Key RPA Trends
On 11 June this year prominent thought leaders of the RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) industry gathered for the 3rd Annual AI and RPA Summit in Berlin for 3 days of insight, discussion and debate. The event organised by the AI & Intelligent Automation Network and SSON (Shared Services & Outsourcing Network) is the ‘go-to’ event in the RPA and AI calendar. This year was no exception with the world's leading businesses represented including ENGIE by Martin Ruane, Programme Director for RPA.
ENGIE were an early adopter of RPA technology in 2014, launching a Centre of Excellence in 2016. Along the way ENGIE have secured 2 UK national awards; recognised for using this innovative technology for the benefit of our customers. The innovative culture created at ENGIE is allowing new ideas to flourish and is a key part of ENGIE's Transformation Strategy.
RPA is software that copies a users' actions on any application to create an automated process. AI or Cognitive software uses inference-based algorithms to process structured and unstructured data to provide probabilistic outcomes, e.g. Chatbots.
There are some key trends coming out of this years’ conference, which point to a thriving industry that is going through an exponential growth curve. There are some key challenges for adopters of the technology, but the general mood is positive. We are also starting to see the scope of automation extending, with cognitive starting to gain traction. Here is a breakdown of the key trends.
Increasing the Reach of Automation
Some organisations that are mature users of RPA are starting to look at how it can work with cognitive software. There are currently very few use cases of cognitive systems, with some notable examples. An Australian University is using chatbots to deal with student enquiries for the voice channel and there are a handful of cases of bots understanding and responding to emails. Some businesses are starting to look at process mining, which tracks the digital footprint of a process in an application, as a way to identify the optimal RPA processes.
Automation Capacity and Skills
‘Botshoring’ has arrived. Rather than as expected RPA doesn't appear to be the end of offshoring. Rather there is a trend to locate RPA development capacity in low cost areas including Costa Rica, Brazil, China, India and Eastern Europe. There is a global skills shortage, with many businesses using agency or consultants to supplement capacity. Demand for RPA will continue so businesses need to adopt a robust skills and retention strategy.
RPA is now mainstream with up to 70% of businesses adopting the technology and the biggest users appear to be shared service centres. Something that could start to shake up the market are the introduction of Bots As A Service models, where you only pay for the resource you require.. The traditional license deal involving the purchase of multiples licenses may be running out of time, which is good news for small organisations as this type of deal can present a real barrier.
Is the future of RPA some sort of App Store? Some suppliers are now offering off-the-shelf bots that are created by the community. It will be interesting to watch this over the next 12-18 months and assess its impact on the industry.
The UK and USA are currently market leaders in RPA with expansion happening across wider Europe. In some countries the pace of RPA implementation has been slower as businesses and unions consider how the technology impacts workers. Certainly, the move towards greater automation is unrelenting and businesses will need to adopt to remain competitive.
Impact on Jobs
RPA is currently not the job killer some expected. The capacity created by RPA has been used to manage high workloads, absorb higher demand, moved to higher value work or on natural wastage. The key issue for businesses moving forward will be to address re-training in the future as RPA expands. RPA has created jobs - support roles, developer roles, business analyst roles and managerial roles. This is a trend that is set to continue over the next 5-10 years.
With increased automation, will the shared service centres of today be the automation centres of tomorrow? Some thought leaders in the industry think it could be. Advances in automation technology will widen the scope of work it is able to do, which is currently about 20%. As this happens more jobs will be transitioned to automation.
The Current impact of RPA on the workforce capacity is typically 1-2% . Most organisations are just getting started with what processes could be in scope for the technology to assist with.
Addressing Challenges of Adoption
The key to a successful RPA implementation is senior manager level buy-in and sponsorship. Seen as a key ingredient of good change management in any instance, it is also important for RPA. In addition, the other key headwind to avoid is an entanglement with your ICT department, so the key message is to involve them early.
Most businesses have adopted a Centre of Excellence model which leads on standards and controls production. Some have also centralised development activity, but others have regional development hubs due to their global reach.
ENGIE is a leading energy and services company focused on three key activities: production and supply of energy, facilities management and regeneration. Our 17,000 employees combine these capabilities for the benefit of individuals, businesses and communities throughout the UK & Ireland.
We enable customers to embrace a lower carbon, more efficient and increasingly digital world. Our customers benefit from our energy efficient and smart building solutions, the provision of effective and innovative services, the transformation of neighbourhoods through regeneration projects, and the supply of reliable, flexible and renewable energy.
ENGIE utilises RPA technology as part of its wider digitisation strategy: resulting in improvements in customer service through reductions in lead times and improvements in quality. In 2015 ENGIE introduced RPA into its contract with North Tyneside Council – the first of its kind for a local authority. Its purpose was to create a virtual back office workforce to improve service quality and consistency, while achieving greater efficiencies and reductions in costs. ENGIE then launched an RPA Centre of Excellence at the end of 2016. ENGIE also set up an RPA team to offer a service within the business, to transition 200 processes to its digital workforce to deliver £10m of business benefits over 5 years.