There’s a long article over at CFO discussing how “robotic process automation” (RPA) increasingly is being used in enterprise finance departments to “mimic the keystrokes humans make in completing a process.”
It’s a fascinating read, and somewhat troubling if you’re a finance professional because these RPAs “can work 24/7, they are very accurate, they do exactly what you tell them to do, and they don’t complain,” David Wright, Deloitte’s finance robotic process lead in the United Kingdom, tells CFO writer David McCann.
He left out that they don’t take vacation or sick time or need health insurance, but you get the picture: RPAs save money relative to real employees or even off-shored jobs. McCann writes:
Forrester estimates that RPA and machine learning will cause the number of U.S. “cubicle workers” to decrease by 16%, or 12 million workers, by 2025. KPMG suggests the worldwide total could be as much as 100 million jobs.
However, Forrester said, the 16% of U.S. workers displaced will be partially offset by the creation of new jobs as a result of these technologies, equivalent to 9% of the current total cubicle jobs, for a net decrease of 7%.
That’s still a lot of displaced workers. And it’s also a lot of change in the workplace that has to be effectively managed. Which is why a graphic in McCann’s article based on Forrester research should raise red flags for some enterprise leaders. As part of its Q2 20016 Global Automation Technology Survey, 130 automation technologists were asked, “How prepared are you to bring humans and technology together to solve issues arising from smart-machine technologies?”
Only 7% of respondents said their enterprises were fully prepared — that is, they had defined a set of principles/best practices for both human and tech support. A larger number of respondents (44%) said they were “partially prepared,” with work to be done either on the tech or human/organizational side.
But nearly half of the respondents (49%) aren’t prepared. Sure, 24% said they were “somewhat prepared,” but only in that “internal teams have been organized to study human and tech issues.” While that’s better than the 25% who admit to being poorly prepared (“limited understanding of the human and technology implications”), they’re still in the nascent stages of understanding how to integrate automation technology into the enterprise in a way that allows it to work effectively with employees.
The enterprises that are further ahead on the automation adoption curve are likely to be the ones to use RPAs and similar technologies strategically, rather than simply as a way to cut costs. That’s because they will have given themselves time to integrate automation into their business processes in ways that grow the business and make employees more productive. The laggards are more likely to use automation to cut jobs because that’s easier, doesn’t require any real strategic thinking, and quickly delivers results.
How prepared is your enterprise to integrate automation with its workforce?