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Accelerating RPA and adopting automation first mindset


Johannesburg, 18 Nov 2019
Read time 5min 10sec
Allen Pascoe, Divisional Head, RPA, Datafinity
Allen Pascoe, Divisional Head, RPA, Datafinity

“Our experience to date in the RPA space is that our clients are waking up to the robotic process automation (RPA) wave taking the world by storm. Companies are identifying with the new disruptive technology that assists with the automation of mundane tasks being performed by humans, allowing them to focus on other tasks in their workday that require more cognitive and value-added intervention,” says Allen Pascoe, Divisional Head RPA at Datafinity.

It’s a known fact that the challenges facing organisations, in spite of technological tools available, still include realities like paper-based processes, lack of control, inability to retrieve documents at speed, inefficient processes that lack clear roles and rules, multiple technology solutions that do not necessarily connect to each other, legislative requirements not being met, shortage of resources, financial constraints, unprecedented growth requiring concomitant support and collaboration between multiple resources, etc.

In conjunction with the disruptive technologies like cloud, IOT, AI and the like, companies are finding it difficult to remain focused on the best means to find a way to remain relevant, competitive and still add value to the client.

Digital transformation is defined as the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It's also a cultural change that requires organisations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment and get comfortable with failure. (Ref: The Enterprisers Project) According to The Economist, 93% of organisations say automation kickstarts digital transformation. (Ref: The Economist “Advance of Automation Survey”)

“Coming over the horizon is a new wave of opportunity related to the use of robotics, machine learning and AI. Companies that deploy automation technologies can realise substantial performance gains and take the lead in their industries, even as their efforts contribute to economy-level increases in productivity.” (Ref: McKinsey Global Institute, 2017) Gartner has forecast that the RPA software market will grow by 41% year on year through 2022. Technology leaders and executives need to capitalise on this expected RPA growth by developing resources that allow adopters to more readily scale their RPA deployments. (Ref: Gartner, 20 June 2017)

UiPath has coined the term ‘automation first era’, which subscribes to the tenants of one’s first instinct when faced with a work task challenge being to think of automating the tasks. The automation solution will alleviate the mundane and free up the workforce to perform more challenging work and solve more work-related challenges. (Ref: UiPath 2019)

“We are finding that once the workforce experiences the ease and speed of deployment, they are identifying numerous tasks that they want automated. So much so that the development team has had to create a priority pipeline to manage the increasing demand. It is exciting to see how quickly people are adopting the technology once thought of as the ‘replacer’ of jobs,” says Pascoe.

The continuous improvement of RPA cognitive functions like AI, ML, NLP, etc, is making the incorporation of RPA software into business processes more feasible and allowing companies to deliver quicker, more relevant and competitive solutions to their customers. Efficiency gains in the form of increased productivity, cheaper resource utilisation and others are convincing executives that RPA cannot be ignored in their C-suite conversations and future planning.

It is common cause that there is not a single discipline within the organisation that cannot ignore the use of RPA as a tool to differentiate and optimise operations. Just about any line of business, eg, finance, supply chain, IT, HR, marketing, legal, etc, are candidates for RPA adoption. This means that executives and managers need to be asking themselves critical questions related to the notion of an ‘automation first’ mindset, as this may be the defining differentiator allowing the competitive advantage not only from a commercial perspective but also from a technological and human resource factor.

The future world of work as we know it has changed. According to Pascoe, the fear of job loss needs to be a discussion point for the HR and OD leadership and practical and creative models need to be identified to capitalise on these changes and the effect they will have on existing work landscapes. Thinking out-of-the box has never been more relevant and topical. Pascoe is of the opinion that as tasks are automated, job content will certainly decrease, and so roles and job constructs will have to be amended. However, history has shown that these perceived job thieves (ie, robots) are merely paving the way for types of tasks and jobs to be created, jobs that have not even been conceptualised yet. “We are still at the early phase of adoption and maturity and therefore this is a learning phase that needs to be carefully deconstructed and analysed so creativity and innovation foster a parallel wave of leadership and developmental solutions.

“We are truly living in exciting times, and the adage that ‘you cannot teach an old dog new tricks’ has never been so untrue in the times we are currently experiencing. It is all of our responsibility to critically review our status with regard the future world of work and to ensure that our skills and competencies remain relevant and applicable. To experience the excitement and revelation of RPA adoption's effects has truly been an eye-opener,” relays Pascoe. “I am privileged to be part of the RPA wave and to evangelise the technology and assist customers in finding practical and commercially sound arguments for automation.”

In summary, RPA technology is fast evolving to becoming one of the world’s largest technology disruptors and enablers. How ready are you and your organisation for the so-called fourth industrial revolution?

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