How Automation — in the Right Instances— Can Improve Workplace Productivity


Recent reports claim that companies are using robotics software to automate certain repeatable and rules-based back-office functions at a 25- to 50-percent labor cost savings. Automation software, also called Robotic Process Automation (RPA), is easy to deploy, it’s tireless and reusable, and enables 24/7/365 execution of tasks without error. And the statistic that is catching many people’s eye? A software robot costs as little as one-third the price of an offshore full-time employee (FTE) and as little as one-fifth the price of an onshore FTE.

Needless to say, recent developments in robotics are changing the equation that has long been used to build the business case for outsourcing. A major media company, for example, deployed RPA technology into its IT back office for event management and gained significant improvement in stability, reliability, and service-level attainment, while allowing for a double-digit reduction in support staffing.

A recent case study of Telefonica, a large telecommunications services provider in the UK, shows that, after deploying more than 160 robots to process between 400,000 and 500,000 transactions each month, the company is yielding a three-year return on investment of between 650 and 800 percent.

While current automation technologies use software that can “watch” and “mimic” simple user actions, the next wave of robotics begins to creep into the area of work that we think of as more reliant on the human brain—tasks that require judgment and problem-solving, for example. These forms of automation—known as cognitive computing and autonomics—will have a significant impact on the workplace of the future.

Many large companies can now realize improved cost and service-level performance from automation, even as they consider the potential future benefits from more advanced cognitive computing. Yet, not all functions and tasks are strong candidates to be taken over by a software bot. Because each workflow is tied to other processes and systems across an enterprise, adopting automation requires a disciplined approach and collaborative planning.

Is your back-office environment one that could gain from the potential efficiencies of automation? The answer: it depends. The decision to integrate these technologies varies by enterprise and should be made only after careful scrutiny of where and when deployment will best serve your business objectives.

The ISG automation framework helps educate customers about the realities of automation, evaluate strategic options, identify opportunities to automate and map a progression from simple solutions to more sophisticated ones. For more information, read this ISG white paper, Automation and the Back Office or contact me directly.

About the author

Rob works with clients to develop and implement business process re-engineering, improve service delivery and customer relationship management (CRM), create and implement applications development projects and transition employees and operations to external service providers. He is a highly knowledgeable ADM and infrastructure professional with more than 30 years of experience and excels in project, program and supply chain management. Rob recently led a transaction effort for a US-based multi-tower engagement in which he helped the company assess its strategy, develop an RFP, manage contract negotiations and transition and establish sourcing management and governance. He has been published in Pulse, ComputerWorld, InfoWorld, magazines and contributed to the recent publication of the book Service Automation Robots and the Future of Work.