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RPA: The Robots Are Not Taking Over The Office

Robot Process Automation (RPA) is an emerging technology that has been grouped with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a way that suggests we are about to see an end to many jobs – the robots will be taking over. Don’t believe the hype.

RPA is a useful tool, but many of the business journals focus too much on the possibilities for automation and forget many of the realities. To make automation work well requires a detailed plan and governance model. You can create an enormous amount of data from an RPA project, but if you want to do anything with that data then you need data analysts and some idea of what you are looking for.

Buying an RPA solution involves work and people – it’s not a silver bullet. Some of the best analysis on this has come from Phil Fersht at HfS Research. A recent blog by Phil and Elena Christopher outlines seven of the most misunderstood facts around RPA. Some of those facts that I believe are the most important from this list include:

  1. RPA directly replaces people: RPA is really focused on augmenting processes and increasing productivity. It’s a tool to help people do more, not to replace people. In fact, in the HfS research they found that only 7% of RPA implementations had any expectation that headcount would be reduced.
  2. RPA can scale rapidly across the enterprise: RPA isn’t so smart. It can’t just automatically learn about your business and start automating everything. You will usually be moving project by project so it takes time to scale up.
  3. RPA delivers intelligence: RPA is a tool that helps you to automate processes. It can create more productivity and lead to intelligence or insight, but it does not automatically create this. You need to plan for insights into your data in addition to the RPA project.

I really like the approach that HfS has taken because they are looking at real implementations and not just buying the hype from the business media or RPA software suppliers. RPA is a valuable tool, but it needs to be approached as one tool in a wider business strategy – not a silver bullet that can introduce business intelligence and reduce headcount all at the same time.

HfS has called out the valuations of many of the top RPA software companies – even suggesting that they are insane. As the industry analysts, that’s for Phil and Elena to make a call on, but their point is that many people genuinely misunderstand RPA.

Don’t get sucked into the media hype. RPA is valuable and could play an important role in helping your business, but we are not about to see the robots take over every job in the office. RPA augments people and creates more efficient and productive operations.

Check out the complete list of HfS insights here and let me know what you think by leaving a comment here or get in touch directly via my LinkedIn profile.

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