human talent into creating technology, and then lean on technology to take steps forward into a more predictive economy.
The overwhelming message of the podcast that spurned this question is that it’s time to do things differently. And people will embrace this change.
To listen to the entire podcast “My Co-Worker is a Bot,” click here.
Cognitive technology like IBM Watson and robotic process automation technology have been largely separate. After all, they're meant to perform different jobs for different situations. But what happens when you combine the two, bringing together the cutting-edge capabilities of cognitive and the practical, powerful abilities of RPA? The video above invites you to jump on our virtual elevator and see why we decided to devlop an enterprise solution that gives the best of both worlds.
Many of today’s jobs won’t be here tomorrow. In fact, they’ll disappear to the tune of over 100 million by 2025, according to McKinsey reports.
It’s an alarming statistic. And, like many of you, I find myself unsettled. In light of information like that, I can’t help but wonder: What will the jobs of the future be like? What will we be doing? What will our kids be doing? But before we think forward, think backward.
The McKinsey Global Institute has spoken: ranked number two on their gallery of disruptive technologies, automation of knowledge work is predicted to drastically change business operations in the next decade.
In the post-apocalyptic Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (and more familiarly, the Blade Runner movie), citizens in the wake of a nuclear war are persuaded to leave the city by being offered an android to do their bidding. The rest is a classic story of “robots gone wild,” assuming human identities and trying to work themselves back into the general population.
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