The emerging set of capabilities and associated technologies enabling the automation of knowledge work through Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the great disruptors facing organizations in the coming years. For the chief information officer (CIO), RPA represents a tremendous opportunity for the IT function to provide considerable new value to the business—an opportunity that the CIO cannot afford to ignore.
History has shown that non-IT business units are fast to adopt game-changing technology that is accessible to them directly. As an example, when Software as a Service (SaaS) came to market, many business units chose to rapidly adopt various SaaS platforms without a high level of involvement from the CIO. Today, this scant CIO involvement has created various issues for IT beyond supportability, including architecture, security, governance, and compliance concerns.
Automating business processes with bots is expected to become a large opportunity for almost every enterprise. Overall, analysts expect the impact to reach more $9 trillion and affect 230 million knowledge workers. And recent research from London School of Economics suggests return on investment of between 600 percent and 800 percent for specific tasks.
Today’s RPA technologies can automate:
- Transaction processing and repetitive tasks
- Periodic reporting and data analysis
- Data entry and replication (e.g. forms)
- Import/export of data between systems
- Cross-system or “swivel chair” processing
- Mass mail generation, follow-ups, archiving and tracking
- Repetitive keystrokes and mouse tasks
- Database creations, edits, retrievals
Smarter bots, smarter business
The market is quickly embracing more fully cognitive solutions with that learn from experience and expand their knowledge base. They use predictive capabilities to infer solution options and make operational decisions. Rather than a bot that can replicate or streamline processes, cognitive technologies, such as IBM’s Watson, utilize artificial intelligence and evidence-based learning to apply knowledge as a mechanism to solve business challenges.
Impacts on the organization
Bots – whether for automating processes or self-learning to solve problems faster than human workers – will undoubtedly change the landscape of and need for physical labor. Many individuals will not be able to adequately adapt to the emerging skill set needs, requiring preparation and re-skilling for both employees and employers.
As digital technologies continue to enable and advance RPA, there is not one single catalyst, but a confluence of many technologies: low-cost computing & storage, machine learning, natural language recognition and processing, unfettered access to “big data” and “The Internet of Things (IoT)” – all coming together.
RPA will continue to evolve, creating an ecosystem where humans and bots will likely exist in the same workflow, but bots aren’t subject to the same time constraints as human users: They don’t need to adhere to work hours and can process work much faster. As parts of a process are automated, and other parts remain the same, being able to predict where and to what degree bottlenecks will occur allows for better resource planning and a positive downstream impact on the overall success and return on investment.