Recently, there has been a lot of commotion in the news where people are talking about "their worst fears coming to reality", "robots taking over the world", etc. The headlines being somewhere like robots forcing companies to cut down on about 10 million jobs, saving them about 7 lakh crore of money in revenues. People are freaking out over it as if their jobs will be gone now and they will be left helpless.
Seems plausible, right? So I wanted to shed some light around the topic, since I'm currently studying RPA professionally as part of my job currently and soon will be teaching other professionals on how to get ready for RPA in their jobs. So, I'm not an "expert" on the subject, but being closely related to the IT industry in India for about 7+ years now, and now seeing RPA in action with my own eyes for some time, I thought I could help clear out the confusions people have about the subject and news.
First of all, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is basically creating some software (or code) called "robots", which can do some menial, monotonous process for an employee of a company. According to UiPath (a company working extensively with RPA, valued at 1 billion dollars) says this about RPA "RPA is the technology that allows computer software to mimic actions typically performed by humans interacting with digital systems to execute business processes.". Scary, right?
Well, not so much. RPA is currently not at a position where it could be applied to all the jobs of the IT industry in the worlds, or it could possibly take over complete aspects of a person's job. Currently, it is more suited to some specific areas like:
Payroll processing refers to the actions that companies take to pay their employees - keeping track of their presence, of their salaries, bonuses and taxes.
Payroll processing needs manual intervention month after month, every year. An RPA system can be used to extract the details that are required from handwritten time sheets and calculate the pay from their stipulated contracts and pay them as well (by even ordering the necessary bank transactions).
Client Information Updates:
Any organization that has implemented a CRM faces all sorts of related issues - the client-base is spread across many geographies, there are frequent calls to the back-end databases, and updates and changes are coming from all sources.
RPA solutions can process these requests in batches instead of one after the other, reducing the load on the back-end systems and ensuring better performance and data quality across the whole application.
Irrespective of industry, the contract renewal process is in general a complex process, but not necessarily due to exceptions and complications, but rather to the number of operations and the synchronization between different departments and systems.
Robots can take over the entire process, starting with the standardized communication with the client, processing the changes, drafting the documents and updating the internal systems accordingly.
Financial Statement Reconciliation:
Financial statement reconciliation covers all the operations (done mostly by the accounting teams) of matching orders, payments, losses, margins, and so on, with accounts and financial statements. It is a common process that an organization needs to manage in order to ensure clean records and reliable financial documents.
This process is well handled by the RPA software robots. Once they are set up, they can seamlessly replace the humans who would have to do these jobs, from the beginning to the end.
As organizations grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to closely monitor the compliance requirements that each department has to follow: reporting to authorities, complying with the internal procedures, audit requirements, and so on.
Robots can be set up to cover all these needs, with a low error rate and low human intervention.
Customer Complaint Processing:
Irrespective of industry, customer complaints are always on the radar. Their number and substance is an important indicator of the business health and good predictor of the future of the company.
Through RPA, customer complaints can be categorized based on keywords and other criteria, and possible solutions can be suggested to the customers right away. By doing so, the customer complaints can be answered 24 x 7 instead of 8 hours a day and only 5 days a week.
If I were to define RPA, I would RPA is a way of easing up the repetitive parts of a person's job, by creating specialized robots to do it. But it is a long way from actually taking over the job itself. So, people do not need to worry a lot, even if it looks like there are things that you do in the above list, and it could be taken over by a robot, it is not going to happen soon, so you will get some time to potentially upgrade your skills to get a better job.
Hope I was able to help you put your mind at ease, if you would like to know more, please watch these videos