Robotic process automation: The new IT job killer?

Robotic process automation has higher-value IT tasks in its cross-hairs but could be the best antidote to outsourcing yet

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overworked multitasking tech workers 100672507 orig Thinkstock

The silver lining

Experts say RPA doesn’t represent all gloom for tech workers. For one, the technology itself will provide opportunities because organizations will need people who are skilled in implementing, managing, and maintaining the programs.

“There is going to be a need for new skill sets in lower and middle management, for people who are able to work with RPA platforms and understand how to manage them,” IRPA’s Casale says. He has talked with people who worked in IT support and were displaced by RPA systems who received training and went on to become experts in process automation.

In addition, companies could move some of the displaced workers into more interesting and challenging types of jobs -- either in IT or other areas of the business.

“Absolutely will [RPA] free up time to do more important and more demanding jobs in IT,” Arago’s Boos says. “The demand for experienced IT people is so incredibly high and cannot be fulfilled by the current supply from universities and other education programs. Especially on the experience side, moving people up the value chain is most important, and RPA will be a major enabling factor here.”

Ascension Health has been able to free up some workers to focus on more complex activities, Hanna says. The company’s goal is to cross-train or up-skill as many operations workers as might be displaced by the use of RPA, Hanna says. “In some ways, we see the use of RPA as having a greater potential to retain levels of staffing that you might not have if you outsourced the entirety of the work to a traditional BPO,” he says.

Because there will always be exceptions that “fall out of the parameters covered by the robot, an organization might keep the staff where previously they would have been outsourced,” Hanna says.

CGI has been able to shift some of its IT people to other business activities, Wootton says. “We see RPA changing the type of activities our people work on, by automating many of the repetitive tasks, freeing up time for more value add activities [and] ultimately providing our people more interesting and involving roles,” he says.

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