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‘Automation requires human-centric IT’

by Marco van der Hoeven

The promise that IT will support people in their work above all, which  has been hanging over the market for years, seems to be reached now with RPA, though this cannot happen on its own. A successful automation project requires the cooperation of IT and business, including the use of HR to guarantee the acceptance of technology. The ultimate aim is people-centred IT.

Cindy Sichtman-Taphoorn has been working for UiPath as sales director for nearly three years now. In this position, she is responsible for guiding and supporting a number of large customers with their automation and RPA issues. “At the enterprise level, many companies are already working charting and developing automation strategies. Different companies are at different stages of this process, of course. Most start the same way  though, with a proof of concept somewhere in the organization.”

Once that is successfully in place, they often encounter the same challenge: “When you then want to expand, the next step is to seek cooperation with the IT department. Scaling must after all be done properly, based on the current standards and with the right quality. That is usually the time when people start thinking about how they can apply automation more broadly in the organization. Themes such as citizen development and ‘a robot on every desktop’ then ensue.

Business objectives

“This is a highly topical subject right now: how to set up your automation operating model properly, whereby all stakeholders in an organization are involved, in line with your company’s business objectives. In those conversations, I try to underscore that that we can support the entire RPA lifecycle with our platform: from discovering use cases to building and managing the robots, while enabling the users of the robot, including adoption.”

This is digital transformation par excellence and it affects the way people work. “The promise that IT is going to support people in what they want to achieve in their work has been looming for years. Initially, that has not led to more productivity. In my view, this has to do with the approach that the IT profession is seen as one solution for all.”

“But now the trend is precisely that you are moving towards personalizing the needs in which people carry out their work. There is no one application that can meet those needs. This in turn causes people to conform to applications, with the repetitive actions that entails. So in that case technology does not support people.”

Digital assistant

Automation on the other hand is precisely about human-centric IT, with a focus on how a digital assistant can support individuals in their work, in processes that are specific to their activities in the department where they work. “In other words, you remove repetitive work, so that they can develop their own specific talents and qualities.”

This however requires fostering a culture in which people are willing to work in a different way. “People have actually got used to conforming to certain processes and a certain way of working. That change in turn raises the question of what people should do with the time they get back. This is a topic we regularly discuss with HR.”


Robotization therefore raises questions for HR also. “How do they deal with it? Because a robot is not a human being. But using a robot so that you can bring out human qualities properly means support, instead of something that gets in your way. So it is important how you deal with it. How are you going to inform employees and prepare them for a different way of working? Because some people find it easier to deal with technology than others. That is a task for HR.”

Robotization can also play an important role in HR itself. There are many processes, including sub-processes where data are retrieved and processed in applications, and all kinds of documents are used. “These entail a great many manual activities that you could ask yourself whether it would not be better to have a robot do them, so that the HR staff can actually focus on the people in the organization. Furthermore, the use of automation increases the level of maturity in the field of technology in HR.”

Business en IT

“It is important to bear in mind that broader deployment of automation requires an alignment between business and IT, which have to work in tandem: you cannot scale without good governance. The robots must be managed centrally somewhere in the organization, for example for access. The processes, on the other hand, are nowhere as well-known as in the business. People must be able to indicate where they themselves gain the most benefits. That can differ per department.”

Another important point is mobilization so as to recognize ambassadors and give them a platform. They can help people embrace robots as a technology to get more out of your talent.  “Automation in HR is consequently a twofold task: First how to make the organizational culture as receptive as possible to automation; and second how to make the best use of automation. HR has an important role to play in the digital mindset, and it is important to set a good example itself. If HR can reflect on the future of its own workplace, and outsource repetitive work to robots, it can show the rest of the organization also the value that digitalization brings to the organization, while having more time to help people in their organization.”

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