Robots vs Humans: collaboration or competition?

Dubbed one of the biggest disruptors to the technology industry in the next five years in our recent Technology: Voice of the Workforce research, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is expected to impact and transform business operations across industry and across the globe.

But what is RPA? How will it affect jobs? And how can you get into this revolutionary field?

What is Robot Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation is the replacement of a human interface with ‘robotic’ software to perform tasks or business processes, which are repetitive, transactional, administrative or clerical in nature.
A robot or Bot, in the context of RPA is a software solution that replaces human full time equivalents (FTEs) who would normally carry out these tasks. A practical example of where this technology adds value is with the need to re-key data from one legacy IT system into another system or reading, verifying and approving or rejecting documents or processing submitted applications.

‘Bots could also be deployed to process credit card applications, customer complaints and changes to customer address details, amongst other tasks such as data cleansing, performing system access and user set-up tasks and benefits administration.

Garry Dobson, Head of RPA, Networkers explains why more businesses are looking towards RPA solutions: 

“RPA can be seen as the technology enabled evolution of outsourcing or the ‘New Outsourcing’. Consider the types of functions that have historically been outsourced or off-shored; in particular shared-services operations such as administration, IT support and data processing roles. In these areas the tasks are heavily administrative, clerical or repetitive so RPA is an obvious choice. Using this technology, many of those functions can be made leaner and effectively brought back in-house or on-shore.”

“In addition, RPA brings with it the benefits of improved speed and accuracy, which can save costs, reduce risks and enhance compliance. ‘Bots can also be deployed to negate the need for expensive IT systems integration projects.”

However, this technology is not without its limits and one major limitation to the practical use of RPA right now is the quality of data which RPA software relies so heavily upon. Over the next few years we’re likely to see organisations attempting to clean up their data to lay the foundations for successful RPA implementations which will also facilitate adoption of Intelligent Process Automation solutions.

Will the robots take all our jobs?

In short, no. Inevitably RPA will affect a reduction of jobs in certain business sectors, job roles and functions like business and IT support, shared services and processing centres. But as with any evolutionary step, there will also be new opportunities for employment and career development.

Garry explains why the rise of RPA is more about collaboration than competition between humans and robots:

“RPA is about creating smarter, more efficient solutions to perform repetitive tasks so it is much more about complementing human abilities rather than replacing us altogether. By freeing up time spent on repetitive tasks, employees can be redeployed to focus on other activities which are perhaps more specialist or require emotional intelligence. For example, IT professionals in 1st and 2nd line support IT roles could take the opportunity to move into more advanced cyber security roles which make the best use of their problem solving and analytical skills.”

In addition, by using technology rather than humans to conduct certain process flows and workflows it creates the ability to extract digital data elements mid-process that haven’t before been possible. This has the potential for gaining new insights and identifying new opportunities for businesses resulting in increased revenues and creating even more new jobs.

Job opportunities in RPA

There are already a number of RPA specific job roles that have emerged, including:

• Head of RPA/RPA Manager
• RPA Centre of Excellence (Head/Manager)
• RPA Architect/ Solution Architect
• RPA Developer
• RPA Business Analyst
• RPA Process Designer/Analyst
• RPA Infrastructure Engineer
• RPA Change Manager

How to get into RPA

As RPA 'Bots are essentially software solutions, deploying them requires similar skills to those used to deploy other software solutions.

Garry explains more:

“If you’re looking to get into RPA, a background in application development or application implementation and experience of the full software development life cycle (SDLC) will help. Depending on the vendor solution being implemented, knowledge of C# or Java would be useful for developers looking to cross-train. For some vendor solutions, formal training and certification is available.”

“For roles more aligned to the business process side of the RPA equation, knowledge and experience in Lean Six Sigma, business process management, process excellence and continuous (process) improvement will place you in good stead.”

If you’re interested in working in RPA and would like to learn more about the roles required and the skills employers are looking for, then please get in touch with Garry Dobson on garry.dobson@networkerstechnology.com.

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