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Robotic process automation: The new IT job killer?

Bob Violino | March 24, 2015
Robotic process automation has higher-value IT tasks in its cross-hairs but could be the best antidote to outsourcing yet.

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.

Prepare for some turmoil
Regardless of how RPA plays out within organizations, it's likely the movement will touch on passions around the possibility of job loss or the need for new skills. Companies will need to address these challenges in order to make a smooth transition to a more automated IT support infrastructure.

It certainly won't be the first time there have been significant shifts in IT workforces within organizations. "We've seen this movie before with the emergence of the Internet, outsourcing, and with all forms of disruptive technology that have forced the reallocation of jobs," IRPA's Casale says.

But RPA could create turmoil on a fairly large scale as more organizations adopt the technology. "There are some natural resistances to the implementation of this type of technology, mostly around the potential impact to people," Hanna says.

No doubt RPA will continue to touch on passions, given the potential for workforce upheaval. But those at the front lines of the technology say the sky is not falling for IT professionals.

"In many ways the RPA movement has been more readily embraced than traditional outsourcing," says Sean Tinney, global head of innovation and transformation at Sutherland Global Services, a service provider that has helped companies in a half-dozen industries deploy RPA.

"An RPA solution opens up more opportunities on or near shore than a traditional sourcing model, as well as creates new roles both for the sourced and retained organizations, in order to manage a fundamentally changed environment," Tinney says. "In our experience, the passion around RPA has been solely positive and quite often readily embraced."

 

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