Friday, 9 February 2018

The robots are ready, are you?

A third (33%) of Irish-based respondents to the Deloitte Robotics Survey have commenced using robotics in their organisations, according to the Deloitte report, ‘The robots are ready, are you?’.
The survey of over 400 executives globally, including 55 from Ireland, shows that overall 53% of respondents are implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in their organisations. RPA is the use of robots or robotics on computer systems to support more effective processing of data and are programmes that replace the need for humans to perform repetitive rules-based tasks. RPA is seen as an entry point to more complex and ambitious cognitive automation and customer engagement initiatives, which leverage natural language processing, machine learning, advanced analytics and cognitive chatbots.
If adoption continues at its current level, RPA will have achieved near-universal adoption within the next five years.  Findings show that continuous improvement and increased levels of automation are the top strategic priorities with both global and Irish businesses. In line with this, over three quarters of all respondents (78%) plan to increase RPA investment in the next three years.
The findings demonstrate that RPA is delivering real value for Irish business leaders who have implemented the technology with:
·         87% of Irish respondents believe it has met or exceeded expectations with regards to cost reductions, and improved productivity
·         74% with regard to improved quality and accuracy
·         55% with regards to timelines
·         45% with regard to compliance
Furthermore, the experience of global respondents indicates that the payback periods are attractive – businesses report payback periods of less than 12 months with an average of 20% of full time equivalent (FTE) capacity provided by robots. Organisations based in Ireland are more cautious citing payback periods of less than 24 months, with 17% of FTE capacity provided by robots.
Donal Lehane, Partner, Consulting, Deloitte commented: “Over the past year, there has been intensifying interest in robotics and automation, and the findings of this survey demonstrate that it is a clear strategic priority for organisations in Ireland, and indeed globally. Here in Ireland, financial services organisations are leading the charge on RPA exploration and adoption, however the findings also show that public sector organisations also expressed strong interest in implementing this new technology. 
“The potential for this technology to reduce costs in particular has been highlighted. However, while technology will contribute to some loss of jobs, Deloitte research indicates it will create more jobs, which on average, are higher skilled and higher paid.[1] It is clear that the job landscape in the future will be dramatically different. In parallel with moving to greater use of robotics and automation, businesses need to reimagine the shape and role of their human workforce.”
The findings indicate that while Irish organisations recognise the benefits of it, scaling RPA is proving more difficult. Just 2% of respondents have scaled their digital workforces to 50 or more robots. At a global level, the ability to implement the technology remains similar to those reported last year - only 3% of respondents have managed to scale RPA to a level of 50 or more robots.
The top five challenges identified by those respondents who have implemented and scaled RPA were process standardisation, IT buy-in and support, integration and flexibility of solution, stakeholder buy-in, and expectations and employee impact. 
“The survey results confirm what we are seeing on the ground - RPA is emerging as a critical tool in the Digital Operational Excellence arsenal. Firms looking to fully realise these benefits should look to compliment traditional levers such as lean, workflow, process excellence, organisational design and sourcing with innovative robotic and cognitive capabilities. RPA deployed at scale involves significant architectural challenges, hybrid agile delivery methods and a shift to a DevOps culture to facilitate the ongoing maintenance and control of the solution,” advised John Kilbride, Head of Robotics and Cognitive Automation.
The report also explores use of other cognitive technologies and finds that as organisations progress in their adoption of RPA, they tend to become more ambitious. More than a quarter (28%) of those global respondents implementing and scaling RPA are also implementing cognitive automation, while only 6% of those that have not implemented RPA are progressing with cognitive automation. RPA can fuel both the interest in and the agility required for other digital technologies, enabling organisations to move further on the digital automation journey.