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Businesses investing US$5M into RPA technology

Robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming a hot topic for enterprises around the world.

In the Asia-Pacific region, more businesses are adopting RPA solutions in order to maintain a competitive edge and increase production, according to a new study.

Protiviti, a consulting firm, has conducted a global study in collaboration with ESI ThoughtLab, to look at the adoption of RPA in different regions, focusing specifically on benefits, challenges, effective strategies and lessons learned from businesses who have adopted the tech.

The study, titled ‘Taking RPA to the Next Level’, found that Asia-Pacific companies are the most prepared to deal with the fears associated with RPA.

However, investment in RPA is increasing in all industries, with positive return. In fact, those that adopt RPA are able to boost market share, revenue, and customer satisfaction, according to the study.

RPA in Asia-Pacific

According to those surveyed, 95% of businesses in Asia-Pacific use or are experimenting with RPA, and of those who have already adopted it, 61% expect to increase implementation in the next two years.

Among Asia-Pacific companies, increased productivity, better quality, and a stronger competitive market position were identified as the three most important benefits they have received from RPA.

In the past year, 53% of businesses reported a revenue increase in the areas where they applied RPA. All project revenue to increase in the next two years.

As Asia-Pacific businesses realise the benefits of RPA, many plan to devote more of their budget to further RPA applications, according to the study.

In the next two years, 70% approximate an increase in budget allocation to RPA, of which 34% project an increase of more than 5%. This is largely on par with plans for future investment in the US and Europe, the two other regions surveyed, the survey shows.

Even so, of all regions Asia-Pacific companies are the most worried about employee engagement and concerns in the process of RPA adoption, the study shows.

Of companies surveyed, 37% ranked “making sure your staff is on board and RPA responsibilities are defined” as the most important lesson learned while implementing RPA, compared to 23% in the US and 26% in Europe.

These fears may lead to better preparedness, however, with 72%, the most of any region, saying they were prepared to manage employee fears that their jobs will be displaced by automation.

On a global scale, businesses classified as RPA leaders have highlighted the importance of transparency and the benefits of increasing employee engagement by eliminating repetitive tasks.

Protiviti Hong Kong managing director Adam Johnston says, “Employees fear the impact of RPA on their jobs and to allay those concerns, RPA leaders need to be open and transparent about their plans and actively retrain or repost employees whose jobs will be disrupted.

“To assuage employee fears, organisations are taking key steps by being transparent about their plans for RPA use, working closely with employees to understand and alleviate their concerns, and accentuating the positive relating to time saved on mundane repetitive work.”

He says, “Many companies are already in front of the issue and aggressively managing the options. More than half of organisations are redeploying staff and providing training for new responsibilities as part of their RPA plans.”

RPA on a global scale

RPA implementation is gaining popularity around the world. According to the study.

In fact, businesses are investing an average of US$5 million into the technology, which is expected to increase in the coming years.

Financial services and technology/media telecommunications use RPA the most, while implementation has progressed in IT management, marketing and communications, quality/process improvement, product development and accounting/finance.

Over the next two years, RPA is expected to be adopted most rapidly in auditing and compliance, operations/supply chain management, and human resources management.

Johnston says, “Companies in Asia-Pacific, and throughout the world, are pumping resources into RPA. We expect that in as little as two years, RPA leaders’ those companies we've identified as already ahead of the curve will be using bots in virtually every function within their organisation.”

“RPA leaders are making this technology an important component of sleek and agile operations that will fortify their market positions.

“In functions ranging from IT management to sales and business development, RPA leaders are using the technology to drive efficiencies, boost speed to market and bolster financial performance,” Johnston says.

He says, “When used correctly, RPA can deliver impressive results. However, reaping the full benefits of it requires a properly staged roadmap with critical steps to build momentum, create and deploy pilots, and monitor the effectiveness of bots.

“Along the way, companies should heed potential stumbling blocks and be prepared to surmount them. Executives also need to keep employees' feelings and needs in view. Their support will be integral to deploying RPA effectively.”