Will RPA really replace human resources at workplace?

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Will RPA really replace human resources at workplace?

This question has become one of the most Frequently Asked Questions across the globe in the recent past; In fact it makes people to get worried as there is no light at the end of the tunnel. In order to answer this question, let us understand what is Robotic Process Automation.

As described on Wikipedia, the RPA is an emerging form of clerical process automation technology based on the notion of software robots or Artificial Intelligence (AI) workers. Basically, it is a software robot application that replicates the actions of a human being by interacting with the user interface of a computer system. Simply, the robot clicks in various applications, software, browser, etc. like a human being would do.

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Users sit at a computer terminal most of the day processing tasks using legacy, web and windows applications. For the sake of argument, let’s say everything the human does (pressing keys, moving/clicking the mouse, reading/thinking) is manual. So, if we could train a physical robot to sit in the user’s chair and press the same keys and click the mouse accurately every time at super-fast speed then we have Robotic Automation. Obviously, a robot on the chair approach is not practical to replace the manual computer- based work of humans. However, the computer is already capable of being the “robot,” (in fact, it already is a robot, but generally restricted to operate within the bounds of a single process or application,) we just need to teach (automate) this robot to correctly read the business applications (both on-screen information and non-visible object information), select the right commands, apply the right thinking (rules) and navigate. If we put the trained piece of automation software on each worker’s computer and do just that, then we have Robotic Automation.

If we use Robotic Automation to do everything a user does from end to end, then we do not need the worker to perform that task anymore. This work can be transferred off the worker’s desktop to a server, mimicking pretty much the same user environments. You now have Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

It’s certainly true many business tasks previously performed by human employees can now be automated with RPA. And some might argue with the additional rise of cognitive technologies, the capabilities for robots to replicate human-like functions are only increasing. Yet, artificial intelligence still needs training from humans. These technologies are therefore not entirely independent from humans nor are they currently able to reproduce the higher-level thinking of which humans are capable. At the same time, the human workforce will certainly be augmented by RPA implementation but in a way that will benefit both companies and their employees. RPA allows employees to increase their efficiency and productivity, and employees will be able to focus on higher-level activities, such as sales or marketing, that create business value and foster deeper engagement with customers. In deploying RPA, employee roles are often redefined and talent is reallocated to focus on customer facing tasks in the front office since there is no longer a need to focus on tedious, back office tasks.

The fears around robots replacing humans need to be tempered with the reality that new jobs will arise as others are ceded to machines. RPA will free humans from repetitive tasks and let them focus on value-added work to deliver a superior customer experience. Contrary to popular belief, robotics can facilitate the rise of the knowledge worker; rather than replace them, RPA gives employees room to innovate and be creative. During previous periods of rapid technological change, technology has dramatically changed the nature of our work, and these time periods are positively correlated with periods of higher employment job growth.

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