Robotics process automation (RPA) continues its permeation into corporate finance on the promise of more advanced, actionable analytics. With FinTech working to allay fears that RPA will replace human jobs, professionals are anticipating greater adoption of the technology by their employers: A survey from Pegasystems published earlier this year found that nearly 70 percent of professionals believe that, eventually, the word “workforce” will mean both human and robot.
But professionals appear eager to embrace RPA, rather than afraid. Most employees surveyed by Pegasystems said they believe the technology will yield efficiency and a reduction of manual processes like data entry. Nearly 60 percent said it will promote better customer service.
As analysts, employees and FinTechs explore whether robotics process automation will aid or replace human capital, however, the latest data suggests corporates are far from ready for that disruption. Instead, research shows, businesses are stumbling through the adoption phase.
Data published by The Hackett Group in March, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, showed that employers are facing particular challenges when it comes to RPA adoption. Most notably, they struggle to identify the right tasks to automate, the right level of automation and the right talent to develop robots to do the job.
Addressing data quality issues and process optimization before beginning the initial adoption phase of RPA technology is also complicating the process, researchers noted.
“Despite its relative ease and implementation compared to many enterprise technology solutions, RPA has come with a greater-than-expected learning curve,” said the report’s authors, Erik Dorr, Vin Kumar and Paul Morrison.
Similar conclusions were met in a more recent report from Deloitte U.K.
“Put simply, process complexity drives robot complexity: It increases the cost and difficulty to design and implement TPA, increases operating costs and increases business disruption,” wrote the authors of the report, Justin Watson, David Wright and Marina Gordeeva, according to ZDNet. “Robots require detailed process accuracy and need to be taught at the keystroke level. Yet, organizations are finding processes are not always well understood, even where robust process documentation exists.”
The survey from Deloitte U.K. found that 53 percent of 400 professionals surveyed said they have already begun to implement robotics process automation into their systems, with analysts predicting that the figure will rise to 72 percent within the next two years.
But Deloitte U.K. warned that RPA could suffer from the “hype” effect that many other cutting-edge technologies (like blockchain) face today within the enterprise. Researchers highlighted the lack of progress made year-over-year in terms of RPA adoption.
“Levels of implementation remain similar to those reported last year, and only 3 percent of organizations have managed to scale RPA to a level of 50 or more robots,” stated the report, which is titled “The robots are ready. Are you?”
Furthermore, reports noted, the IT department – responsible for implementation and management of RPA – is actually least likely to embrace the technology.
Deloitte U.K. found that while 72 percent of C-suite executives are supportive of robotics process automation, the IT department is “the least supportive stakeholder,” with only 31 percent of information technology professionals supporting RPA initiatives.
According to the report, the IT department may feel it has more important tasks at hand other than embracing a technology that may be perceived as trendy.
“It can be difficult to move RPA up the priority list of IT organizations when they are often focused on more immediately pressing and large-scale challenges of keeping the lights on, migrating estates to the cloud and preparing for next-generation ERP,” the report noted.
Still, Deloitte U.K. concluded, there are tangible benefits to RPA, which could signal that the technology will survive the hype.
“The advantages gained from digital workforce not only lie in improved compliance, improved quality/accuracy, improved productivity and cost reduction, but [also] the opportunity to establish a mindset and momentum that enables enterprises to progress further and faster on the overall digital journey,” the report said.