To hear it told in the media, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the latest must-have technology. But what is RPA? Does it have anything to do with robots? Not exactly.RPA technology takes the drudgery out of data entry; it removes all those repetitive, boring tasks that humans do and replaces them with a software solution. A digital workforce is more efficient and more accurate. It automates rule-based tasks in industry and offices.
So why has it suddenly such an IT rock star? Analysts forecast that in as few as three years RPA will be a $1 billion market with 40% of large global organizations using it to automate work activities.
Another reason is because RPA pundits promise a return on investment anywhere from 30% to 300% in the first year. Why? Operational efficiencies are paramount to any organization wanting to save costs. And deploying human beings to perform simple keystroke entry and other manual, repetitive chores is inefficient. Using RPA, companies can move the human employees on to more valuable and productive activities.
RPA is also contentious; more automation tends to lead to fewer jobs. In human resources, where the on-boarding process is repetitive and detail-oriented, it is estimated that 72% of employers believe that many HR roles will be automated by 2028.
Many fear that artificial intelligence software, which augments RPA by making automation smarter, will lead to further job losses. But there is also an argument that RPA will create new jobs. “In 2018, 9% of US jobs will be lost to automation, partly offset by a 2% growth in jobs supporting the “automation economy,” according to Forrester. The consultant said that these would be mainly back-office, administrative, sales, and call center jobs.
Any job creation will come from the need for people to support RPA and AI projects. “Future net job loss as a result of automation is much overstated,” said Leslie Willcocks, Professor of Work, Technology and Globalization in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics.
“The deployment of such technologies will take a lot longer than many assume. Meanwhile shortfalls in productivity, dramatic increases in the amount of work we have to do, and skills shortages – amongst other factors, for example job creation – are being seriously underestimated,” he added.
RPA comes in three speeds, according to Willcocks:
- Screen or web scraping.
- A self-development kit where a template is provided and specialist programmers work to develop the program.
- Enterprise software that can be scaled and is reusable.
At Software AG we call this “Business Process Automation” and we have been doing it for years. Our Digital Business Platform pairs webMethods Dynamic Apps with RPA to enable process automation from RPA to IoT and back-end systems. It adds predictive models and rules to enable intelligent decisions; users can model, deploy and execute to show value early and often.
Now that you know what RPA is, in our next post we will discuss the benefits of RPA.
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