RPA: Some considerations for business leaders
The advantages of automation are clear and have been discussed at length – there is no arguing that automation brings the possibility of working 24/7, no human error and consistent quality. Further, technology is easier to buy than people – though good people are assets to any company.
On the other hand, some are concerned about the technology’s maintenance, its life cycle and operating costs. While technology is expensive, it is still more affordable than paying an employee salary and benefits, and learning how to address the aforementioned concerns may actually be an opportunity to create new positions within an organization and re-allocate resources. Technologies are always advancing and organizations often change their processes – so the C-suite, especially CIOs and CFOs need think broadly throughout the entire enterprise and assess which opportunities are worth pursuing for automation implementing and which would benefit from staying as they are.
In the second part of our RPA series we mentioned, that humans and robots will be working alongside each other. When identifying key strategic opportunities, one of these will be defining the clear division of labour between the robot and the human. Does the human worker need to receive training for new skills, or will they continue to hone whatever value they bring that the robot cannot? If the former is the case, then leaders need to identify what kind of training the employees will require that will differentiate them from their competition and optimize their cooperation with the robot.
Perhaps the closest service to RPA is BPO (Business Process Outsourcing). With BPO, the team in contact with the newly created offshore team needs to carve-out the work, define clear responsibilities and establish SLAs (Service Line Agreements). The team also needs additional upskilling – not only in terms of what to do and not to do. The team also needs to be trained according to cultural differences and sensitivities, language and communication form (ie. calls, emails) and style. Additionally, anyone who has been through a BPO project knows the importance of change management. We have witnessed strikes where human workers protested that their work could not be offshored. With RPA, we see the BPO parallels more clearly with our partners and clients. RPA projects are typically divided into two general phases:
- Very optimistic acceptance of the new technology and
- a self-defence reaction from the organization.
Upskilling employees and proper communication needs to happen from the very beginning, even during the optimistic phase. This only can ensure that the self-defence reaction will not involve into a strike or worse – crippling the organization.
Organizational leaders are primarily concerned with keeping their clients, and their clients’ clients happy. So, how do they do this when considering whether or not to implement a digital workforce? According to our global survey, “The robots are ready – are you?,” reducing costs have traditionally been the main reason for implementing RPA. While cost reduction were realized for 61% of respondents within one year of an implementation, 81% could see the productivity benefits. Findings show that while reducing costs is certainly a high on the list of priorities, automation brings other important benefits. Business leaders therefore, need to establish their business strategy, identify competitors and assess the market place for opportunities. They need to focus on the customer problems before they focus on the technologies in order to address what changes need to be made, and how implementing a digital workforce can attain their realization.