Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
How do you see the robotics space evolving?

Top Answer: In 2021, the largest number of sales of any kind of technology was in industrial robotics. That was the third year running, so even pre-pandemic, industrial robotics was still the biggest seller. I foresee that will continue for at least another two years, even more so because we now have the Diligent Robotics and Boston Dynamics of the world. Boston Dynamics’ Spot is now coming into Canada and the US in much larger capacities. Those are robots that are not stationary; the mobile robots are the ones that are taking over that market space.

Where are you seeing automation or robotics decrease the need for staff?

Top Answer: I was recently involved in a discussion with manufacturers and supply chain partners, and someone raised a question on the impact of emerging and exponential technologies on the workforce. They told us about their client who wants to become a completely lights-out factory with automation only, within a matter of eight months. We had a client that did it over the period of two years and went from 900 staff down to 71. Those staff were supervisors hired only as needed by contract; they let all of the union workers go and got rid of the idea of three shifts. But after a period of time they found that they had to bring some of the more seasoned workers back to the line, because they were missing the body of knowledge required to keep up the level of efficiency. No matter how much process automation or robotics they had put in, they were still having problems in certain areas.

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What is life like for an IT leader after the company goes IPO?

Top Answer: Being an IT leader is always challenging and after an IPO there are new challenges to deal with. I always enjoy resolving business problems through technology automation. We are still trying to do a lot in one or two quarters, because we now have to produce more detailed metrics as a public company and meet all our goals on time, while also passing compliance audits. There is a lot of internal pressure on the sales and marketing teams, so I'm trying to prioritize critical business process automation in order to figure out how quickly I can enable them, as well as how quickly we can address the technical debt. That's the core focus now. We’re also working on improving the infrastructure to drive a better employee experience: What can we do to enable our employees, so they can work with our customers at speed? What automations can I put in place now to scale the organization to the next level and how can we make the company more profitable through tech stack optimization.

Why do so many RPA projects fail?

Top Answer: Robotic process automation (RPA) is not a silver bullet. It’s been a buzzword for the past four-five years and it’s on every CIO's list. People are investing in RPA, but when you see these projects, they're not delivering the expected benefits. The problem is that you can't fix just any problem with RPA. We need to consider RPA as another technology platform.  The most common reasons that these projects fail are: 1) Incorrect selling by vendors The people who are selling this platform are directly dealing with the business users and giving them wrong hopes about the capabilities. The expectation to eliminate the workforce might not hold; we need to treat this as an augmented solution rather than an elimination solution. 2) Skills gaps These platforms are easy to build but using them correctly requires a proper technology expert; citizen development may not hold for large-scale automation projects. 3) Use case shortlisting Picking up a use case is important; you need to be sure about RPA capabilities and associated cost-benefit analysis (CBA) commitments. Not meeting the benefit commitments is also a failure. 4) Technology tenets RPA was initially designed to run on legacy systems only. Modern platforms are offering out-of-the-box API integration, and use RPA only when there are no alternatives. 5) Inexperienced partners If you are starting the RPA journey, it is best to ask for the resource profile along with the company’s experience with RPA. Inexperienced or less experienced resourcing is a frequent cause of failure.

Why is it so difficult to justify resourcing costs for RPA?

Top Answer: Platform modernization, advancement and acceptance of the integration technologies — like Dell Boomi, Mulesoft, etc. — are driving people to look for a faster and foolproof solution with fewer exceptions. The scope of tasks qualifying for RPA is shrinking, resulting in projects with smaller cost-benefit analyses (CBAs). Now with the rise in salaries and licensing costs, the ROI realization will take time.  Customers should not be thinking of maintaining in-house RPA teams; it is always better to go with a partner that can help deliver the automation objectives and goals. Having a completely outsourced or partially outsourced RPA team would help drive faster ROI.

Can robotic process automation (RPA) negatively impact retention?

Top Answer: I've had to have tough conversations with regards to staffing, staff augmenting, or otherwise throughout the many hats and careers that I've had. With RPA kicking in over the last few years, I have to work with folks who have been at the company for 30 years whose jobs have now been automated. If you have 20 people working in IT operations or security, and you automate 90% of their job, what do you do with those roles? What do you do to retain the subject matter experts, or anyone else? And there are a couple different groups, like marketing, that may be a little top-heavy on resources but have some skills to leverage with low-code or no-code tools.