Robotics Process Automation, or RPA in short, is a game changer. With almost 9 billion dollars’ worth of market by 2024, the technology has attracted businesses from all verticals, and BFSI seems to be leading the pack. One of the key reasons enterprises are opting for RPA is its ease of adoption and quick turnaround time. A virtual workforce capable of delivering outcomes fast, accurately and with flexibility to ramp up or down, is definitely a boon, especially when it comes at almost one third of the cost of maintaining a human workforce for the similar roles. However, the process is perceived negatively in many organizations, primarily because of apprehensions of layoffs. But this may not be true in most cases. With the requirement of skilled workforce on the rise, there is every possibility of the robots elevating their human predecessors to better and more rewarding roles. Most organizations re-skill/up-skill their employees and boost productivity by letting the bots do the menial, repetitive jobs. Even when the bots are powered with AI and machine learning to deliver advanced level outcomes, humans can still be a pace ahead!
A perception of threat and an atmosphere of impending doom is not exactly what organizations want RPA to herald. It is a positive step in creating leaner, efficient and productive business processes. But how do we ensure that the employees understand, appreciate and even welcome this change? Communication is the key. And here are the 3 Cs that drive this Change Communication: Clarity, Credibility and Continuity.
Clarity – Clarity of thought and action is core to any communication concerning a change in organization. A very well thought and clearly defined vision supported by a thorough plan of action, communicated in unambiguous terms, is a must. Employees need to know – What is happening? Why the change and why now? What do we gain and what is at stake? These need to be as clearly established as possible. Avoid jargon, keep the messages simple, bite sized and relatable. What is a must is to explain the cost of not seizing the opportunity now, and what is it that they, the employees stand to gain (in terms of up-skill/ career opportunities etc). The clarity will help dispel any unnecessary fears and help to build an atmosphere of anticipation and even excitement.
Credibility – There cannot be space for any doubt when communicating change, more so while dealing with the robotic process automation. Information must come from credible sources. Remember, grapevine has a nature of spreading far and wide in the vacuum left behind by poor communication. Do not let the rumor machine take over. Preempt the possible information needs and have a ready reckoner of sorts for most of the queries. Leadership buy-in and demonstrated action is core to drive faith. Employees need one version of truth and it must come from the respective authority.
Continuity – Communication by nature is a continuous process, it cannot be a quick fix. Be prepared with a continuous information and engagement plan, validate it at every stage and keep it responsive to the organization’s need. The changes that RPA brings along are far reaching and its positive impact must be reinforced at every opportunity. Information needs to be followed through and updated at every stage. Engaging the stakeholders – directly impacted teams, indirectly impacted employees and the respective leadership need not only to be continuously fed with the right information but kept involved and invested. There is no overdoing when it comes to communication, but one needs to pick the messages and channels wisely, and more importantly do the right mapping.
It may be a cliché but change is the only constant. We have the option of embracing it or letting it run us over. A little preparation and a lot of planned communication is sure to give change a positive hue
The robotics industry has come a long way. Where once we thought solely about mimicking human actions with machines, we are now capable of automating entire business processes to drive a business forward. Whether it’s a finance department, a HR team or a supply chain, automation can add an unprecedented level of value.
Unfortunately, public perception of this revolution has lagged. In a recent survey Redwood Software research conducted with Shared Services Link, 97% of respondents were confident that robots can automate the mundane stuff – data entry, and other manual tasks. When the level of complexity went up, confidence fell. Only 52% felt that robots could “understand basic finance processes,” and less than a third felt it was possible to automate 80% plus of company finance processes.
These stats are a wake-up call for the robotics industry. If we are going to realize the vast value of robotics, we need to address this education gap and overcome a longstanding myth: that robots will always replace people, and so can never move beyond the most basic tasks.
ROBOTICS: WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT IS NOT
Let’s start with the basics: what is robotics? Everyone has an answer, but many are missing the big picture.
The Institute for Robotic Process Automation defines enterprise process robotics as the application of technology that enables employees to configure computer software, a “robot”, to catch and analyze existing applications for manipulating data, processing a transaction or triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.
This definition is the beginning of what robotics can do, not the limit. Enterprise robotics doesn’t just switch a human being for a piece of software: it lets us reimagine an entire process. A human being is by definition tied to a user interface. By contrast, the next generation of software robots will communicate directly with applications at the server level and communicate directly with core ERP and other business system. That means that the new generation of software robots are able to see and understand a process from beginning to end, with complete knowledge of finance, supply chain and HR processes from the moment they are turned on.
For a service professional, that means they get a more complete, effective automation of their processes. If they’re looking to gain efficiencies, scale or reinvent their entire business, the software robot offers a degree a flexibility and skill that no human being could offer.
So why don’t people know about it?
ADDRESSING THE OBJECTIONS
For the services professional, skepticism about the value of process automation boils down to a simple point: they think it’s too good to be true. Sure, it’s possible that automation will yield great results – but
isn’t there a massive risk that I’ll lose control of my department by incorporating automation? I know how to manage my team – how do I keep control of a faceless piece of software?
This is a natural concern, but it’s a misguided one. Automation of processes yields a vast amount of data, and allows the user to intervene at any step throughout the process. In other words, an automated process is significantly easier to control than one run by humans.
To take one example, look at the financial industry. End-to-end process robotics means you can capture all human, robotic and system activity, yielding a comprehensive audit trail, complete with documentation. Furthermore, built in business rules remove the need to micro-manage. Robotized processes are self-managed but users can still monitor progress, as well as review and trigger actions whenever necessary. For anyone who has had to run an accounting team, they know the value process robotics offers them in terms of relief from minor tasks, and lowering compliance risk.
As an illustration, Redwood recently worked with Royal DSM, a Dutch multinational focused on health and nutrition, to improve the efficiency and performance of its finance team. Each month, Royal DSM Financial Shared Services (FSS) team were carrying out a staggering 485,000 manual tasks for monthly close. Royal DSM worked with Redwood, targeting a 60% automation rate. By the end of the project, robotics had exceeded expectation, achieving an 89% automation rate. This not only improved efficiency, but it freed up the finance team for more strategic analysis.
Beyond the practical concern regarding control and efficiency, there is the more existential worry that robots will take away people’s jobs, leading to automated offices and legions of unemployed professionals. This techno-anxiety has existed for as long as there has been automation. The fact is that automated processes help drive economic growth and job creation. The economies of the United States and the United Kingdom show zero sign of a surge in unemployment, even as the robotics industry grows ever more sophisticated. Robotics will certainly displace some jobs, but they will create far more, and they may even yield greater job satisfaction, thanks to the move away from dull, repetitive processes.
A NEW DAWN FOR ROBOTICS
Long gone are the days of manual time-consuming labor to ensure efficient core business processes are carried out. Enterprise process robotics provides accuracy, speed and consistency that businesses need in the competitive global marketplace of today, without unnecessary manual intervention. The organizations that will remain competitive in the fourth industrial revolution will be those who welcome the robotic revolution with open arms.
But the robotics industry can’t just sit back and wait for the business world to come to us. We must educate and evangelize to bust the myths and show what automated business processes can do. The technology is ready – now we have to show the world its value
Since the industrial evolution there have been concern around machines infiltrating the workplace. Recent discussion around the rapid developments in automation has revived this concern and opened up new debates about the impact of automation on the future workforce. So, how will widespread adoption of robotics affect employees? We address the key questions below:
How to successfully implement management of change
The introduction of automation should be treated in the same way you would treat any other transformational change program: Prepare extensively and recognize the challenges that the change will present to your company and its employees.
It helps to break the transformation down into three levels of change: Individual change, organizational change and transformational management.
Individual change management is change at the most basic level that impacts your employees first. Individuals react differently when a new change project is introduced, such as automation. Some people are quick to adapt, while others may react with fear, anger or resistance. This can be a difficult area to navigate, so it’s important that your employees are as informed as possible throughout the process. These situations require crystal clear communication, professional training and guidance, so we’d recommend bringing in a change management specialist to work alongside the project team and stakeholders from the beginning.
It is natural for all humans to have fear of the unknown. With this in mind, find a way to allow your employees to interact with robots so that they will become more comfortable with them. One organization bought a dozen Lego Robot kits, put the employees in teams of two and gave them a challenge. They were given 3 hours to build the robots, and program them to maneuver a simple obstacle course laid out on the floor with tape. What started as fear at 9:00 A.M. ended with fun by noon.
The individuals are the hardest sell because the threat of a job loss is personal. They are also the most important because they are in the best position to identify automation opportunities. Another approach taken was to bring the employees that did the work in without leadership. Pose three questions:
1. What do you hate about your job?
2. What about your job can you do in your sleep?
3. What part of your job would you choose to give up?
The answers are redundant. They are also the repeatable tasks that are perfect for a robot. Employees then come to the conclusion that by automating the low level tasks the value of the remaining job content increases. The result should be a healthy list of opportunities.
Organizational change management is where specific teams or departments are impacted by changes. Moving teams towards improvements and new processes can help them to adapt more easily, as they can actively educate and support one another throughout the journey.
Transformational management requires the recognition of the impact on overall strategic planning, communication and leadership of the business. All automation initiatives and their impact should be factored in from an overall, company-wide vantage point. A perfect example of how to encourage the organization to make these improvements is to benchmark the metrics of the processes against other companies. The more work moved for the robot to handle, the better the metric to compare to peers in the industry whom may still operate with a full human staff.
Will the implementation directly result in attrition?
Implementing robotic process automation within your company does not negate the need for your human employees. In many cases, companies use part process automation to streamline repetitive, rules based elements of a task, allowing human employees to focus on more complex, value-add tasks.
Informing your employees about the impact of automation from the offset will mitigate any feeling of attrition and help them to adjust to the change.
Will the employees sabotage the operation?
Negative feelings toward automation is often caused by a lack of understanding of the reasons why a company has chosen to implement automation, and the benefits that it will bring to the organization.
As in any business transformation project, communication is key. Be transparent with your employees and let them know that robotic process automation will not replace their jobs – but it may alter them.
Computers and robots have made remarkable advances into the workforce in recent years, from the factory floor to banks and mobile phones. However these advances have altered, not replaced, professions, and have raised our living standards overall.
Long term impact on employees
While robotic process automation is a highly efficient solution to numeric, routine tasks, employees’ humane skillsets are still very much in demand. The ability to be flexible, interact effectively with other humans and draw on common sense to solve unexpected problems are skills that are invaluable, and robots cannot fully replicate these skills.
The initial transition towards an automated workplace may take some time for your employees to adapt to, but they will do just that, because they are human. In the long term, job roles will shift away from their traditional remits and evolve to meet the needs of the modern, automated workplace
As Robotics Process Automation (RPA) continues to catch the fancy of many large and small enterprises alike, a more pertinent question in the form of RPA eating into human jobs and emerging as a viable alternative to manual intervention is being raised.
To answer this question or as many would term a conundrum, we need to trace the origin and the evolution of RPA as a concept. As one of the many strategic initiatives that were deployed by enterprises to facilitate the optimal use of resources, RPA was introduced specifically to automate routine and standardized tasks to free up employee bandwidth so that they could focus on the core business objectives. At the very root was the need to churn out high volumes and execute activities that were highly transactional in nature, while simultaneously delivering cost benefits.
Viewing RPA in the right perspective would mean comprehending the role it can play in helping enterprises gear up for a strategic shift, and not positioning it as a direct threat to the workforce. After all, the efficacy of processes and functions largely depend on the human inputs that come at different stages of the work lifecycle. This implies that for operations to traverse seamlessly from one milestone to the other, human intervention is paramount. Moreover, statistics indicate that five of the leading RPA providers have a combined top line aggregating to about USD 25 million, underlining the low penetration of RPA.
The significance of human judgment can never be over emphasized and RPA only reinforces the modern business philosophy of reducing process complexity and staying lean, while deploying every single key resource to achieve more strategic outcomes.
The efficacy of processes and functions largely depend on the human inputs that come at different stages of the work lifecycle.
RPA in BPM
While on RPA, it is important to point out that in days to come, RPA will have a more profound role to play in the Business Process Management (BPM) industry. Extensive studies done in this context, predict that enterprises will allocate a sizable percentage of their overall spend to RPA in the foreseeable future.
RPA is slowly being implemented by BPM providers for transaction processing and data entry in high-volume and repeatable processes. With technology and automation turning out to be the key business drivers for BPM, RPA’s emergence as an unassisted automation approach can deliver immense value creation at a comparatively lower risk and with significant cost benefits.
RPA also has the potential to address key pain points in traditional “system of records” technologies, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, though it has its limitations in terms of usability, especially pertaining to data formats and analyses. While RPA can be a part of multiple processes, it should be seen as just one component of end-to-end process improvement.
Depending on the scope of implementation, RPA can:
• Deliver cost savings of 25-50 percent
• Offer an improved service delivery
• Simplify data gathering and analysis, enabling process optimization
• Enhance flexibility
• Improve compliance
• Provide round-the-clock availability
In essence, as organizations look to shore up productivity, reduce operating cost and drive operational efficiency, RPA deployment can give them the critical competitive edge.
We want to even the playing field for you. Let us assist you in dominating your competition. Here are a few ways to get in touch with us.
11807 Westheimer Rd.
Suite 550, Houston,