The popular topic of robotization of work has recently evoked various reactions. Will robots replace us? Will robotization increase unemployment? Is RPA (Robotic Process Automation) a threat to employees? Those are important questions, although it is better to change the perspective! As an RPA practitioner, I know that robotization can play different roles in organizations – for example, strengthening employees’ involvement in their duties.
In this article you will discover:
- How can robots help us in our work?
- How to communicate a change related to the implementation of RPA effectively?
- How to convince employees to cooperate on solutions?
- What could be RPA’s role in the organization?
Someone (robot) writes so that someone (man) can develop
I am currently writing this article while sitting on the train between Toruń and Warsaw. As probably most and many of you in the same situation, instead of working I would like to read a book – this is one of my favorite activities. But since the train journey is conducive to reflection, a certain observation has come to my mind: why couldn’t a robot write this article for me while I would be focused on gaining knowledge? And that’s the most important question in this article, because the essence of RPA – Robotic Process Automation – and its role in modern organizations are embedded in it.
I have recently come across a very interesting article about Automated Journalism (also known as Robot Journalism or Algorithmic Journalism). These are expert and journalistic articles created or co-created by robots. This is already happening. Do you read The Washington Post or Forbes? There is a good chance that you gain knowledge about finance, business or management from robots. Bertie and Heliograf (names of algorithms ‘working’ for both newspapers) are able to create hundreds of articles a year. One of the leaders – and pioneers – in this area is Bloomberg, which has been using the Cyborg program for years to create up to thousands of articles a year!
Will robots replace us at work? This is the wrong question to ask!
These numbers are impressive – after all, how many articles would one human write at the same time? The first intuitive reaction which comes to mind? Robots are the competition for professional journalists. However, that is not the point. It is not about specialistic economic journalism, but content containing financial reports, which are then automatically processed by the algorithm into fully-fledged business reports. Most of these publications are rather collections of dry facts dressed in a typical journalistic form than fully-fledged works of human authorship, which have a persuasive or even aesthetic function. Is such a form sufficient for a modern audience? Or rather, does it reduce the message? I leave these questions unanswered, because that is not what is most essential here.
The most important factor is that The Washington Post established Heliograf not to replace the editors – but to give them more time to create high quality articles that require critical analysis of sources or reaching out to their interlocutors. In short, to make their work easier and faster, to relieve them of the work that is most time-consuming and to support them in their daily duties. And that’s what we expect from RPA in business in general. Properly conducted business process robotization guarantees greater work efficiency.
Robotic Process Automation – where to begin?
Robotization seems to be a technology reserved for the business world, while its possibilities will be useful in practically every organization – in banks, self-service stores, public institutions or car washes. However, will it look the same everywhere? Definitely not – every organization has its own work rhythm, culture, approach to solving problems and vision of the future. Supporting the company in its development, in a direction consistent with its DNA – this is another fundamental goal of Robotic Process Automation. The work on its implementation must be carefully planned.
It is very often the case that our Business Process Automation Competence Center receives customers who want to invest in RPA in their company. Where do we start the conversation from? From getting to know the organization. We talk to IT architects, infrastructure representatives and the wider IT community, but also to business representatives and decision makers.
Are you implementing an RPA? Communicate honestly and with empathy
Why do we do it? Implementation of new solutions requires first of all understanding of the organization and its needs. It is also necessary to clearly communicate to all employees why we make a change and what it will result in. Ignoring such honest communication may result in some degree of suspicion and even understandable resistance to the implementation of such new technology. However, concerns can be managed when you know them. A common need, on the other hand, unites, and the same goal motivates. The supporters of the change towards automation accelerate its implementation, become its ambassadors, focus on benefits, not obstacles. This is an optimal situation that we should strive for.
So how to do it? Emphasizing the financial benefits for the company is necessary, but not enough. IF we take a look at numbers, finances, reports – we may show efficiency because we possibly hire less people. For an employee, however, this may mean that the robot takes over his duties – and takes his job. In my opinion, the best communication is one that, through empathy, allows both perspectives to be considered. After all, there is one goal – to release the employee’s creativity. Hiring a robot to perform repetitive and monotonous tasks will give the worker a chance to catch his breath during the day and let him believe that his strongest point is creativity and problem-solving. Moreover, it is thanks to RPA and robotization that he will find time and space to develop ideas that can increase the quality of services or reduce operating costs. The potential is in people!
Implementing an RPA is a benefit for the employee
It is important to remember that we cannot leave our artificial collaborator alone. Someone has to teach it its duties from the very beginning, someone has to check the validity of its actions (monitoring), someone has to show it the right way if it gets lost (process modelling). And this is best done by the person who has so far been performing these tasks.
Working with Robotic Process Automation is also a development opportunity for the employee. It requires new skills, which are likely to be very desirable on the market in the future. One of these skills is to interpret the performance of the robot, constantly improve the process, make necessary modifications, take care of teaching the robot new cases.
Emphasizing these benefits of the introduction of RPA in the company will allow to gain more support of employees and even engage them in co-creating new processes.
RPA’s role in the organization? There are a lot of them!
Depending on the type of company or its needs, there are many ways in which organizations can define the role of business process robotization. Examples?
- Support in accounting – automation of issuing, distribution and acceptance of invoices,
- HR – receiving a CV and its appropriate categorization based on the analysis of information in candidates’ documents,
- banking and finance – card activation, debt collection,
- insurance – claims handling,
- healthcare – automation of reports, support of reconciliations,
- hi-tech & telco – order management, service activation,
- regardless of the sector – quality management processes, call-center processes (e.g. automatic callback using Skype or other services, message reading), IT service support.
Everywhere you go, RPA can unlock the potential of an employee who has been involved in repetitive activities until now. What’s more, if properly implemented, RPA can even increase its level of involvement, as it eliminates the factor of boredom and effort and reduces the risk of making minor mistakes. The results of The Impact Of RPA On Employee Experience conducted by Forrester Consulting confirm the results: 57% of companies reported an increase in the overall level of employee engagement. The same report points to other RPA benefits: for 86% of organizations, the implementation of RPA meant an increase in work efficiency, and for 71% of them, a reduction in manual tasks.
Will there be anything to be afraid of at this point? Will robots that automate work quickly replace us? I doubt it – some tasks, requiring e.g. taking into account the cultural and social context, will still be too difficult for robots in the near future. However, I’m sure that the use of automation at work already takes place and it depends on us how the cooperation between humans and robots will look like in the future. Let’s make the most out of it so that we have more time to realize our ideas in our professional and private lives. Let’s open up space for our creativity – and accept the important role of robots in this!