Robotics, Robotic Process Automation, (RPA – of course it needs a TLA!), Automation – it’s very much today’s buzz word. What these actually are and how they work are depending on who you ask. In my view, these have been around for many years and changed names, perhaps in the same way in which eCommerce is today’s Digital.
Nothing wrong with that at all, what’s really important is always the same – understanding what outcome we are after so that we can find the smartest and most efficient way to get there (at a point in time, recognizing that not very much stands still).
If you are to believe the press, everyone is fearful that Robots will take all our jobs, fear is gripping the nation and even the popular media is reporting the Rise of Robots with National Newspapers (Daily Mail, 5m jobs by 2020 or Financial Times also throwing AI into the mix) and Business Press (McKinsey state 25% of jobs to go) alike reporting numbers from 10% to 50% and more wiped out as a result of this new technology. War of the Worlds begins!.
But Robots or Automation have been part of every stage of industrialization and evolution / revolution for years. Dare I argue, from Horses to Motor Vehicles, Auto assembly lines, from Bank Agents to ATM’s, from Manual work to Macros – there are so many things we have today that automate and ultimate give us time back by doing things in a more efficient way. In every one of these scenarios, we have moved to new jobs and created whole new categories. Today is no different. In fact, there are many examples of Jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago (with a little fun mixed in). This from David Hamman.
As for Robotics, a quick summary from me would include:
What it means for Insurance (and most other industries)
- Reduced error rate from human processing
- Improves process speed (where you can still only run at the pace of the slowest machine)
- Robots don’t take coffee, lunch or holiday breaks – a lot less to deal with
Why it works:
- Lots of manual ‘swivel chair’ integration
- Repetitive work that can be easily automated, hard to recruit for often
- Allows people to focus on the customer, while the Robot does all the ‘swivel chair integration’, updating lots of systems with the same stuff.
- Ultimately, you are adding more layers to the ecosystem/architecture. This may give you great FTE improvements, productivity gains and reduced error rates, but don’t forget, long term strategy should be to switch stuff off and reduce run cost.
- If the underlying systems change, do you need to change your robot configuration?
- The ‘Happy Path’ is always easiest to map. It’s when it doesn’t work it starts to get more difficult.
- If your remaining FTE are only dealing with exceptions, then they are likely need to be more skilled and experienced and need to be able to pick up in the middle of process quickly to understand the exception and complete the task, or set the robot on it’s way again.
- Automate only the right process. Not everything will be a good candidate, just because you could automate it.
- Don’t mistake ‘rules’ with RPA for ‘Human Judgement’. I don’t think we are quite there yet, but with AI, we are learning. It won’t be long.
Of course, if you discount the date, we also just launched the First Ever Robot-Run Insurance Agency which moves from Robotics to Robo Advice, a whole new world indeed. (is it an April fool, really, who was the Author!?)
For now, there is plenty to Dance about (just ask Peter Crouch!) with plenty of opportunity and ways in which this can be used to drive significant benefit and opportunity.
What’s your take, where do you see these best used and why? Where can we see the positive side of this in terms of exciting new jobs, better experience for employees, agents and customers?