Elon Musk has been a leading voice on the topic of robots replacing many of the jobs humans do today. He suggests we will need a global fund to sustain demand for the services that machines will soon be pedaling. Sounds bleak? Perhaps.
However, history is littered with examples of technology rapidly advancing. Just look at what’s happened in the utilities and transportation sectors. We are used to these inflection points, however, some are more profoundly felt than others.
Are robots taking over?
But this isn’t a ‘them versus us’ power struggle. The idea of robots delivering key processes is nothing new. It is commonplace in car production lines for example. There is real merit in having robots perform highly repetitive, and inferred from that, lower value tasks. The industrial revolution was built on this single guiding principle. Robots aren’t taking over, they’re augmenting our everyday lives, making it easier for us to do our jobs and enabling us to add value elsewhere.
Why is there a renewed interest in Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
The key difference now is the compute power offered by the cloud is prompting businesses to look again at the viability of robot-based tasks at a hyper scale. Think about that for a second. Imagine a robot that has infinite processing potential PLUS the intelligence built-in to adapt and interpret the data it’s processing…
The RPA market is set to rapidly mature, there are a few vendors but no clear leaders yet. Forrester are predicting that this market will grow to $2.9BN by 2021.
What are the practical applications and how does this fit with business process automation?
Use cases include mainframe installations, where there is still valuable data but it’s invisible to the rest of the technology estate. Or perhaps you have a Lotus Notes investment? You could save a lot of time re-keying data to other systems by automating this. Lastly, you have paper-based forms that need rapid assimilation into a business process. Many of these examples tend to be human-centric, re-keying data which causes scale issues and the potential of a high error count.
You might now be thinking where does business process automation fit in this discussion? The simple answer is, robots are well suited to re-keying tasks however they don’t then allow you to manage the orchestration of that data into other systems. That’s where process automation comes in. Think about RPA as being highly effective at data capture where business process automation handles moving the data once captured to other systems. Furthermore, it provides intelligence and context to that data which turns that data into a powerful asset for any business.
Robots vs Humans
In reality it was never about robots taking over. It’s a case of re-deploying humans to tasks and work where, being human, is still valued in the task. Higher value tasks (either monetary value or impact to the business) are still the domain of humans rather than robots.
To learn more about RPA and the value it can bring to your business why not watch this short video demonstrating RPA in action.
If you’re interested in learning more about the RPA market why not listen to our webinar with Forrester on the topic?