Disproving the Biggest Myths about Robotics


Despite the increasingly widespread adoption of automation technology, many decision-makers still fall victim to a set of stubborn myths about how these technologies work. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a significant component of the digital journey, and failing to understand its potential can derail an automation program before it begins. To get the most out of your digital spend, it’s important to understand the truth about the ten biggest myths about robotics.

Myth #10: RPA is too expensive. In fact, low-complexity robots can be deployed for as little as $10,000 in less than four weeks, and even more complex robots can be deployed in a few months for less than $50,000. Ongoing costs are low, too, with a single server capable of supporting multiple robots and robot licenses costing $3,000 to $8,000 a year. The rule of thumb is that robots are one-third the cost of an offshore resource.

Myth #9: RPA is only for high-volume activities. Return on investment and payback is measured in months, not years. And, while high-volume processes naturally lend themselves to automation, the cost and ongoing maintenance factor also make this approach valuable for lower-volume transactions, especially those that might be susceptible to human error.

Myth #8: Robots cannot be trusted. Those who manage IT security protocols often put up roadblocks to prevent robots from accessing systems, effectively thwarting the RPA initiative. In fact, robots are easy to control when quality control is put in place over programming and testing of bots. And theft by robot is practically nonexistent.

Myth #7: Robots are humanoid creatures. While Rosie the Robot from the 1960s cartoon “The Jetsons,” Star Wars’ R2D2, and Disney’s sad-faced Wall-E are easy images to conjure up, this perception of RPA fuels the incorrect notion that futuristic innovation isn’t here yet, or worse, these creatures will lead to some sort of dystopian society where robots become our dispassionate overlords. In fact, robots in the RPA context are software designed to execute routine tasks.

Myth #6: The IT department should own and manage the RPA program. While IT is a key enabler of the system, it doesn’t need to own the project. RPA bots emulate human tasks, and the best individuals to design and manage them are process subject-matter experts.

Myth #5: Automation programs need to begin with a proof of concept. In fact, RPA is already a proven concept, and industrial robotics have been around for decades. RPA drives significant return on investment, and there is no need for costly proofs to take place before implementation.

Myth #4: RPA is a form of artificial intelligence (AI). Differentiating automation from intelligent learning systems based in AI is important, and when getting buy-in, you will get more people on board more quickly by focusing on how RPA increases efficiency in business processes.

Myth #3: RPA is unnecessary. ERP systems may include similar benefits to RPA, but ERP systems are not suited to drive the same type of navigation and automation RPA delivers.

Myth #2: Robots will take our jobs. In fact, robotics accounted for the creation of more than two million jobs over the last six years. It’s true that the nature of work is shifting, but that has been the case since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. While we may no longer need switchboard operators or town criers, we do need more technologists, engineers and skilled laborers who work in highly automated environments.

Myth #1: Once put into action, robots don’t take breaks. In fact, like any machine or piece of software, bots need regular maintenance, and some downtime will be necessary. In addition, the virtual workforce of tomorrow requires similar management of the human workforce.

ISG helps companies make sense of the changing technology ecosystem and create the case for action that fits their needs. Contact me to discuss further.

About the author

Mr. Furlong is a Partner at ISG and has over 25 years of experience in assisting companies transform their general and administrative functions including finance and accounting, human resources, and procurement. He has expertise in formulating strategies and designing alternative service delivery models (Global Business Services, shared services and outsourcing), transforming processes, driving organizational change, and implementing emerging technologies such as advanced analytics, mobile solutions, cognitive computing and cloud based solutions.  Mr. Furlong leads ISG’s Business Advisory Services practice and serves on the Americas Leadership team.