RPA is helping humans become skilled workers again!
Humans And Robots
The robots of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are helping humans to become skilled workers again! The robots in this case are not mechanical hands guided by computers but pieces of software that can be trained to carry out repetitive office tasks. Before we look at RPA in more detail, it would be interesting to take a look at the robots in the factory.
In earlier times, craftsmen found work meaningful. They needed skills to produce great products and their work was satisfying and made them proud. However, skilled work involving varied tasks was time consuming and productivity was low.
Time to Market
Taylor and Scientific Management made a big change to the scenario. Complex jobs were broken up into component tasks, each simple to perform. Each worker had to perform just one task, again and again, with chains of workers performing the complete sequence of tasks doing job. Human workers were in effect forced to become like robots, doing boring, repetitive tasks.
Things began to change again with the appearance of real robots. Robot equipment could do the routine tasks, such as putting a cap on a filled bottle. Human workers could focus on more meaningful work say, setting up the robot and checking that it is getting things needed to do its tasks.
Coming to the office of clerical tasks, we see computers taking over accounting and computational work. Accounting software could work with all the transactional data entered by the human operators and produce day books, ledgers, P&L accounts and Balance Sheets in practically no time. And tools like Excel (or the earlier Lotus 123) could do complex calculations almost instantly and generate amazingly accurate results.
Changing Market Conditions
Information Technology (IT) departments began to appear to help organisations tap the power of computers to help make better decisions by providing them timely information about what happened in the past, or what could happen under certain scenarios. They were supposed to provide complete support to the managers.
However, IT departments also needed to work on other objectives. They had to work on configuring systems to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive data. And to ensure that increasingly complex compliance requirements are met. All these additional requirements prevented them from focusing completely on business results support.
On the other hand, changing conditions in markets and work environments required changes to be made in existing systems. IT departments were not able to attend because making system changes often required a major effort and the departments were already overwhelmed with multiple tasks.
Instead, people were hired to perform many of the back office tasks that could have been done by systems. These tasks were repetitive and boring tasks more suited to robots than humans with their unique abilities to make judgements and engage in personal interactions.
It is here that RPA is making a big impact. Implementing RPA is not as disruptive as making wholesale changes to systems and the way people work. Instead, the RPA robots can be trained to do things the same way as they are being done by humans now. For example, they can read data from documents and enter them into databases, and do it far more speedily and accurately than human operators.
There are several companies that focus on building RPA suites. Examples include UIPath, BluePrism, AutomationAnywhere and more. Each suite might have a slightly different focus although most provide similar functionality. And practically all of them provide support in the form of training and other resources.
RPA could thus free humans to work on tasks requiring judgements and personal human interactions, like customer support. Implementing RPA involves training the robots, actually pieces of software, to do different tasks. It also involves that the robots have learnt things correctly and are doing things right.
RPA robots never get tired (they just pieces of code!) and work 24 hours 7 days and 365 (or 366) days a year. They don’t ask for vacations or sick leave. And once configured correctly, they don’t make mistakes. What more could you ask for?
What you might really ask for is for the human workers to remain happy. That could also happen if you focus on creating high-performing human-machine teams, instead of just replacing humans with RPA robots!
12th Wonder – helps companies to derive business value from RPA. We work with you to:
Understand work processes and identify those that can be automated to deliver business results
Select an RPA platform that is best for the selected processes in your particular environment
Automate the selected processes not only to deliver desired results but also to meet security issues
Train and support your staff to maintain the RPA solution to continue producing business outcomes
August 14, 2018
March 17, 2018