RockingRobots recently sat down with Karen Inbar, Director of Product Marketing at robotic process automation supplier NICE, to get her perspective on how the approach is being seen in the UK market.
If you’re not familiar, NICE is a major RPA player, though that isn’t its sole business; the group, is a New Jersey-headquartered Israeli multinational that has expanded outside its original contact centre process automation business. NICE’s RPA offering was also recently described as a sector ‘Leader’ in analyst Everest Group’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) 2020 Technology Vendor Assessment.
Where is the UK when it comes to RPA adoption, Karen? Is it in a leadership role or lagging when it comes to other advanced economies right now?
The US is obviously our biggest market, but in EMEA for sure the UK is our biggest market. The UK has been a very strong adept adapter of RPA, for sure; the UK is pretty advanced in technology adoption, and large organisations there face the same issues that larger organisations face everywhere: they’re looking for more efficiency, to engage their employees better, to increase customer satisfaction.
What kind of organisations are you working with here?
The UK government is one of the largest customers that we have globally, using both our unattended and attended solutions for tax and customs. This year, we also started to be used in the NHS to help with COVID, and in the commercial world one of our customers is one of the UK’s biggest insurers, Swinton.
Whenever automation comes up in the UK as a subject for debate, I always hear a lot of suspicion, though—that this is just a way to get rid of my job. Do you feel that is a challenge in RPA adoption, or a myth?
It’s definitely not a myth. You hear about automation anxiety all the time, because at the end of the day automation does what people used to do until a minute ago—definitely the more routine, repetitive work that people do. Those kinds of workers within an enterprise, are scared because if all they do is copy-paste all day, then definitely they can be replaced.
But the reality that we see is not is much less letting go. RPA’s maybe slowing down hiring rates because companies can put in robots to do a lot of the work, but then they’re re-purposing their people to do other things. Take contact centres: a lot of enterprises are facing new topics that customers are calling about, and conversations tend to be much more complex—robots would not be able to do those things right, and you can’t really replace complex decisioning and out of the box thinking that employees can apply to help customers. People are there for the long term and we’re seeing a big trend in the market towards stronger adoption of attended automation.
What do you mean by that term?
Essentially, using robots to help the existing workforce do its work better; putting in personal robotic assistance for an employee. The first thing that can do is help you with work you hate to do… If I’m an IT person and when people leave the company, I need to erase that employee from 10, maybe more, different systems. That’s a very mundane task, which you would love to see taking off my task list. That’s the type of task the robot will take over, we’re seeing. Actually, it’s a breath of fresh air for employees once they realise the type of jobs robots are taking that lets them be more creative.
RPA right now is just not about replacing us but there popping up guidance and assistance to make you much more effective, to help them meet your KPIs, to help teams provide a better customer service which they’d want to do anyway.
Finally, Karen, what do you see 2021 being about for RPA?
The route this market is going towards, in the UK and elsewhere, is adopting more AI into the robot’s capabilities. Already we have some implementations of AI that are really helping us scale RPA, really helping to get the automation out there much quicker, like desktop process mining that uses unsupervised machine learning to identify processes then build automations automatically, based on what it identified, rather than asking people, What do you think should be automated? which is not the best guarantee of success.