Robot Revolution: Disrupting the Workplace as We Know It - Blue Prism
+44 (0) 870 879 3000 | +1 888 7577 476 (1-888-75-PRISM)

Robot Revolution: Disrupting the Workplace as We Know It

Back
  |  

Robot Revolution: Disrupting the Workplace as We Know It

No matter your stance on the widely growing debate surrounding the economic effects of robots in the workplace, what is increasingly clear is that we are on the brink of the Third Industrial Revolution, with software robots moving off the factory floor and emerging in the white-collar office. Although these robots may look different than the stereotypical ‘robot,’ they pack a serious efficiency punch.

So how can businesses effectively use these auditable, reliable and efficient software robots? Any rules-based procedure—think administrative, repetitive processes—is appropriate for completion by a virtual workforce. Companies in industries spanning financial services, healthcare, retail, telecom, and energy have used software robots to take on core customer services, HR, payroll, finance, and admin processing jobs (amongst others).

For more on this topic, take a look at the latest from Blue Prism CEO, Alastair Bathgate, on how software robotics will disrupt the workplace as we know it. You can find the full article, featured on Xconomy, here, or below.

 

Robot Revolution: Disrupting the Workplace as We Know It

We’re on the brink of the Third Industrial Revolution, with robots moving off the factory floor and emerging in the white-collar office.

These “software robots” are being leveraged by businesses across industries to tackle rules-based processes and improve overall operational agility. Operational roles are well-suited for automatons since they, by definition, automatically follow and execute predetermined job sequences. As such, they offer enterprises a scalable, efficient, and precise option for digital back-office labor: a virtual workforce.

These advantages, plus cost and security benefits, are capturing the attention of technologists and business executives across the globe—putting software robots on the front lines of what could become the “Office 2.0.”

Prepare for a Virtual Workforce

As robots become more commonplace in offices, we’re seeing new varieties that best fit the needs of particular roles. While hardware robots have been able to successfully carry out responsibilities required by factories, software robots are proving valuable in office environments.

Software robots mimic humans but live in the cloud or in the data center. They can be thought of as a virtual workforce, the ethereal cousins to their mechanical counterparts—driving applications through the user interface to enter and retrieve information, and following business rules to execute processes. Managers can configure software robots to drive any application (in house or Web)—without code. And unlike traditional computer software, they teach the machines how to complete core operations.

The Robo-Worker

Because software robots are taught, rather than programmed, they operate similarly to how a new human employee might. In fact, some companies have even assigned their robots names and identities based on their training and key functions.

The virtual workforce of software robots is an on-demand digital staff that can be called into action to complete a process at any hour of any day. The robot is triggered through monitoring a workflow queue or when a customer enters a request in a portal.  Any electronic trigger can start a software robot, which instantly becomes an expert in the particular process that has been previously configured. The software robot is then stored and managed in a central repository.

For example, consider a request that comes through a bank’s website to set up a second credit card. The software robot scheduler listens for the trigger and then identifies which process is needed from the central library to complete that task. The correct process to issue the card is then loaded into a software robot (the run-time component of the virtual workforce), as is the knowledge of the various applications the robot needs to complete the task. As a result, the software robot knows how to drive the various applications to complete the process. It executes the task and reports back to the scheduler to confirm that it has finished its task. It can then be put back into the robot pool to complete another procedure. The robot is designed to “intelligently execute” the transaction—thereby automatically dealing with underlying system changes and application performance.

In addition to delegating key admin processes to software robots, the ability to monitor and review robotic processes is part of what makes this technology so unique and appealing. For businesses, especially for those in scalable, regulated environments, predictability is paramount. Software robots—which operate deterministically—are ideal since their work is supervised and audited. As such, management teams never have to worry about the robots making whimsical (and potentially catastrophic) decisions, like impulsively increasing or decreasing employee salaries.

The Perks of a Virtual Workforce

In addition to security, another primary benefit of auditable software robots is unparalleled efficiency. Fans of software robots have found that the machines can complete tasks in a fraction of the time that humans do. For instance, telecom provider Telefonica has been able to minimize SIM card data transfer processes from 24 hours to a matter of seconds, enabling their customers to be able to use their phones almost immediately. This type of efficiency gain is one of the biggest draws of a virtual workforce: according to a study from MIT, respondents preferred working with (and even being managed by) robots over humans due to their ability to spur overall productivity. By enabling increased efficiency, as well as improved accuracy, organizations are able to offer enhanced user experiences, crucial for business success.

Making Robots Work for Your Business

So how can businesses effectively use these auditable, reliable and efficient software robots? Any rules-based procedure—think administrative, repetitive processes—is appropriate for completion by a virtual workforce. Companies in industries spanning financial services, healthcare, retail, telecom, and energy have used software robots to take on core customer services, HR, payroll, finance, and admin processing jobs (amongst others).

Perhaps the greatest benefit of software robots, however, is their ability to drive any system—regardless of the technology it is written in—on premise or in the cloud. This universal access means that software robots can execute any application that a person can so long as they have the necessary access rights. This removes one of the biggest barriers to automation in the software world: universal access to systems and the data those systems securely control.

Software robots’ ability to automate rules-based work and drive multiple, incompatible systems is a game-changing quality and one that offers boundless opportunities for innovation. People no longer have to worry about time-consuming, repetitive jobs—jobs that are ripe for automation. In fact, according to a recent reportfrom Oxford University, 47 percent of jobs in the U.S. are likely to become automated. By delegating these jobs, which involve repetitive, manual labor, to a virtual workforce, businesses can allocate strategic, creative, and interpersonal work to people.

Yes, robots will replace some jobs. However, as history has proven time and time again—and as we have already seen through early adopters of software robots—for roles replaced or augmented by automation, there are opportunities for new job roles and re-allocation of human resources to roles that best suit their human skills. In fact, according to Erik Brynjolfsson, co-author of The Second Machine Age, the rise of robots will incite millions of new jobs by 2025.  What’s more, displaced human workers are shifting, and will continue to shift, to jobs that are more satisfactory than the repetitive, monotonous tasks people have had to do until this point. These jobs—harnessing people’s natural empathetic, interpersonal, and strategic skills—are more rewarding to employees and bring greater value to business customers.

As more and more organizations realize the value of—and deploy—a virtual workforce, robots are poised to shake up the way we work over the next ten years. In fact, case studies already exist where organizations have been able to allocate 25 to 50 percent of labor to software robots. While it may take time to work out the kinks of a collaborative robot/human workforce, it will pay off as people find themselves in more valuable, satisfactory roles better suited for their skill sets. By delivering never- before-reached levels of productivity, accuracy, and customer service, virtual workforces will help enterprises achieve new heights of business performance and vast opportunities for innovation. It’s time to get on board with software robots and launch a new era of work.