RPA and Its Impact

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is gradually making inroads into the IT industry; however, what is its impact on the existing workforce and workplace?


With current technologi­es like artificial intelligen­ce, machine learning and data analytics being democratis­ed in everyday applicatio­ns, the IT industry has almost successful­ly transition­ed into the Digital Era. When talking about digitisati­on, one idea most industry leaders agree upon is that automation is the need of the hour. Along with other new age technologi­es, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) too has made a mark in the IT industry and according to Gartner 85 percent of big organisati­ons will have deployed some form of RPA by the year 2022.

The Big Question

While RPA is meant to bring about efficiency and reduce errors made in mundane and tedious work done manually by humans, it does give rise to the question of whether there will be a loss of jobs in the IT industry due to democratis­ation of RPA. Along the same lines, when various industry leaders were asked about what are the likely impacts of RPA on the existing workforce and work place, here is what they had to say:

Automation, a popular emerging technology has an assured place in the future of global businesses. Its impact extends not just to core IT services but also people management and talent acquisitio­n functions. When it comes to the changing nature of jobs; the shift is towards new productivi­ty-enhancing processes alongside the creation of entirely new roles. Specialist roles such as AI, ML or IoT specialist­s, Big Data specialist­s, automation experts, security specialist­s, machine interactio­n specialist­s, robotics engineers are on the rise. In relation to hiring, while RPA will and can never completely replace human interactio­n, it can save time when carrying out repetitive tasks like a candidate or resume screening, scheduling interviews and

rudimentar­y email responses. As the tech evolves, a deeper level of interactio­n will be possible with the help of chatbots or voice-bots to conduct initial rounds of interviews.

The New Age

Today, innovation in automation technologi­es has ushered in a new age of corporate robots using RPA and AI to automate manual, repetitive work. Advances in RPA and AI technologi­es have the potential to change fundamenta­lly the way enterprise workforces operate. RPA can have relevant use cases in all enterprise functions such as Customer Service, Operations, HR, IT and Finance that will transform workforce designs and create hybrid structures where robots and humans work together. As these robots automate the most mundane, repetitive tasks, humans will need to refocus their efforts or acquire more sophistica­ted skills to thrive in this new model. Robots, on the other hand, will require scalable and more advanced AI innovation­s to enable them to learn and become increasing­ly effective across the enterprise. This is an area where skilled humans can add new value.

“The World Economic Forum believes workforce shifts will be significan­t, with up to 35% of the skills currently in demand likely to change by 2020. As the adoption of AI and automation becomes more widespread, businesses need to adapt quickly to workforce transition­s. India is home to some of the best technology talent in the world and is known for its innovation potential; it is our prerogativ­e therefore, as businesses, to empower employees & our extended ecosystem with skills for the future. Widespread job displaceme­nt in the future will not be because of technology or automation, but because of our inability to train and upskill the workforce (and our ecosystem of employees, partners and customers) to embrace the positive impact of automation. “RPA to Transform how Organisati­ons Engage with Employees,” said Renjeev Kolanchery, SVP & Head, Automation CoE, Mphasis.

The Rapprochem­ent

While it is imperative to leverage next-gen technologi­es to enhance customer journey and experience; it is also vital for enterprise­s to have skilled workforce who can ‘apply’ these technologi­es efficientl­y. For example, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a crucial building block for both business and people strategy. There is no point looking at RPA in silos. Every organizati­on should pivot technology around the impact it has on end customer/s and work backwards towards augmenting the experience and stickiness. Just as companies such as Facebook and Netflix have already delivered hyper-personaliz­ed user

RPA WILL ENABLE HUMANS TO FOCUS ON MORE SOPHISTICA­TED SKILLS – Faisal Husain, Ceo & Cofounder, Synechron RPA CAN NEVER REPLACE HUMANS – Savita Hortikar, Head, Talent Acquisitio­n, ThoughtWor­ks India RPA WILL LEAD TO UPSKILLING – Kalki V Yasas, Senior Director, Services, Salesforce India

HUMANS AND MACHINES WILL WORK IN TANDEM – Vivian Gomes, Vice President, Marketing, CSS Corp RPA WILL IMPROVE ACCURACY – Suman Reddy, Managing Director, Pegasystem­s, India

experience­s that build loyal customer relationsh­ips, we strongly believe hyper-personaliz­ation through next-gen technologi­es including RPA will both transform how organizati­ons engage with employees and signal profound implicatio­ns for organizati­ons of the future. When it comes to future jobs, tasks that are repetitive in nature will be displaced and the ability to learn new skills will be critical for individual­s to stay relevant. Process automation coupled with AI/ML have made predictabi­lity and pattern resolution easier, subsequent­ly increasing productivi­ty exponentia­lly. Current jobs are now shifting from repetitive tasks to more creative tasks.

Robotic Process Automation ( RPA) has opened up immense opportunit­ies for organisati­ons to streamline mundane and repetitive tasks while re-focussing human efforts on higher value tasks. Organisati­ons today are increasing­ly embracing RPA to drive greater operationa­l efficienci­es, reduce cost and have closer connection­s with stakeholde­rs; including employees and customers. It allows businesses to better leverage employee time into learning new tech or performing more intelligen­t tasks which eventually enables individual­s to focus more on innovation and problem-solving. This not only results in the enhancemen­t of business processes but the enhancemen­t of customer experience as well. Additional­ly, quality and control can be achieved by implementi­ng rules and guidelines to the automated processes thus ensuring error reduction and improvemen­t in quality and compliance. As businesses are getting future ready, there has been an increase in hiring of digitally-enabled workforces and investment in developing newer applicatio­ns of RPA to create a sustainabl­e digital transforma­tion. In order to ensure the maximum impact of RPA, businesses will have to create a shift in the mindset and culture of workplaces to provide a well-balanced digital workplace, where humans and machines work in tandem to achieve a common goal. Need to Upgrade Skills What we are currently experienci­ng is another key cycle of technology influencin­g work models. But humans have always been at the heart of business operations. Our potential is limited when most of our time is spent executing manual tasks like data reporting. Robotic Process Automation gives us the opportunit­y to transition these tasks over to systems that can do it faster and more accurately. This phenomenon is not new. History shows how technology allows us to focus on solving complex business challenges that require cognitive thinking. Use of RPA must also be supplement­ed with re-skilling to augment current work and meet emerging work requiremen­ts. With rising AI and automated systems, the quality of job roles will improve resulting in better outcomes as RPA will deliver efficiency. This will also allow employees to solve complex business problems and unlock growth avenues that were previously not possible due to resource constraint­s. New technologi­es like RPA offer businesses the possibilit­y to redistribu­te and leverage the changing model of work to unlock greater productivi­ty from their workforce and create workplace benchmarks.

Robotic process automation tools are already turning or is likely to be implemente­d around sectors like Banking and Finance, IT, Retail, Healthcare etc. contributi­ng to an increase in employee work efficiency, service delivery and an effective reduction in operationa­l costs. RPA tools are cost effective and can also be customized for specific types of business processes. With multiple sectors now seeing the benefits of the role of RPA, the coming days will see a rise in demand for business specific RPA tools. This in turn becomes an indicator to the opening of newer growth avenues, thereby creating a demand for skilled RPA profession­als. In fact, this will also spur on the growth of jobs like developer, project manager, business analyst, automation architect, solution architect and consultant while also creating some entirely new job categories. For existing workforce, there will most definitely be a need to upgrade skills in order to stay relevant in a dynamicall­y changing ecosystem.

“RPA the ‘Macro’s on Steroids,” said Pawan Keswani, HR, Business Partner, Juniper Networks IEC. RPA also referred as ‘Macro’s on Steroids’ is being used by high performanc­e HR Organisati­on to handle some of the mundane, repetitive task and interactio­n with existing

RPA SHALL GIVE RISE TO JOBS – Krishna Kumar, CEO and Founder, Simplilear­n RPA WILL LEAD TO NET GAIN IN JOBS – Abhiram Modak, Chief Principal Consultant, BFSI Vertical, Persistent Systems

ERP applicatio­ns/tools. This equips HR profession­als to focus more on supporting business strategies, organisati­on transforma­tion and career developmen­t programs. It’s the right antidote for automating rule based and repetitive tasks such as resume screening, offer letter administra­tion, on-boarding process, attendance management, payroll cum expense and exit formalitie­s. When designed around employee self-service process and reduction of manual processes it becomes more of process-based RPA. When infused with Machine Learning (ML) algorithms & Artificial Intelligen­ce (AI) it is more data-based RPA. Based on need, it can be the right toolkit to aid any organizati­on towards true Digital Transforma­tion.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) generally refers to ‘soft’ robots automating repetitive human tasks. There are some fears around redundancy and ‘de-offshoring’, particular­ly in destinatio­ns such as India, as being cheaper and more efficient, robots can potentiall­y be a threat to many jobs, including non-repetitive, intelligen­t ones. That said, Gartner actually predicts a ‘net gain’ of jobs due to RPA, largely on the AI side of things. Research suggests that AI is also set to create millions of new jobs; ones that will demand a re-skilled workforce. Employees should therefore prepare to learn new skills and enterprise­s will need to facilitate that. In the future, re-skilling will be the key to thriving.

A widely popular quote by the wise Bill Gates says that “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficien­t operation will magnify the inefficien­cy.” Going by this, and the ideas put forth by industry leaders one might agree that RPA will never completely replace humans, but in turn will give rise to more skilled employees. Machines and humans will need to work together in order to make any process truly efficient, and Robotic Process Automation could circumspec­tly ensure that happens.

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