Digital transformation in the workplace is being hailed as the fourth industrial revolution, and changing how business add value,. So embracing it now could be the key to success for your business. You may have heard key terms such as Intelligent Automation (IA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) which is the backbone of digital transformation, but if you are unsure of how they could impact your career, do not worry these concepts are not as complex as they sound, and we will break them down into simpler terms for your understanding. With change comes uncertainty, and a natural fear of job loss, but at the same time there is also ample opportunity in leveraging IA and RPA to enhance and develop your career. It’s a lot easier than you think, read on to learn more.
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
In simple terms, RPA is low-code software that can be programmed to record a simple process and then can repeat that process over and over again. RPA is the number one, fastest growing technology in the digital transformation space. If used correctly it can be implemented to save time and money.
How can RPA be put into practice?
Simple, for example if you use a macro on excel, you can record a few steps of the process you follow and then press play to see that same process run in a loop until it’s completed the list of items you’ve set. You can even edit the underlying code or build the process from scratch; the RPA process is pretty much this but faster and more sophisticated. As long as the steps are logical, and do not require intuition or judgement, RPA can be used on any combination of desktop applications, web applications and websites, the options are limitless.
RPA is more similar to an automated person than a piece of software as it uses the user interface just like you and I would, by clicking on things like buttons and links, and typing as if it was using the keyboard. It’s almost like training a new hire to conduct specific repetitive tasks such as:
· Copy and pasting data from one system to the next.
· Entering data into an application from a spreadsheet.
· Updating financial information from an invoice.
These are just some examples of what can be done with Robotic Process Automation. It’s almost like outsourcing simpler tasks to a virtual assistant that will save you time and allow you to focus on more complex tasks which require your input and decision making, the more creative work.
Where did RPA come from?
The concept of RPA (the use of macros, screen-scrapping and recording) has been around since the 90’s, however a software company called Blue Prism launched a more user-friendly product called “Automate” in 2003.
When talking about Blue Prism shaping IA today, the SVP of Blue Prism Danny Major has said, “Intelligent automation is fundamentally changing how businesses reimagine ways of working with a unified workforce, digital first, people enriched. We’re ready to assist business leaders by bringing our understanding of intelligent automation tools and giving them the capabilities and insight they need to help it become the foundational operating system in the enterprise.”
This is when RPA began to gain popularity, it came about for two reasons:
· When overseas labour costs were rising, and businesses needed to reduce costs.
· Companies became overly data hungry and demanded more tech to keep up with rising customer demands for faster services, more ways to purchase things, and improved customer service and experiences.
In reality it was difficult for tech departments to keep up with the demands, this is when RPA become a faster solution to solve technical issues in a matter of months or even weeks.
Process automation can be seen as the backbone of digital transformation to modern businesses with slow process and clunky ancient applications, or make even fairly modern business operate a lot faster and smoother by:
· Reducing queues
· Reducing errors
· Save time on simple tasks so staff can spend more time on customer service
· A better understanding of what was going on in the backend of the business
· Achieving a better work life balance and a better user experience
How can you outline an RPA process?
If you can draw out each step of a process and a simple guide on how each decision can be made (without human input) then this process could be automated by a robot. A simple example would be:
1. Click on Google Chrome icon
2. Type Yahoo Finance web address
3. Type stock name on excel (APPL)
4. Then you can create decision:
a. If price is down – click buy
b. If price up – click sell
5. Close down Google Chrome
Will bots replace us and take our jobs?
No one wants to feel like their job may be at risk, but with the development of new technology there will always understandably be a fear of job loss. Those who do not fully understand RPA and AI may also feel this way, but if you examine the possible implementations of this technology, you will quickly come to realise that it should be celebrated and not feared. The aim of PRA is to reduce the amount of time spent on mundane, repetitive tasks to free up time for more intellectually stimulating and satisfying work, leading to a more purposeful role, ‘Automation should take the robot out of the human’.
Despite the scare mongering online, AI is miles away from being smart enough to replace humans and new technologies tend to create more jobs (look at personal computers, internet, mobile phones). They create new industries, new jobs, or new ways of working. It is an evolution, and there will of course be jobs that are replaced, but smart companies are upskilling staff on how to use automation to do more. We often see the loss of knowledge and skillsets when staff leave the company, and new staff have to be trained to replace them, but some of this may now be automated. Automation typically opens new avenues to meet customer needs and allows us to focus more on interesting and creative work. The real value of a business is and always will be in its staff.
How can I learn more about RPA?
Automation and AI has helped to significantly improve our lives over the past few years in ways you might not even realise, from saving us time to narrowing down the number of choices we have to suit our personal characteristics. The algorithms used for Siri, Alexa, and Uber are all based on AI, and even the algorithm on Netflix which suggests recommendations of what to watch next, that saves us hours of time scrolling to find something we’d like to watch. There are many ways you can use PRA and IA to improve your business too, and it’s not as difficult as you may think.
Like and subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.