Automation, traditionally linked with fears of job losses, looks set to make life easier for humans across the globe in 2020. From freeing up workers inside organisations to providing excellent customer experiences, the robots are here, and they’re helping make business better.
Automation is taking off – Robotic process automation (RPA) software revenue grew 63.1% in 2018 to $846 million, making it the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market, according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner expected RPA software revenue to reach $1.3 billion in 2019. Forrester is predicting the RPA market will grow to $2.9 billion in 2021. This means we’ll be seeing more and more companies implementing RPA, resulting in staff and customers engaging with digital workers more frequently, whether we realise it or not.
Automation efforts will continue to focus on the back office – The biggest adopters of RPA so far, Gartner says, are banks, insurance companies, telcos and utility companies – all of which are facing increasing pressure from ‘disruptor’ competitors, and looking to gain a competitive edge from their technology investments. Given their legacy environments, RPA offers them an effective way to quickly realise efficiency gains without major restructuring.
The need for end-to-end automation will shift the focus to the front office – As mentioned, RPA excels in system-driven process automation, which makes it good for lots of things, but not everything. 2020 will see companies getting the best out of RPA by combining it with technologies that can automate front office logic. This logic, contained in knowledge bases and staff brains, is increasingly being handled by specialist front-office digital workers. These digital workers ensure all the right questions get asked, answers get given and information gets collected in context, across staff-assisted and digital channels. They then work directly with their RPA digital co-workers to ensure the resulting back-office processing is performed flawlessly, repetitively, and tirelessly. This combination of front-office and back-office digital workers is forming a dream team that is allowing companies to achieve true end-to-end automation in a consistent, compliant and context-relevant way, at scale.
Automation will accelerate change in the job market – The greater adoption of automation in 2020 will accelerate the reshaping of the current job landscape. The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs report highlighted that while 50% of the companies surveyed said they expect automation to reduce their full-time workforce to some extent by 2022, 38% said they expect to extend their workforce to productivity-enhancing roles and many expect automation to lead to new roles being created. What these new roles will look like will most likely become a lot clearer over the next few years. What is clear is that automation can unlock human potential by removing the need for people to perform robotic, repetitive jobs that currently dehumanise them. It allows people to think more, dream more and communicate more. They can specialise in the optimisation of the customer experience rather than the replication of the company formula. Schools, colleges and universities that continue to teach memory-based and replication thinking will find themselves increasingly irrelevant.