Brexit and the Digital Workforce

Written by Shail Khiyara in Changing the world with automation on November 15, 2016

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.


The webinar (which you can view here), addressed some of these themes and more:

Four Fundamental Freedoms will be impacted

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.

To hear more about the adoption of technology and services in the wake of socio-economic change, and to hear how RPA is at the center of this tech wave in the wake of Brexit, listen to the Brexit and the Digital Workforce in its entirety.