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What is Stopping Robotic Process Automation?

May 17, 2017

 

“Oh, so you are here to take away our jobs?”

 

This is by far the most common response we get from our clients when we make our initial pitch to them.

 

For Robotic Process Automation (RPA) practitioners like us, this topic is the elephant in the room that we sometimes dread to tread.

 

To be sure, we are sympathetic to these concerns. After all, with the ability to mimic human actions like mouse clicks and keyboard strokes, there are a lot of tasks that software bots do perform cheaper, faster, better than human employees.

 

So what gives?

 

To take the high road, our argument would be that software bots help to automate the mundane and repetitive tasks that no humans like to do. By freeing them of these dreary activities, we enable them to focus on more meaningful, differentiated work instead.

 

For added emphasis, we go back into history on how industrial robots automated production in the shop floor during the Second Industrial Revolution. And glazing into our crystal ball, we will boldly proclaim that in the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution, administrative or clerical work in your (digital) office will be automated away in a similar manner.

 

To drive the nail into the coffin (of these mundane tasks), we will throw in an admonition of the following garden-variety:

 

“If we do not disrupt ourselves in a manner of our choosing, somebody else will do so in a manner we do not like.”

 

 

It’s debatable what one achieves by following this well-worn path – grudging acceptance of the inevitable, or perhaps more likely (we suspect), denial and/or anger at the inevitable.

 

We do not have an answer to this conundrum (yet).

 

But as the RPA and Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry matures rapidly, we believe this is food for thought for all practitioners and vendors out there.

 

Perhaps some of you will point out that all we need to do is to obtain buy-in from the boards and managements. And the business case is really self-explanatory and maybe even irresistible.

 

But as the more astute readers among you will know, the success of any RPA endeavors requires the support of the rank-and-file – the users. For example, even before you can automate any tasks, you need to document the “as-is” in as much details as possible. That is not something the management can help you with. You will need to work closely with the users to get the process mapped out. And if your users are worried about losing their jobs, you can bet your last dollar this exercise is going to be a challenge.

 

So, showing huge doses of empathy when interacting with the clients, particularly at the user level, will be extremely helpful for a start.

 

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