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Webinar Notes: The End of Outsourcing? RPA is Here to Stay

These notes are from an August 18th webinar by the Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA). The primary speakers were Barry Matthews Managing Director at Alsbridge, and Eric Shander, Vice President of Global Technology Services at IBM Global Services.

I’ve been covering all of the Robotis Process Automation (RPA) events based on IRPA’s recently released ebook meant to educate people about RPA. The most important things to know are that RPA is best suited to logic-based, repeatable tasks currently performed by in house employees or third party outsourcers. In some cases, robots can even provide governance or oversight of other robots. The other thing to know is that these aren’t mechanical robots – they are software robots: programs designed to handle tasks and learn over time.

The piece of this particular event that I found the most compelling was the potential for negative impact, or the ‘bad and ugly’ as they put it in the webinar. Let’s face it, as much as people decry the impact of offshoring, RPA’s cost structure and scalability raises a significantly larger concern about job loss. The honest truth is that RPA will have an effect on jobs, but it may not be quite what people think.

Low cost labor, such as is provided in the ‘BRIC’ nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, is more likely to be affected by RPA than high-margin knowledge based economies. And yet, those countries, and India in particular, have been seeing non-linear growth, meaning that profits and revenues are growing while headcount is not.

Many of the positions that will be affected by RPA have been problematic for years because they are tactical, low satisfaction roles naturally resulting in high attrition and turnover. The cost to keep those positions filled, and to compete for available labor, is significant enough to change the value equation for companies looking to outsourcing there.

For teams that are looking to augment their own in house capacity or capabilities, RPA presents an opportunity to continue completing tactical responsibilities without any additional headcount. It also creates new opportunities as process automation leads to increased data for analytics and complex decision making. One of the scary challenges this may present for teams leveraging RPA is that the available data may raise the bar for what is expected of the human members of the team – requiring the team to cycle out skill sets of diminished value and bring in ones that can best leverage the information created by the robots.

Getting the business aligned to support RPA – now that is a challenge. Significant investment in change management will be required. In order to be effective, groups implementing RPA will have to do more than explain the capabilities of RPA. They will have to explain the intended changes to the organization in terms of new results and better results.

To read my other posts on RPA, click here.

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Thursday, 21 September 2017