RPA is here to stay. Can companies remain oblivious?


Robotic process automation, simply known as RPA, came to light in the early 2000s. In the current context, its capabilities are extended with the use of several technologies such as process mining, optical character recognition (OCR), analytics, user experience (UX), artificial intelligence (AI), big data, machine learning (ML), and speech recognition technologies.

The evolution of automation was accelerated with the introduction of ML and natural language processing (NLP) in the 1960s, which enabled computers to understand human language. Therefore, characteristics of both ML and NLP can be seen within the RPA technology today. Although RPA emerged in the 90s, significant developments to this technology were done in the early 2000s. However, RPA remained unknown until around 2015, where it started to become the hot topic in digital transformation. The potential savings from RPA for companies by 2025 is estimated at USD 5 to 7 trillion. So, it’s evident that RPA is in it for the long haul and will continue to improve its capabilities with the advancement of related technologies.

We know of many global companies that have eventually died because their business models didn’t adapt to changing environments and evolving technology – Kodak, Nokia, Yahoo, Motorola, Sony, and National Geographic are a few examples. Who would have thought small startups would supersede these corporate giants. This is not to say that all companies should adopt RPA for survival, but they should keep a close eye on emerging technologies in order to adapt faster. If an organization has traditional, time-consuming operational processes, it is unlikely that it will create customer-centric products with cutting-edge technology. Most likely, the same characteristics within the organization will be reflected across their customers as well. Therefore, streamlining processes is a stepping stone for providing better customer service and products.

We are living in an era of digital and social revolution where people are expected to fulfil more than just the survival requirements and basic standard at a job – but they seek quality of job and opportunities to learn. This is a driving factor in encouraging companies to adopt new technologies such as RPA; organizations need to keep their most valuable resource satisfied; their employees.

Are bots taking over our jobs?

RPA is widely used in banking, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, customer service, finance, HR, telecommunication, healthcare and the food & beverage sectors, where organizations have reaped the benefit of operational cost reduction and process streamlining. However, the proliferation of RPA has given birth to a misconception leading to job insecurity—that RPA will take over jobs performed by humans. A study done by Harvard Business Review states that most organizations that adopt RPA have ensured their employees that automation will not lead to layoffs. Instead, it’s simply used to eliminate the repetitive mundane work that adds no value to employees. RPA will replace tasks, not jobs.

When working in a dynamic environment, being a knowledge worker will add little value unless they adapt  as learning workers to define their success and career progression. RPA will assist employees in their transition from Knowledge Worker to Learning Worker by taking off tasked identified as BAU.

When adopting RPA, an organization  must provide visibility to their  employees at san early stage. Getting the buy-in of operational-level employees will help in the successful implementation of RPA projects. However, with bots taking over the repetitive, mundane activities in an organization, there will be a decrease in the demand for low-skilled offshore workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

In the last few decades, advances in technology have created unimaginable possibilities, including space travel! With so much potential to change the way we work, spending valuable time entering data from a spreadsheet to a system is clearly a productivity killer. However, 50 years from now, all these repetitive and non-value-adding jobs will be considered a thing of the past. Consequently, there’s no doubt that RPA will touch upon organizations in different industries at some level to get rid of their tedious work and streamline their processes. It’s only a matter of time when these companies will join the race, and in the future, RPA may be a technology that will shape the growth and even survival of certain organizations.

Written by:

Shihari Chandrasekara

Business Analyst at Fortude