CIOs Need To Know What Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Is

Robotic Process Automation is coming, will CIOs be ready?
Robotic Process Automation is coming, will CIOs be ready?
Image Credit: Photo by Rock’n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

As the person with the CIO job at your company, you are constantly under pressure to understand the importance of information technology and to find ways to allow the company to do more things quicker. You’ve probably already done the simple things such as deploying a group chat application, installing an ERP suite, and, of course, putting in countless firewalls to keep the whole operation safe. However, now the people running the company are going to be asking you to do more. They want you to find ways to automate the back office tasks that are being done that don’t bring a lot of value to the company. Looks like you are going to have to learn about RPA.

Say Hello To RPA

RPA is something that not many companies know about. It turns out that there are three startup companies that have staked their future on getting people in the CIO position to invest in their products. These three companies are UiPath, Blue Prism Group, and Automation Anywhere. None of them have been around any longer than since 2005 and it’s only been in the past few years that they have really taken off. What all three of these companies do is to automate simple back-office tasks. What’s gotten them so much publicity is that they call what they do RPA: Robotic Process Automation.

It can be easy for a CIO to poo-poo the arrival of yet another startup firm that claims to have a hot technology. However, in this case you might want to pay attention. The reason that these three companies might be on to something is because a lot of people are investing a lot of money into them. Their share prices have risen 30 times and their second round of financing is bringing in US$1.8B. The companies in whole have raised $700M this year and each is trying to open new offices all around the globe.

The reason that these companies are competing with each other in such a frantic way is because the leadership of this market is still up for grabs. Somebody is going to establish themselves as the premier firm for providing software robots that have the ability to mimic humans as they complete back-office tasks such as entering invoice information into databases, automatically sending out letters to new hires, or processing insurance claims.

The Promise Of RPA

RPAs may have just arrived, but soon CIOs everywhere will be using them. The market for these systems is expected to grow from $325M to over $1.1B this year. The reason that CIOs are becoming excited about this new technology is because there is currently such a buzz in the industry about everything having to do with Artificial Intelligence (AI). In all honesty, RPA doesn’t really fall into the category of AI. True AI systems are able to learn new things when they are presented with new data and then they are able to make decisions without any human input. This allows them to do things such as determining if an insurance policy should be underwritten or looking for evidence of credit-card fraud.

RPA consists of having humans train the software to perform what are generally simple, repeatable jobs such as opening a PDF file that has been attached to an email, scanning the document for specific pieces of information, and then performing data entry to enter the information into a company database where it needs to be stored. Currently these jobs are being performed by humans.

The reason that CIOs are starting to get excited about this new technology is because they believe that they will be able to deliver real cost savings to their companies. The software robots will be able to be used to replace people who are currently completing clerical tasks. The robots will be faster and cheaper and should be able to perform their tasks with a lower rate of error. The end result should be that the robots will be 20-33% cheaper than the humans that they will be replacing and they should be able to do 3-4 times the amount of work.

What All Of This Means For You

The role of a CIO at any company is to find ways for the company to use IT resources to become more productive. CIOs always have to be on the lookout for the next great technology that can help to propel their firm forward. All of the easy IT changes have already been made, now it’s getting time for the next round of new technology to be introduced. This new technology may have just shown up in the form of robotic process automation (RPA).

RPA technology is currently being marketed by three companies. Each of these companies is attracting a great deal of attention and lot of funding. Who will end up leading this market is still to be determined and each of the companies is trying to be the one who can best mimic humans as they complete back-office tasks. RPA really does not use artificial intelligence to perform its tasks. Instead it is trained by humans to perform simple repeatable tasks. CIOs believe that RPA technology can be used to replace humans with software robots that will perform their tasks quicker and more reliably.

CIOs are going to have to take a long hard look at the back-office tasks that are being performed at their firms. RPA technology is brand new and they will need to be able to determine if RPA can replace the human workers that the company is currently using. If this is possible, then the CIO will need to come up with a transition plan that will allow the new technology to be introduced in a way that will cause as little disruption as possible. The future is arriving and it may consist of software robots that start to run more and more of the firm!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that RPA robots can replace all human clerical workers or will some need to be retained for the unique cases?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Think about the car that you are currently driving. What components go into it? If you guessed metal, glass, and plastic then you would be correct – but you would have missed one key ingredient. Software. More and more the cars that we drive are being controlled and run by software. The problem is that the traditional car makers are good at bending metal, but not so good at creating software. Can their CIOs change things so that they’ll be able to create the cars of the future?