Colin Redbond, Head of Technology Strategy at Blue Prism, explains to
Information Age what robotic process automation means to the economy, beyond saving time and money and how future employees can be prepared for a new world of work.

We cannot just expect the next generation to automatically adapt to a completely new mindset – the industry needs to pave the way.

The benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are often talked about in one of two ways – it is either going to save businesses time or it is going to drastically cut costs. Both of these viewpoints hold truth, but neither demonstrate the real impact that RPA can have. The full impact of the technology lies in unleashing the potential of the human workforce.

The strain is real
Businesses need to be efficient. This means doing more with less budget, time and resources. Yet at the same time, they must meet the needs of increasingly demanding customers who, more often than not, expect a 24/7 service. Coupled with the fact that in many countries workforces are shrinking, this creates a huge strain on the traditional talent pool. In this environment, businesses must consider automating tasks to not only meet increasing demands but to free up human staff to take on more strategically valuable and fulfilling tasks.

Underestimating automation
RPA frees staff to take on more strategic roles, by absorbing the time-consuming, process-based tasks that humans are often caught up in. In turn, employees don’t spend as much time doing repetitive, admin-based tasks and can take on more fulfilling responsibilities. This boosts staff satisfaction and employee engagement. For example, Telefonica O2 implemented RPA and experienced an 80% reduction in customer chasing calls. This enabled huge sections of its workforce to refocus a lot of their time on more valuable tasks, not to mention the time and cost savings brought back into the business.

The benefits and opportunities of RPA are underestimated. Yes, businesses can save time and money through automating certain processes of their workforce, but this does not remove the need for humans. Recent research from PwC suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) will create as many jobs as it displaces in the next 20 years. It is estimated that around 7 million existing jobs could be automated, but around 7.2 million could be created. The healthcare sector could see a job increase of almost 1 million, which is around 20% of existing jobs in the sector. RPA has more benefits than reducing time and costs for businesses, it augments and extends the possibilities of the human workforce.

Implementing RPA will usher in a new wave of economics, through opening up a huge range of opportunities for existing employees. The result for the business? A workforce where people are reaching their full potential. The question is, are humans prepared for this change?

Preparing for the future
To reap the full benefits of RPA, we must be prepared for the shift in jobs. The thought of robots taking on monotonous, time-consuming tasks might sound appealing, but employers and employees must consider the skills required for stepping up to more strategic roles. Automation is already at the heart of many modern businesses, but we need to think beyond the existing workforce needing to adapt to a new style of work. Educating the next generation of workers about the full impact of automation, what this means for their careers, and building a skill set to compliment a partly automated workforce is critical.

There is a great deal to be gained from businesses collaborating with educational institutions to ensure the next generation are well equipped for this shift. We cannot just expect the next generation to automatically adapt to a completely new mindset – the industry needs to pave the way.

As customer demands increase and talent pools shrink, global economies are facing crunch time. Speculation on the future job market is one thing, but businesses need to do more than just simply accept job roles will change. Instead, they need to put the infrastructure and supporting structure in place to enable people to realise this change and learn the right skills needed for the future of work.

Sourced by Colin Redbond, Head of Technology Strategy at Blue Prism



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