Could Robots Actually Create More Jobs?

But a new study from Redwood Software and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) offers a bit of an antidote.

The report looked at trends in robotics automation in 23 countries over the past 20 years to quantify their impact on GDP per capita and labor productivity. The analysis revealed that robotics now adds more value to the economy than traditionally lucrative industries like financial services and transportation. However, that compared to job growth indicates that we actually aren’t losing workers to automation.

“There is clear evidence that points toward robotic automation in many cases being a complement for human labor, rather than a direct substitute,” said David Whitaker, managing economist at CEBR, in a statement. He asserted that mundane tasks are the ones being automated. As such, Whitaker said, “Human effort becomes more valuable as it is focused on higher-level tasks, creativity, know-how, and thinking.”

Investment in robotics has a greater positive impact on the economy than more established sectors such as information technology, construction, and real estate, according to the report. A 1% increase in robotics investment, the report says, correlates with an increase in GDP per capita of 0.03%.

The report revealed that the U.S. is leading the charge to invest in automation technologies with an estimated robotics stock of $732 billion.

As for the jobs themselves, Neil Kinson, chief of staff at Redwood Software, believes that robotics automation is actually increasing the total number of jobs available. Indeed, the U.S. economy added over 2 million jobs for 75 months since 2009. Like Whitaker, Kinson maintains that work will ultimately change. “The increased level of automation investment highlights the need to rethink how we approach the skill sets needed in the workplace, and the importance of working with automation,” he said, “and not against it.”

Source: FastCompany-Could Robots Actually Create More Jobs? 

An introduction to Digital Disruption

Earlier this month I attended the Gartner Symposium in Barcelona. It is billed as the most important gathering of IT leaders and provides insight, strategic views and trends that will affect businesses over the next 12 months. This was my first time attending the event and I must say I was blown away by the sheer size, quality and quantity of the various sessions. The big focus and underlying message was Digital Disruption and how the opportunities it provides can transform businesses. Pause here for a second, the biggest gathering of IT leaders and the focus was on how digital disruption can transform businesses. IT Leaders need to be business leaders.

So, what is Digital Disruption – I was interested to hear the response from family members and colleagues. They focused on the word disruption and assumed the phrase Digital Disruption to be a bad one, perhaps an attack on the business as an example. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact the only negative side of this phrase is those who choose not to embrace it.

Digital Disruption is much more than improving efficiency within a business, it is essentially a transformation aided by emerging technologies, processes and business models to positively impact the value of an existing service or product. By connecting all the different parts of the business, greater working relationships can be formed with partners, customers, suppliers and even organisations typically seen as competitors.

The word disruption is used due to the disruptions this business transformation has on the current marketplace.

I have some good examples which demonstrate Digital Disruption far better than I can explain.


Think of Netflix, they disrupted the movie rental market. Blockbuster was the go to place if you wanted to rent a movie, it is safe to say they dominated the market in the UK but they failed to innovate and failed to leverage the emerging technology available to them. Netflix saw an opportunity, they started with a delivery service and then moved into providing movies digitally. Blockbuster didn’t see it coming and furthermore weren’t agile enough to adjust to the demand of the market.


A somewhat controversial disruptor, they came into a market that had been stable for around 4 centuries and completely tore up the rule book. They saw an opportunity to digitalise the way we consume our travel and align it with the on demand needs of the market.


This example is slightly different as it is an insight into the future. Lego, who have a fair proportion of the market they operate in see future disruption coming from horizontal markets. The CEO explained how he anticipates the likes of Facebook and Google being the biggest rivals over the next five years and that Lego must innovate and change their own business model to compete. He sees the rise in virtual reality being the big trend and expects the physical and virtual worlds to collide. He understands the importance of adapting in a market disrupted by technology companies.

How to begin thinking about Digital Disruption

Before businesses can disrupt, they need to analyse the various markets to uncover the opportunities. The Lego example perfectly demonstrates the need to think outside of your market vertical. So where to start? I’ll try and help.

Stage one; Detect and analyse the market demand. What could you change about your own business to improve the experience or value for the customer. Is there anyone that already does this and how do they do it? What are the trends or culture shifts signalling to your business?

Stage two; How quickly can you change or adapt? What, if anything would prevent such change? What is the impact of not adapting? How can Technology support this?

Stage three; Could your products or services be used to solve the customer needs in other markets? Do you have visibility of other markets? What will you do with your existing offerings? How quickly can you shift resources and capability?

Gartner described this as the Three Elements of Digital Business Transformation.


This is where some of the more established organisations struggle, as implementing Digital requires changes to the business strategy and a focus on digital outcomes. In some cases, a digital strategy can replace the business strategy.

The basic principles should include;

  • Agile change management processes
  • Getting products or services to market quickly
  • Engaging and welcoming feedback with the customer base
  • Limiting the time & investment
  • Adopting a culture which accepts and learns from trial and error

Some organisational processes may not lend themselves to this new model or will take time to implement such change. This opens opportunities for creating a start-up incubators or partnering with a similar organisation. These should be void of such processes and lend themselves to an agile approach. As these initiatives grow and begin to take products to market funds can be reinvested in talent or speeding up the organisational change. This entrepreneurial model should help attract and retain staff with digital skills.

The business must take the journey to digital whilst supporting and maintaining the existing processes, applications and infrastructure. The IT team can help this by operating in two modes…

Digital Disruption Needs Bimodel IT

I’ll be writing a more in-depth piece on what Bimodel IT is but for the purpose of this article let’s summarise. Bimodel IT is two working speeds of the IT department. The first, referred to as Mode 1 is the traditional IT speed, focusing on governance, safety, return on investments and doing things in the right way. The second speed, Mode 2, is a new way of working for the IT department. Doing things fast, being agile, driving innovation, driving delivery and adding value to the business.

It is easy to see it is this type of model that is required to help drive Digital Disruption. Mode 2 is essential as a digital business contains much uncertainty and the need for agility and flexibility depending on what the market is demanding. The digital world is also one which requires collaboration so the need to provide innovative, flexible working practises is also essential.

Common Mistakes

There are some common mistakes when it comes to Digital Disruption, the first of which is that Digital Disruption is the responsibility solely of IT. It should sit with the business and in many cases the CEO. Where IT come into it is that most business trends have a meaningful IT component to them and thus IT needs to be woven into the planning process of the organisation. IT leaders can help drive this through Digital Disruption.

Secondly, as discussed you need to understand the market and the demand. Don’t start by launching new digital products and services without analysing the market and engaging with your customer base.

Many businesses see the likes of Netflix and Uber being successful at Digital Disruption and try to imitate start up organisations. The problems arise where traditional businesses do not have the business model and processes in place to adopt the agile, adaptive approach of a start up.

Digital Disruption is not just cloud. I’ve seen and heard lots of people trying to sell or buy Cloud based products because they wish to drive the necessary transformation. Digital Disruption is made up of multiple components such as Cloud, Social, Mobile, Virtual, Analytics, process redevelopment, IoT, business remodelling and importantly, people.

Finally, the business strategy must reflect the areas in which Digital Disruption can exploit, it takes time but enabling disruption must become business as usual. A realistic timescale depends on the business but for the analysis of the market data to be relevant I would suggest a timescale of 12 months to execute on the transformation. This will enable you to create a platform from which you can drive Digital Disruption.


Digital Disruption is changing industries all over the world, altering the way we as individuals and our businesses operate. It brings a whole host of opportunities across industries we may not have had access to previously.

Digital Disruption is more than providing the platforms, it should be business focused, identifying opportunities through customer engagement and collaboration, implementing solutions to improve business processes, services or products and providing agile ways of working to an ever-changing workforce.

Digital should become the DNA of any organisation, woven into the business strategy and the day to day operation of an organisation. This is not something IT can do alone and nor should it be – but don’t wait for the business, get started.

Source: An introduction to Digital Disruption

Will Automation will take away all out jobs?

TEDx Cambridge Sept 2016 by David Autor

Here’s a paradox you don’t hear much about: despite a century of creating machines to do our  work for us, the proportion of adults in the US with a job has consistently gone up for the past 125 years. Why hasn’t human labor become redundant and our skills obsolete? In this talk about the future of work, economist David Autor addresses the question of why there are still so many jobs and comes up with a surprising, hopeful answer.

Source: TEDx Cambridge- Will Automation will take away all out jobs?

RPA Technical Insights, Part 21: Transformation Begins With Education, A Guide to RPA Training Documentation – Symphony

This is part 21 of a 22 part blog series by the leading experts at Symphony Ventures. It addresses how to choose the right RPA tools for your business needs. Drawing from our global team’s extensive knowledge in automation consulting, implementation, and managed services across a range of diverse industries, we’ve drilled into the technical criteria to consider when selecting which RPA software best enables your company’s digital operation strategy.

Read part 20, Why You Shouldn’t Blindly Pile Work Onto Your Automation.

When choosing which RPA tool to employ, the maturity of the vendor’s support and training services should contribute to your decision-making process. Vendors strive to make their products powerful yet accessible, often supplementing training material and additional assistance to ease the transition to RPA. If you are new to this technology, this material can prove to be invaluable in getting you started.

The Importance of Basic Training Material

The focus of this blog is training documentation. Offerings like structured training materials are extremely useful for getting developers and users off the ground in terms of understanding how to use the software. These often come in the form of user manuals, with pages of structured content that walk a user through a development path. Ideally, they can be downloaded and viewed offline, allowing for easy access and readability. Having a user manual or training guide present and accessible means that users will have a baseline understanding of the tools abilities, which are invaluable when it comes to design and deployment.

The Growing Popularity of Video Tutorials

Aside from training manuals, other forms of visually informative content like video tutorials are being produced by a few top RPA vendors. A training video, for example, can provide a demonstration of the step-by-step process of designing a practical workflow or how to use one of the tools abilities. This sort of content is best presented in a format that viewers can follow along to. In general, you will find that visual training materials are especially helpful for RPA, since most RPA software utilize a visual interface.

Other Training Outlets

As a seeker of RPA information, you might have noticed that vendor training content is relatively scarce. Fortunately, this may not be true for long. The RPA world is currently undergoing a massive expansion of training materials and opportunities to improve accessibility and meet growing demand. Some of the top vendors are currently developing online training courses, to provide comprehensive e-learning environments. E-learning is beneficial because it offers the whole suite of training, practicing, and testing.

There are other outlets to receive training outside of vendor supported material. For instance, Symphony host RPA and AI training workshops in collaboration with The Global Sourcing Association (GSA UK). These are not designed as development courses, but rather focus on technical and business subjects, aiming to teach participants how to strategize their business around RPA. Outside of these, Symphony offers specialized training for clients as one of our main services. So, be on the lookout for these if you want to gain valuable knowledge from the experts and grow your internal capabilities.


In today’s fast-paced, digital environment, it is critical to avoid being slowed down by a lack of proper training. It is prudent to expect your RPA vendor or service provider to give the necessary tools to help your team succeed. Whether it is a structured manual, training guide or a series of video tutorials, make sure that quality training material is available. Most of all, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts, like Symphony, for advice. We try our best to provide the proper tools and education to help your business succeed with RPA.

Be sure not to miss the last part of our RPA Technical Insights, where investigate the benefits of comprehensive implementation support from RPA vendors.

Source: RPA Technical Insights, Part 21: Transformation Begins With Education, A Guide to RPA Training Documentation – Symphony

Beyond robo-compliance: How bots will soon permeate banking

Banks are already experimenting with robotic process automation in areas like their compliance functions. But robotics technology may soon find its way to nearly all aspects of running the bank.

As banks become more comfortable with the relying on software robots to replicate the actions of a human interacting with machines to handle rote tasks, experts say they will be quick to deploy the technology companywide as a way to trim expenses and redirect employees to more crucial tasks.

“I think we’re going to see it move from a few narrow functions to across the enterprise,” said Alan McIntyre, the industry managing director for banking at Accenture. “It’s going to become an indispensable technology for banks, rather than an interesting experiment.”

This could include areas in finance departments that are heavily manual, such as accruals and managing and clearing payments. Human resources and administrative functions is also an area where robotics can be deployed. For example, robots could take over payroll and managing employee incentive programs.

And even if robots don’t fully run these departments, they can be used to assist human employees during periods when workloads get large, said Alastair Bathgate, CEO and co-founder of Blue Prism, a robotic process automation firm, which has partnered with Accenture to help financial services and other industries implement robotics.

“When used to help with large or temporary workloads, [robotics] can reduce costs,” since additional temporary employees wouldn’t need to be hired for that period, he said.

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International AG is among the first to work with Accenture and Blue Prism to automate various business functions. Additionally, it is in the process of creating an in-house robotics center dedicated to experimenting with how the technology can be used in different functions at the bank.

The bank started out with four pilots implementing robotic process automation in tasks that had “low-to-medium complexity; rule-based processes with a logical order of steps, repetitive process patterns with clearly defined process options,” said Markus Stanek, head of group efficiency management at the bank.

With the center, Raiffeisen will experiment with how to implement robotics in in a whole host of banking functions.

“RPA allows us to introduce automation where expensive and heavy IT solutions do not pay off,” Stanek said. “RPA as a tool and as we understand it, is to be deployed like a surgical intervention, automating specific process steps…given the speed of implementation it should allow us to start thinking and implementing automation in a couple of weeks rather than months.”

Of course, the technology also has potential uses for consumer facing functions, not just back-office automation and staff efficiency. The most notable use thus far has been so-called robo-advisers, which use simple, rules-based models to choose investment vehicles for an investor after that person inputs basic information about their risk tolerance and investing goals. But beyond robo-advisers and even more complicated wealth management services, the technology can be used to enhance and improve customer relationship management for banks, said Mark Schwanhausser, director of omnichannel financial services at Javelin Strategy & Research.

Think of a human financial adviser, said Schwanhausser, after a major event that affects the stock market (such as Brexit). The adviser may have 30 clients to call who have questions about how this affects their portfolio, a major task for one person. But using robotics, the adviser could send a message tailored to each individual client telling them how the event affects their portfolio, along with a “click to call” button if they do want to talk to the adviser more in depth.

Similar ideas can be used to enhance personal budgeting and financial management tools for customers, Schwanhausser said. For example, when logging onto mobile banking, a customer can view personalized information on how they are doing achieving their financial goals with customized insights into spending and saving habits.

“Maybe [robotics] could even take your financial information and boil it into a useful infographic,” he said. “It can provide very personalized service that can be delivered without interacting with a human.”

But, like Accenture’s McIntyre, Schwanhausser believes this doesn’t mean the human element will be removed from banking, but rather deployed in smarter ways.

“It is a move to automation, but it’s a move to automation that complements the human element,” he said. “You may not want to talk to someone every time you have any financial question; [robotics] can provide you with a lot of daily information you wouldn’t have thought to ask for to begin with. If it just represents an interaction that never would have happened anyway, then it’s not a threat to any employee.”

Regardless of how it plays out, Schwanhausser said the move to using robotics in financial services has already passed the point of no return.

“What you are seeing now is the beginning stages of what is going to increasingly become the norm,” he said.

Source: robo-compliance: How bots will soon permeate banking

The Significance of Automation for the Future of Work

he development of artificial intelligence (AI) is more significant than any advancement yet: not only can machines do tasks for us, they can make better decisions than we can. What does this mean for the workforce of the future? Will humans be completely replaced by computers and robots? The answer may not be as pessimistic as some suggest. Read on to explore the impact AI can have on the future of work.

Will automation replace today’s workforce?

Researchers at the University of Oxford conducted a study in 2013, proposing that as many as 47% of jobs in the United States could be computerized. Artificial intelligence is what separates today’s automation advancements from those that came before. Self-driving cars are no longer a dream; they’ve already taken shape. We rely on Siri and Google Now to help us with the simplest of tasks. The impending reality of artificial intelligence leaves many of us scared about the future, for ourselves and our children. What will we do with our lives if computers can do everything for us?

It turns out more of us are concerned about this than not: a Pew Research Center survey showed that 65% of Americans believe that within 50 years most of today’s work will be done by computers or robots. Businesses have only added to the impression that automation means replacing humans with computers. Sometimes it’s a matter of cutting costs, other times it has to do with efficiency — businesses have laid off thousands of workers in favor of automation, and will likely continue to do so. Looking into the future, what happens in a society that doesn’t need work? How do people survive without a regular income?

These are serious questions, but they’re also one-sided. They’re based on the assumption that humans will be replaced with computers and robots, and left with nothing (an assumption 65% of us are concerned about). What if we consider a future where automation doesn’t replace, but instead complements human ability?

Automation vs. augmentation

Indeed, there are some who envision this very future. The Harvard Business Review published an article in 2015 explaining the concept, called augmentation. While smarter, advanced computers can analyze big data and reveal insights humans can’t, computer intelligence is only part of the puzzle. Any good business leader knows that all business decisions must be made within a context. The backstory and implications need to be understood — in other words, a narrative or story needs to be told and weighed into the decision-making. Computers aren’t great at this, but humans are.

From this perspective, automation gives humans more opportunities to pursue positions that require high-level — or “big picture” — thinking. Rather than pushing humans out of the workforce, augmentation allows humans to work alongside machines, contributing in ways that computers can’t. These high-level positions are more fulfilling for us than factory work or data-crunching.

Source: EBN – Aaron Continelli – The Significance of Automation for the Future of Work

Robotic process automation: the latest promise to liberate back office

A recent want ad for a job at a professional services companies had this interesting description:

“Robotic Process Automation Analyst: Key responsibilities include: work with business teams to simplify and improve operations by analyzing as-is processes and create end-to-end automation solution designs… Work with process owners/SMEs and technology teams to analyse and assess automation feasibility… Document business requirements, processes and work instructions…. Operate as an advisor or business consultant and recommend process automation improvements. Implement automation within RPA software to deliver against business requirements, software and industry best practices….”

So, we have robot process automation (RPA) and a bunch of new jobs arising around it — what is this oddly named thing?

Never mind the image of humanoid-looking robots sitting at terminals or shuffling paperwork. It’s more about software running behind the scenes. Leslie Willcocks, professor of technology, work, and globalization at the London School of Economics’ department of management, was recently interviewed by McKinsey on what robot process automation (RPA) is, and what it will mean for administrative and back-office tasks.

Not to worry about RPA taking away jobs — it is meant to elevate roles — and even may be a stress-reduction strategy, Willcocks explains. “The average knowledge worker employed on a back-office process has a lot of repetitive, routine tasks that are dreary and uninteresting,” says Willcocks. “RPA is a type of software that mimics the activity of a human being in carrying out a task within a process. It can do repetitive stuff more quickly, accurately, and tirelessly than humans, freeing them to do other tasks requiring human strengths such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment, and interaction with the customer.”

Recent research from Transparency Market Research estimates that the IT robotic automation market will expand at an annual growth rate of 47% between 2016 and 2024. TMR identified key providers in this market: Blue Prism, Be Informed, Appian, IPSoft, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Atos, Capgemini, Genfour, Genpact, Automation Anywhere, Sutherland Global Services, and UiPath.

Willcocks identified four classes of RPA solutions:

  • “Highly customized software that will work only with certain types of process in, say, accounting and finance.”
  • “Screen scraping or web scraping. A user might be collecting data, synthesizing it, and putting it into some sort of document on a desktop. You automate as much of that as possible.”
  • “Self-development kits where a template is provided and specialist programmers design the robot. That’s usually customized for a specific organization.”
  • “Enterprise/enterprise-safe software that can be scaled and is reusable.”

RPA’s clearest and earliest benefits are within organizations with compliance obligations, such as financial services. Such companies are finding “that automation is a cheap and fast way of applying superior capability to the problem of compliance.” Robo-automating customer service is another piece of low-hanging fruit, as routine issues are addressed on an automated basis, while staff is freed up to deal with higher-level or more complex problems.

Employees respond positively to RPAs, too, Willcocks explains. “People welcomed the technology because they hated the tasks that the machines now do, and it relieved them of the rising pressure of work,” he says. “Every organization we have studied reports that it is dealing with bigger workloads. I think there will be an exponential amount of work to match the exponential increase in data–50 percent more each year. There is also a massive increase in audit regulation and bureaucracy. We need automation just to relieve the stress that creates in organizations.”

So how is RPA different from the other automation pushes that have come through organizations over the past three decades? For example, event processing — which arose in the mid-2000s — also sought to take the manual steps out of administrative processes. Perhaps RPA represents another step in digitizing organizations drowning in paperwork (even if it is virtual). As TMR explains it, the prices of RPA are far more economical than previous generations of process automation solutions. “IT robots (automation software) are programmed to be used with data-driven and rule-based processes, which work towards aspects such as improving productivity and compliance accuracy,”

Not every process can be automated, Willcocks cautions. “It can’t structure the data,” he says. Exception handling is something that is going to take time for RPA to be able to handle automatically.

Implementing RPA requires the same due diligence as any other major IT initiative, Willcocks explains. Get an executive champion to gain organizational support, and pay attention to change management requirements. It may not take away jobs, but it’s going to significantly change many jobs across the enterprise.

Source: ZDNet – Robotic process automation: the latest promise to liberate back office

The Opportunities and Challenges of BPaaS

Forward-thinking organizations are on the hunt: They’re searching for cost savings, strategic capabilities and scale while minimizing capital investment, time to market and risk. Cloud computing, in the form of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS, has been a big part of making that happen.

KPMG defines business processes as-a-service (BPaaS) as the combination of technology, people and process requirements of a business function into a fully-managed service, provided in a leveraged environment and measured on the basis of an accepted business outcome.

And now, it’s become a tremendous opportunity. The sweet spots include business units with unique repetitive transaction bases, such as human resources, finance and accounting (think payroll and accounts payable). Spending on BPaaS, in fact, is expected to reach $13.7 billion in 2016, up from $12.95 billion in 2015 (Gartner, Forecast Analysis: Public Cloud Services, Worldwide, 1Q16 Update, May 2016).

There are plenty of benefits to explain the growing popularity of BPaaS, including reducing costs and improving speed to market. According to KPMG Managing Director Randall Wiele, there are several other key benefits to focus on, such as capital avoidance — not just for underlying capabilities, but also the ability to have a constant refresh of the services.

“With traditional outsourced services, we found there was often a stale period where service wasn’t improved all that dramatically,” he says. “By sharing scale with other clients and by being responsible for the process and the technology, the service provider can constantly refresh the solution and achieve best practices.”

In addition, with BPaaS the business no longer needs to be the expert on all regulatory changes, he adds. Generally, the business can also take advantage of more secure usage that is also elastic, and pricing, which is resource-based and pay-as-you-use.

BPaaS Challenges Bring Lessons

The clear benefits and opportunities of BPaaS don’t mean there are not challenges and lessons organizations have learned as they move through the journey of implementing these cloud options. Wiele offers three important tips for organizations to make the move towards implementing BPaaS as smooth as possible:

1. Don’t rush the setup.

More work on the front end can solve a lot of problems that could occur down the road, says Wiele. Deals that are rushed into just to save costs, for instance, don’t last very long and are seldom satisfactory. “It’s important to take the time to define the solution and understand the existing environment, but also to prepare for the new environment with a transition and transformation program to achieve a positive result,” he explains.

2. Let the provider be the expert.

If you simply want a new service that does the processes and activities in the same way they are currently performed, you won’t achieve the maximum value from BPaaS, warns Wiele. “There is a reason the provider created the offering and has brought it to a best practice standpoint,” he says. “It’s important to allow the provider to move you through the redesign you need and make the necessary changes to achieve the benefits and the value.”

3. Live within the new structure, not the old ways.

There are many people involved in various business processes, so typically a lot of change is required when moving to BPaaS, says Wiele: “You need to live within the new structure that’s established, not try to make it what it was before.” In-house resources will no longer be managing the process, but will be managing relationships with the service provider, which is a very different skillset. “If the parties aren’t working well together and don’t understand their new roles, we find there can be a lot of conflict, which diminishes value from the overall solution,” he explains.

CIOs Need to Lean In for BPaaS Success

Opportunities to implement BPaaS may come from within the IT organization through the CIO, or through the business. Either way, it’s important to support the initiative — Wiele emphasizes that CIOs need to lean in and respond to the business:

“A joint approach is very important, because it generally takes equal amounts of effort from IT and the business to come together to make BPaaS work effectively,” he says.

The CIO also needs to take time to integrate BPaaS within what is most likely a large and growing suite of products and services in the IT portfolio — IT needs to provide the integration and orchestration required to make it work. Finally, the IT organization itself will change as key elements are outsourced, with the CIO overseeing organizational redesign and change management.

“BPaaS affects IT as with any kind of outsourcing,” he explains. “It never eliminates overall responsibilities, and IT will continue to provide the integrated environment and controls, and the organization needs to be prepared for the changes.”

Growing Intersection Between BPaaS and Robotics

The growing demand for BPaaS is aligned with the growth in the global market for RPA (robotics process automation), which is expected to reach $8.75 billion by 2024, according to a new report by Grand View Research. As with other digital disruptors, RPA — including advanced software automation and digital labor — is driving a new generation of BPaaS offerings that provide a virtual workforce, says Wiele.

“Robotics and digital labor are already a key component of next generation BPaaS engagements that employ various cognitive tools, and RPA is rapidly changing and enhancing BPaaS capabilities,” he says. Wiele points out that RPA-enabled BPaaS moves business services from a shared scale and large-scale labor reduction to labor elimination with accompanying significant reductions in cost.

“It’s really a game-changer,” he says, cautioning that contracts need to reflect this new reality: “From a contracting perspective, certainly in any current or next-generation BPaaS engagement, we need to make sure that the savings achieved through the addition of RPA to the BPaaS shows up in the contracting and is shared among all the users,” he says.

Source: – The Opportunities and Challenges of BPaaS

How has RPA played a role in increasing data accuracy and predictability in your healthcare operations?

Are you using robotic process automation (RPA) as a way to drive better outcomes for your healthcare organization?

In our research, we are hearing that companies using RPA find the greatest value from it in the quality, predictability, and speed that results from the use of the software to automate rules-driven business processes (there’s your definition of RPA, by the way). And we’d like to hear more examples –stories to share –of how it is being integrated into healthcare operations to impact health, medical and financial outcomes.

Notice in Exhibit 1, that 65% of the respondents in our cross-industry survey say the most value they get from RPA is in driving more predictability and quality in the processes, and half add that speed is of value, while rounding out the top three is freeing up staff to move to other projects. Healthcare respondents mirrored this top three, adding that number four is “creating more reliable data sets for analytics.”

I’d venture to guess that the value of more reliable data sets will increase exponentially as value based care and reimbursements take center stage in the industry. Predictable, accurate data will be increasingly important in, for example, segmenting patient populations, identifying appropriate and timely care interventions, and capturing and reporting appropriate feedback and insight for reimbursement. Reporting results for reimbursement is absolutely dependent on accurate and timely data.

Where to use RPA in healthcare operations

We heard from one enterprising organization that “every activity, every process is an opportunity for RPA.” Most of the examples we see are in claims processing and coding changes, followed by provider data management where there are many steps that require checking and / or moving data from multiple systems. EXL will share examples of the applicability in care management, for example, on an upcoming webinar, Robotics: A Call To Action In Health Care Management.

But while a number of tasks, activities, and even processes are automated, it is still too often in isolation from a broader process, which can really make an impact. What we have yet to see is dramatic change and impact on the healthcare consumer experience through the use and integration of RPA into a business operation. We’d like to see a significant change to the experience of a healthcare consumer in their patient visit to payment processed, for example, involving RPA, analytics, and customer service.

Think big, and start small—and find your champions. Start where there is the greatest interest in the benefit from the use of it, and the willingness to experiment. It can be anywhere in the operation, really. The key is to identify people who have a passion for using RPA; and in them you will also find the people who will help drive interest, momentum, business rationale, and results. Results should be about business outcomes, such as reduced fraud or waste, increased medical adherence, reduced readmissions, or better member or patient satisfaction.

In order to get people excited about the prospect of these potential results, its important to develop a story around RPA for your internal stakeholders. At a recent HfS Summit discussion with operations leaders, Lee Coulter, Senior Vice President at Ascension and Chief Executive of the Shared Services Subsidiary said that what worked for them was to build a 10 second message, a 30 second speech, and a three-minute story that should include a demo or video clip to “show” how it works. Focus on the impact and results that RPA can drive—the accuracy, speed, and predictability, for example.

Partnering for results

Service provider partners can play a strategic role in identifying opportunities to better leverage RPA. While they are at different stages of maturity, they have been developing capabilities and tools over the past few years on the processes they manage. The use of automation is becoming increasingly sophisticated, especially when you as a service buyer partner with an operations service provider to use RPA in a shared strategy. You’ll find a snapshot of how service providers and service buyers are incorporating automation into their operating models and infrastructures in my recently published POV, Getting the Ball Rolling with RPA in Healthcare Operations.

What’s your greatest challenge, success story, or tip to share?

Just with any change, it takes learning and collaboration to create something meaningful. We look forward to your questions, comments, examples, and stories over the coming months as we figure out how as an industry, healthcare can better leverage RPA to drive better health, medical, and administrative outcomes over time.

Source: has RPA played a role in increasing data accuracy and predictability in your healthcare operations?

Automation Will Make Us Rethink What a “Job” Really Is

As businesses enter the unchartered waters of machine intelligence – where machines learn by experience and improve their performance over time – researchers are trying to predict its impact on jobs and work. Optimists suggest that by taking over cognitive but labor-intensive chores the intelligent machines will free human workers to do more “creative” tasks, and that by working side by side with us they will boost our imagination to achieve more. Experience with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) seems to confirm this prediction. Pessimists predict huge levels of unemployment, as nearly half of existing jobs appear prone to automation and, therefore, extinction.

More nuanced analysis points to a less dystopian future where a great number of activities within jobs will be undertaken by intelligent systems rather than humans. This view, in effect, calls for a re-examination of what a “job” actually is: how it is structured, and how it should be reconfigured, or perhaps redefined, in the age of intelligent automation. How should companies rethink the value of a job, in terms of increased performance through machine intelligence? What set of skills should companies invest in? Which jobs should remain within the company, and which should be accessed via talent platforms, or perhaps shared with peers, or even competitors?

Conventional wisdom has long suggested that, as job performance increases, so does the value or return to the company. This myth of a consistent relationship between job performance and value across all jobs within a company has since been debunked, most recently in Transformative HR, which illustrates the variance in roles where great talent makes a difference and where good enough suffices.

However, with technology, digitalization, and artificial intelligence accelerating changes to jobs, the relationships between performance and value become even more complex and yield potentially exponential opportunities for value creation. Return on Improved Performance (ROIP) – similar to Return on Investment – measures the value of improved performance in a given position (i.e., not just the value of average performance in a job). Let’s look at an example that most of us directly interact with for hundreds, if not thousands, of hours annually: the airline industry.

Pilots are a critical pool of talent for an airline; there must be a sufficient supply with appropriate skills to operate the airline. But this is a segment where “good enough” suffices. As the chart below illustrates, beyond a certain standard, having higher performing airline pilots will not yield additional business value (defined as customer loyalty) to the organization, although having even one pilot “below minimum standards” can have a significantly negative impact on the performance and reputation of the organization as well as compromise the integrity of the business model.

This is the reason airlines invest in elongated career paths for pilots. For instance, it takes 20 years to move from the “right seat” of an Embraer 175 doing a short haul flight to the “left seat” of a Boeing 747 going across the Pacific Ocean. Significant investment also takes place in cockpit technology as well as in training and development (e.g., minimum simulator hours required) among other things, in order to take the left side of the curve out of play. This is a classic proficiency role: though the skills are high level, beyond a certain standard, higher performance won’t yield more value.

Nevertheless, as airlines increasingly pursue competitive advantage by differentiating the customer experience – particularly for premium passengers – flight attendants become a pivotal workforce segment. Often they are only “face of the organization” to most passengers – which suggests that higher levels of performance, particularly when it comes to delivering an experience that truly delights a passenger, can yield significantly greater customer loyalty, as the work of the flight attendant steadily shifts from the transactional to the relational. This is a classic pivotal role: higher performance yields more value.

So armed with this insight about the differential relationship between employee performance and value to the company, how can we apply the rapid advances in artificial intelligence to further enhance the impact of these roles? Indeed, how can we ensure that task automation does not merely reduce labor cost but also delivers increased performance for the human workers? To answer these questions, we need to begin disaggregating work and understanding how automation and AI can differentially handle various aspects of work.

Let’s go back to our flight attendants and think specifically about how cognitive automation might enable them to take the work of delivering the optimal customer experience to a whole new level – in this case with augmented reality powered by cognitive computing to deliver an unprecedented level of insight. If we deconstruct the job into the three categories defined in the chart above, you would ensure that the legally required and airline minimum elements of work were highly standardized and performed to the minimum acceptable standard while empowering and enabling the flight attendant to unleash all his discretionary effort on a highly personalized level of service. Imagine flight attendants wearing a version of Google Glass, through which they can access customer data and personalized preferences. No nut dishes served to Charles in 3C given his allergy, but black coffee and a predisposition for onboard duty free. Early seating meal for Sarah in 2A so she can get to sleep quickly. And so on.
In a scenario such as this, machine intelligence overlaid on augmented reality further increases the steepness of the curve for the discretionary portion of this pivotal role’s work. For the flight attendant using this technology a unit improvement in individual performance provides even greater increases in organizational value, as premium passengers are treated with a level of personalized service where it matters that would be otherwise unfathomable.

Conversely, consider how robotic process automation can change the left side of the curve for a pilot (i.e., the legally required element). Instead of investing the aforementioned resources to minimize the possibility of human error, AI (in this case, robot pilots or autonomous airplanes) can replace the routine and repetitive elements of the pilot role, flattening that portion of the curve. The emphasis could shift to having highly skilled pilots act as overseers from a distance for multiple flights, intervening when an unforeseen event moves the work beyond the routine. This would allow airlines to leverage the experience and insight of skilled pilots in a much more efficient way. The net effect is both a reduction in labor cost (as fewer pilots are required) and a reduction in the risk of an accident.

And yet….as we have seen countless times, the very idea of a robot making a mistake is terrifying to humanity. Consider the difference in the public reaction to the recent news of the Tesla autopilot accident versus the statistics about the countless lives lost every day due to human drivers’ texting while driving. It doesn’t matter that we know that IBM Watson’s success rate in diagnosing lung cancer is close to 90% while our human oncologists average 50%. We trust humans and expect robots to be infallible. Will we as a society be willing to allow the robots to learn? How long will it take the flying public to get comfortable putting their lives in the hands of a robot?

Given these challenges, here are five steps we recommend companies take to rethink work in light of automation and AI:

  • Gain clarity on pivotal vs. proficiency roles in your organization
  • Understand the specific nature of the relationship between performance and value for your pivotal and proficiency roles
  • Disaggregate the different parts of the curve shown in the chart above and determine how AI can play a role
  • Determine the specific activities that these different forms of AI might transform, and the relevant cost, capability, and risk implications
  • Plan for how stakeholders can be engaged in understanding and embracing the potential changes to work, recognizing the aforementioned biases and resistance factors

Recognizing how technology and AI can transform the performance and value equation provides a significant competitive advantage. Successful leaders will translate the evolving pivot points in their business models into specific implications for work, looking beyond jobs, and understand the transformative role AI can play in redefining the performance curve for the work of the future.

Source: Harvard Business Review –  Automation Will Make Us Rethink What a “Job” Really Is