Do robots have milk in their coffee?
They struggle and work day and night; even the most tedious tasks are performed without complaint; they never report in sick – but they never sit down and have a coffee!
Tomorrow’s workplaces will have more and more workers that are not that social but still are an essential part of the team – the robots. They are digital, a package of software code with a list of rules they perform. You might think nothing different than ordinary software – but the difference is quite big!
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA is the technical name of these robots. They are, in essence, created by recording the work task that a human does in different systems and then playing these up repeatedly. Quicker, without errors, and all day and night without any sleep.
What differentiates RPA from other forms of automation is that RPA uses the same screens, and the same e-mail looks at the same web pages as an average human does. As a result, RPA does not need any specially developed interfaces or system adoptions to work.
It’s easy to understand what the robots do, and they are helpful, contributing to the team and freeing up time for the human co-workers so they can spend their time on more value-added tasks.
In that way, it’s easy to see robots as part of the team, and they contribute to sharing the total workload of the group.
This makes it valuable to see them as virtual co-workers, being a part of the team and even having them reporting to the same manager – responsible for giving them tasks and supporting them when things (seldom) don’t work – exactly as with any other human co-worker.
But does this mean that robots will take over? This is a misunderstanding – that the robots replace humans, that humans get redundant and can be removed. This is not the case.
Instead, you shall see it as robots helping humans; they are virtual co-workers working with us. They do these tedious, repetitive tasks so we can spend our time with value-added tasks requiring ideas, creativity, and other human properties that the robots don’t have.
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”Albert Einstein
How to raise understanding in the team to have them on board the automation journey:
- A shared understanding of the work process: You can’t automate work processes if you don’t understand them yourself. Not everything is suitable for automation, and you certainly don’t want to automate flawed processes.
- Split up the work together – Let the team be part of the work to select the tasks to be automated by robots. For instance, it’s a good idea to keep responsibility for the part of the work that includes communication with other people, where you need empathy and good communication skills.
- Name the robots – This is a simple way to have people see the robots as co-workers; how many of you have not named your robot vacuum cleaner at home?
“When we built Roomba, we explicitly designed it to not have a face. We didn’t want to think it was cute; we wanted people to take it seriously, so we gave it more of an industrial look. People personified their Roomba anyway. Over 80% of people name their robot. We did nothing to encourage people to do that, but they do it anyway.”Colin Angle, CEO iRobot
- Try to play down robots and automation – see robots as a help in the daily work.
- See robots as a part of the team in the form of a digital co-worker
- Invite the group to form a new way of working
And – the robots will not be joining you at the coffee break – yet 🙂
This article is a very simplified description of RPA, automation, and how it can work in organizations and teams. Tons of technical aspects need to be considered, but by seeing RPA’s (robots) as a new type of co-workers, you can benefit from already existing solutions. By placing them in teams with the same managers as humans, you can help and reuse existing responsibility scopes and other similar requirements.