Automation is inevitable. The business benefits and opportunities to introduce Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to take over mundane rule-based tasks for increased efficiency and human employee liberation are well reported. Yet, RPA at scale has been slow.
Despite the proliferation of RPA vendors and technology, in 2018, Deloitte found only 3% of businesses had achieved any notion of automation at scale. Since then, the number has doubled. Research by Deloitte based on 523 executives in 26 countries released this month found 8% of organisations worldwide have deployed over 50 automations, up from 4% in 2018.
With the adoption of automation technology, other transformative technology will follow – such as natural language processing, cognitive and machine learning. Human employees will be liberated to follow more creative and innovative work, which, often, will be at the crux of providing a better customer experience as part of delivering a business service through an end-to-end process.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is all in the distant future. Analysts are hailing 2020 as the “breakout year” for big organisational change charged by technology adoption – particularly the move from RPA to integrating other intelligent automation technology.
RPA at scale is here
Justin Watson, global robotic and intelligent automation leader at Deloitte, said: “2020 looks to be a breakout year for intelligent automation, as organisations combine robotic process automation with artificial intelligence and other technologies to enable new ways of working. By doing so, automations go beyond the routine to the innovative, from collecting and processing data to predicting, analysing and making contextual decisions.”
The Deloitte report estimates intelligent automation will provide an average cost reduction of 22% and an increase in revenue of 11% over the next three years. However, those organisations currently scaling intelligent automation say they have already achieved a 27% reduction in costs on average from their implementations to date.
The potential is realised but the practicalities are lagging. The Deloitte research also found 60% of organisations have not yet considered how automation will require their workers to retrain.
“Organisations that reimagine how they work, take advantage of a combination of human and machine workforces, and have the skills and knowledge to harness intelligent automation will be best placed to take advantage of the opportunities the technologies promise,” adds Justin.
Re-imagining how organisations work means completely rethinking how departments are structured and focusing on training. Deloitte says there’s an “urgent need” to address employee impact.
David Wright, partner at Deloitte, said: “Automation has been at the top of the business agenda for many years, promising to boost productivity, cut costs and redefine the role of the worker. It is exciting to see that the technology is finally being embraced in a sizeable way, but there is now an urgent need for leaders to address the impact it will have on the workforce. A lot more thought needs to be given to the integration of humans and machines and the new roles that will be created.”
Wright added: “It’s often anticipated that the rise of automation will result in a swathe of job cuts, but our research shows the opposite. While new roles will be created to work in tandem with machines, there will be a greater demand for more strategic and creative thinking which only humans can bring. Automation will amplify the workforce’s intelligence, not mute it. Humans are creative, strategic, tactical and inventive. Robots are better suited to tasks that humans find difficult and dislike.”
Other research firms agree. Analyst Craig Le Clair from Forrester said in a report, “Central control of robots has become a focus area […] As the market matures, features like end-to-end visibility for robots […] become a focus […]. Proper governance blurs human and robot treatment.”
If humans and digital workers are treated as a central pool of resources, skills and competencies, then the traditional siloed departmental structure will fall away. The workplace of the future will be project-based, centrally managed with deep insight and complete oversight, fluid and focused on goal business goals – like improving customer experience. Employees need preparing and training for this change.
Don't get left behind
The challenge now is keeping up with advances. A report published by the UK government last week found the UK is at risk of being left behind.
The report said: “The problem for the UK labour market and our economy is not that we have too many robots in the workplace, but that we have too few. In 2015 the UK had just 10 robots for every million hours worked, compared with 167 in Japan. By 2017, we represented just 0.6 per cent of industrial robotics shipments.
“The risk we face is not a robot takeover of our workplaces, but that our lack of adoption and the reluctance of businesses and the Government to lead the way in the Fourth Industrial Revolution means other countries will seize the initiative and take the advantage of new technologies, not least the growth and jobs they bring, while we are left behind,” adds the report.
“While we do not want to dismiss fears about technology replacing workers, we also urge policy makers, businesses and the public to think about the alternatives. If we fall further behind in productivity and the adoption of new technologies, then future investment decisions will not follow. Businesses, investment and jobs will move overseas.”
2020 will be the year of RPA at scale. Companies that miss the initial automation boat will suffer as competitors take advantage of the increased productivity, efficiency and decision-making power the new technology offers. Enate is a service orchestration SaaS platform that helps businesses wherever they are on an automation journey – preparing a human-only workforce, deploying RPA, or achieving automation at scale. Enate ensures the right task gets to the right worker at the right time to successfully manage a hybrid workforce of the future.
Deloitte’s six key factors for intelligent automation success
- Enterprise strategy for intelligent automation
- Combining robotic process automation with AI
- Technology, infrastructure and cyber security
- Mature process definitions, standards and processes
- Clear understanding of how to capture value
- Radical simplification driven by a need for cost reduction