RPA: A critical digital transformation component
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the use of automation solutions in a number of ways and for a number of reasons. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions were leveraged during the pandemic itself to help employees of various companies deal with surges in call volumes, or airlines and travel companies handle cancellations and enquiries. Chris Loo, Managing Director SEA at UiPath, talks to Enterprise IT News about how they are enabling this and what will likely happen after the pandemic dies off.
EITN: Can you share observations and trends for automation in the post-COVID era? What will automation take up be like? In what areas will there be an increase, and what are the functions they will be prevalent in? While all of this is happening, what will happen to human workers?
Chris: Companies are continuing to use RPA post-COVID, this time to build resilience. Many firms saw how an event such as COVID-19 could upend everyday life, with employees suddenly forced to work from home and the way we work changing permanently. Automation technologies allow companies to mitigate against these risks but automating repetitive, rules-based tasks which currently require human intervention, thus freeing up their employees to be able to add value in other ways, often enabling them to work from home. For instance, RPA Document Understanding are able to read, understand and process invoices, freeing up employees to do other work.
As organisations look beyond the pandemic, they see how RPA can make them more competitive, improve employee morale and increase efficiency. As the world starts to grow, RPA will form a critical part of companies’ digital transformation plans. This will result in more nimble companies, and also a happier workforce as employees eschew ‘boring’ rules based tasks that can be performed by robots and work on more value-added jobs.
As the world starts to grow, RPA will form a critical part of companies’ digital transformation plans.
EITN: Can you share about the potential reskilling/upskilling that the workforce will have to undergo?
Chris: As RPA technology is growing in popularity among enterprises we have seen a growing demand for training courses, as people see RPA as a good career choice. Last year, UiPath released the State of RPA Developer Report 2020 which showed that 70% of RPA professionals say their organization will hire more developers in the next year, and 84% agree that their job as an RPA developer will have a positive impact on their next career move.
As such, I foresee employees from a variety of backgrounds taking it upon themselves to upskill themselves. As the technology is industry agnostic, it would make more sense for an industry professional to learn RPA skills, rather than a pure developer or technologist. Someone who has worked in a particular field and understands it in detail will be in a better position to apply RPA to that area to address a particular problem.
While there is specialist knowledge required with RPA, this does not mean it is restricted just to developers or experts in coding. A good example is UiPath’s own Benjamin Wee, one of our RPA Consultants, who first joined UiPath in a non-technical role, onboarding new software engineers to the company. Over time, he picked up RPA skills and knowledge, completed our online training course and is now a full-fledged RPA consultant.
While there is specialist knowledge required with RPA, this does not mean it is restricted just to developers or experts in coding.
EITN: Why will the automation agenda take on new urgency in enterprise risk and resilience?
Chris: I touched upon this earlier, but the COVID-19 pandemic really opened the eyes of many companies to the disruption that such an event can cause, and also how preparedness and resilience is vital if they are to survive it. However, those companies that did leverage automation technologies also saw the power that RPA and similar tech can bring and the beneficial effects on a company’s bottom line and workforce morale.
So, as we move on from the Pandemic over the next few years, we will see companies put automation at the heart of their digital transformation journeys. I foresee the formation of the Fully Automated Enterprise, where automation extends from back office tasks such as data processing and reconciliation, to front office tasks such as responding to customer queries and request tickets. The advent of low code application development tools will drive the extension and adoption of automation, which in turns will catalyse the advancement to intelligent automation.
The advent of low code application development tools will drive the extension and adoption of automation, which in turns will catalyse the advancement to intelligent automation.
EITN: Please explain what low-code automation is and how Malaysian employees can leverage it?
Chris: “Low Code” automation will allow citizen developers and employees with limited coding experience to build their own automation solutions. This could not only transform the way Malaysian organisations automate and digitally transform, but it could change the way automation is perceived by employees themselves.
UiPath have launched UiPath Apps, a web-based, drag and drop business application studio that enables citizen developers to build and deploy enterprise grade applications that deliver automation solutions. This allows the users themselves to start conceptualising, designing and building solutions that will automate tasks that they have to perform in their working lives.
By making this solution user friendly and easy to use – with a drag-and-drop functionality – automation is now accessible by the employee who can build automation himself or herself. Previously, automation would be a ‘top down’ initiative with senior management leading the charge and often deciding what should and shouldn’t be automated. Now, I foresee employees taking the lead and driving change from the bottom up.