Your Robot Replacement Has Arrived - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Software // Enterprise Applications
News
10/23/2015
12:15 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Your Robot Replacement Has Arrived

Robotic process automation can help companies operate more frugally and efficiently, though potentially at the expense of human workers.

These 8 Technologies Could Make Robots Better
These 8 Technologies Could Make Robots Better
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

When is a robot not a robot? When it's robotic process automation, or RPA.

In a new research paper, "The IT Function and Robotic Process Automation," the Outsourcing Unit at London School of Economics finds that RPA can provide a variety of business benefits, and it anticipates accelerated deployment in the years to come. The paper followed three case studies of customers of RPA-provider Blue Prism. In addition, Blue Prism partly funded the paper.

RPA is similar to business process management, but it doesn't require developers to create code. It's software.

As implemented by firms such as Automation Anywhere or Blue Prism, RPA allows people to generate code through a menu-driven drag-and-drop visual interface. That code can then handle structured, repetitive tasks like onboarding employees at a large company. Think of it as software that can be trained to operate the business applications a human would use for routine clerical or administrative work.

(Image: Blue Prism)

(Image: Blue Prism)

As the paper explains:

RPA software is ideally suited to replace humans for so called "swivel chair" processes; processes where humans take inputs from one set of systems (for example, email), process those inputs using rules, and then enter the outputs into systems of record (for example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems).

Implemented correctly, RPA can make routine human resources work, for example, more efficient and affordable by taking people out of the loop. The report concedes this could reduce the need for human resources employees.

"There would be fewer HR specialists needed overall if the volume of work was constant, but those HR specialists remaining should have more challenging work," the paper says.

This acknowledgement underscores the angst surrounding advancements in automation and artificial intelligence: Technology may allow people to focus on higher-value, less easily automated work, but it's not clear whether there will be enough of these improved jobs to go around. Nor is it obvious that what cannot be automated today will remain the province of people tomorrow.

RPA occupies a middle ground between shadow IT -- tools deployed without the oversight of IT -- and traditional IT. The paper characterizes it as "lightweight IT" in the sense that it can be begin as a project that doesn't require IT involvement, but may need IT support as it spreads through an organization. Though it tends to be business-led, it's clearly an option that IT should evaluate.

[See the real-world application of RPA. Read Using RPA in Banking to Streamline Development.]

Despite its employment implications, there's little doubt that companies can find value in RPA. The paper notes that some companies surveyed have automated more than 35% of their back-office transactions. The benefits include reduced costs, greater process efficiency and accuracy, and improved customer satisfaction.

Having analyzed the financial impact of RPA deployments at Telefonica O2, Xchanging, and an unnamed major utility, the paper cites ROI figures of 650% to 800% over three years for Telefonica OS, 30% per process (14 automated) for Xchanging, and 200% over one year for the utility.

However, the paper doesn't explore the challenge of asking people to train their computers to replace them.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2015 | 9:08:49 AM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
I don't know that I want to get too political in nature with this discussion but there are few entities with enough reach to address what will be a massive shift in the work place.  Jobs at many levels will disappear, from entry level cashiers to paralegals to accountants and researchers.  All of those people are going to be fighting in a shrinking job market. 
Ashu001
50%
50%
Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2015 | 6:54:58 AM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
SaneIT,

Agree partially with you are saying here.

However,how do we ensure that the Government does'nt spend all the money it prints or raises through Taxes on its various war-mongering Efforts overseas???

As long as we let Lobbyists control who becomes the Next President and all our Congressmen(its been routine for the last 30 years now) ;Nothing else will matter.

Best option is to starve the beast called Government by not giving it the funds in the first place.

 
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2015 | 8:20:01 AM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
I'm not looking at civil service as a military group but as a homebound missionary group.  When machines take over jobs at McDonald's I have to believe that some of the people working there could be trained to do some hands on work with civil projects like construction and renovation of aging infrastructure.   Or they could be doing clerical work for nonprofit groups.  There are a lot of options but the funding has to be there and as a country we really need to be looking at the cost of retraining the current workforce.
Ashu001
50%
50%
Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
11/17/2015 | 11:54:01 PM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
SaneIT,

While I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion(Shifting everything back onto the Public Sector is the likely solution);I wonder if that's the best way to go about things today in America.

When you say a bigger Civil Service plan ;the problem is that leads Warmongers in Chief to drag innocent Civilians to fight wars in faraway places for their personal Profitable Needs.

I am totally OPPOSED to this happening.

And I keep trying to educate more and more folks around us to understand this very serious and Grave issue.

 
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/17/2015 | 8:35:41 AM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
I think you're asking if we currently have working poor in the US and Europe and if that's what you're asking then yes we have that problem.  The average American wage earner alone would be below the poverty level for a family of 4, so a single parent with some kids is working what sounds like a good job but they aren't making enough to save.  Those that will lose jobs to machines will need some kind of re-training because there are going to be a lot of families who rely on that income to keep them above the poverty line.  Community gardening is nice and all but I think we would be best served to increase a civil service plan.  We have an aging infrastructure, bankrupt cities that can't keep up with servicing residents, etc.  Shifting the resources from the private sector to the government sector or private contractors doing government type jobs seems very likely.
Ashu001
50%
50%
Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2015 | 10:40:41 PM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
SaneIT,

The Living Wages deal scares the heck out of me!

Don't we already have something like that in US and Europe today?

I have seen studies which clearly show that it makes more sense for someone to survive on Benefits rather than work if they earn less than 50,000 Dollars /Year.

I would rather pay these folks to do something which actually adds Genuine value to Society like Growing their own food or Reducing their own Weight(Do not forget that America is the No.1 Obese Nation on the planet today) rather than pay them just for sitting around watching TV whole day.

Makes more sense to me personally.

 

 
Ashu001
50%
50%
Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2015 | 10:36:32 PM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
David,

On a Deeply philosophical level it is really a big-big deal.

I doubt most folks have the Thinking capacity to visualize what that world will look like.

I have a feeling it will look a lot like the World of "Minority Report".

LOL!

 
PedroGonzales
50%
50%
PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/30/2015 | 1:14:56 PM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
@saneIT- thanks for the clarification.  I think this is already happening in some countries.  This remains me to what happened to Spain a couple of years ago, they had 30% unemployment. Many people people migrated to other countries for work in huge numbers.  For those that stayed, people with master degree were waiting tables as it was the only job they could find.  I think if this scenario occurs in the U.S, we should have programs for people to stay busy and active, for example, volunteering, and support networks.  Also, crazy political leaders appear when people are desparate. 

 
progman2000
50%
50%
progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
10/29/2015 | 9:04:15 AM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
Yes, I agree that robot automation will likely impact jobs pretty far down on the food chain, and increase the quaility and complexity of jobs required to support the automation. I would think the majority of the people on a forum like this would be a beneficiary of such change.
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
10/29/2015 | 8:07:31 AM
Re: Layoffs, yes, but many higher level tasks remain undone
While I don't doubt that automation is going to put a lot of people out of work, I hope it raises the overall quality of available jobs as they require the sort of tasks humans are good at: improvising, creativity, empathy. As it stands there are far too many jobs that force people to act like robots. While the transition will be rough, it would be nice if those people could do something with a little more excitement to it.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Slideshows
9 Steps Toward Ethical AI
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  5/15/2019
Commentary
How to Assess Digital Transformation Efforts
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  5/14/2019
Commentary
Is AutoML the Answer to the Data Science Skills Shortage?
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  5/10/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
A New World of IT Management in 2019
This IT Trend Report highlights how several years of developments in technology and business strategies have led to a subsequent wave of changes in the role of an IT organization, how CIOs and other IT leaders approach management, in addition to the jobs of many IT professionals up and down the org chart.
Slideshows
Flash Poll