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May 28, 2018
The Future of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

How much “more” can computers help us to do?

Humans will never be obsolete.

Sure, the 1984 Terminator movie made us all believe that machines will someday decide that humans are useless and take over the world. Those fantasy movies are a product of Hollywood.

Reality says that computers work for us.

It’s impossible for a machine to get bored. Computers can alleviate the kind of tedious, repetitious work that brings human beings to a standstill.

So what kind of work do we assign to computers? What is the current state of machine learning? What stuff can we hand off so that we can use our critical thinking brains to get more done in the workday?

Automation Today

To see what the future holds, let’s take a look at what Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is already handling.

RPA software with “bots” are already at work in the public sector. In the United States Postal Service, the first bots went to work in January of 2018. They scour the USPS’s expansive data storage system for missing weight information on packages. They work so much faster than humans that the program is already slated for expansion.

With the public sector on board, it’s safe to assume that private industry has been utilizing automation for some time.

Ataway, a business systems consultant for multinationals, specializes in bots for their clients’ systems. Ataway markets these bots to clients as efficiency solutions that will mine unused productivity from staff. The company says, “The rise of RPA will help to eliminate repetitive tasks and let…employees focus on value-added tasks, allowing them to apply their innate creativity and problem-solving abilities.”

Ataway makes the argument that machines and humans shouldn’t do the same work. Studies show that workplace fatigue works against both job satisfaction and cost-effective operations. Both the company and workers are happier when humans aren’t made to do repetitive tasks day in and day out. That we have done data entry for hundreds of years is not because humans are good at it; machines were merely incapable.

Future Developments in RPA

Now that computers can handle data entry and complex processes through machine learning, the assertion is that human and machine jobs should be clearly divided going forward.

One study from PwC on effectiveness in the finance industry reveals that professionals in their field spend over half of the workday doing mundane tasks.

The technology evolving to fill this gap between what a computer and what a financial professional currently does, for example, is being referred to as “small automation”.

Whereas big automation refers to core enterprise systems with centralized control, small automation is every business solution that interfaces with current enterprise systems to do work more quickly or easily. According to Strategy + Business magazine, this kind of small automation implemented for businesses without a complete system overhaul has the potential to improve the efficiency of each applicable process by 80-100%.

Investment banking giant J.P. Morgan uses a small automation program to review documents and previous cases stored in an existing document management system. Entrepreneur Magazine claims this software enables a process that would “otherwise take 360,000 hours” to be complete in a matter of seconds.

Automation Anywhere, an RPA software robot company, is focused on developing cognitive bots that learn as they work. Through machine learning, the complexity of the work that falls to machines will increase. Automation Anywhere envisions business software that automates end-to-end processes, from small automation to automation on the grand scale.

Clients of Automation Anywhere report solid return on investment (ROI) from implementing RPA. One financial institution implemented more than 920 bots in retail and institutional banking processes to the tune of millions of USD in returns. Another client from global telecom implemented 430 bots in multiple processes across the company and saw a $20M savings in 18 months.

With frequent success stories, these automation solutions employed by major global companies are poised to filter down into common business systems.

Exponential Future Growth

With so much potential, the interest is obvious.

On one hand, corporations are seeing dollar signs. Increased productivity means money in the bank.

What isn’t so obvious is the exact benefit of RPA technology on potential for human workers.  What will people do with all this extra time? Will humans get more leisure time or will we reach new heights of creativity and problem-solving?

According to one industry source, expenditure on robotic process automation is expected to grow over 241% in the next 3 years. Projected spending will reach over 2 billion U.S. dollars globally. Up from only 2 million in 2016, the growth is shocking.

Though the future of human productivity is hard to guess, machine productivity is on the rise. The concept of exponentially increased productivity is too tempting.

Time will tell if the windfall that corporations are banking on will become a reality.

Learn more about how RPA tools from Ataway are helping enterprises to gain productivity while saving time and money.

Image: Unsplash




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