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SMEs: Drivers of the automation revolution SMEs: Drivers of the automation revolution
SMEs: Drivers of the automation revolution
Oded Karev
Vice President, Global General Manager, Advanced Process Automation, NICE

SMEs: Drivers of the automation revolution

18 Sep, 2017 09:51 am

While larger corporations have so far driven the automation revolution, SMEs are set to drive growth in the coming decade, drawn by the high savings, low implementation costs and minimal business disruption offered by the technology.

The robotic process automation (RPA) sector is headed for rapid growth with some analysts predicting it will be worth almost $9 billion by 2024.

However, while large corporations are currently driving adoption, experts predict SMEs will present the most growth opportunity over the next 10 years, as they take advantage of the cost savings such systems offer.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots can manage anything from data collection to sophisticated analysis using artificial intelligence to gather meaning and context from unstructured data.

As RPA grows increasingly more sophisticated, the SME sector stands to benefit. In fact, SMEs accounted for 40% market share for RPA in 2015, according to a report conducted by Grand View Research.

Among several benefits, RPA can impact high savings for SMEs. In fact, it can drive 25-50% cost savings by automating data intensive, repetitive tasks, and by improving the accuracy and efficiency of process execution, according to Rod Dunlap, senior director, RPA for insurance, at Capgemini.

RPA also comes with low implementation costs. It's estimated that RPA is expected to cost as much as one-third of the least expensive offshore labor, for example.

The reduction in workforce cost is expected to lead organizations to adopt the technology over the next eight years. Small and medium enterprises are utilizing a process-based approach to gain contracts that contain lower cost to program and manage the robots.

In addition, RPA presents minimal business disruption, while bolstering reliability and service level improvements. Typical gains in speed and volume of tasks processed have been in the range of two to five times faster.?Because of the increase in speed, RPA facilitates an effective increase in the capacity of the finance and risk organizations to process more volume of activity in the same period of time.

Furthermore, with RPA, once you've built a robot that can do the work of a single employee, they're instantly scalable to 100 or 1,000 employees.

Interview :
Oded Karev
Vice President, Global General Manager, Advanced Process Automation division at NICE

"Human error is eliminated and costly mistakes no longer happen"

Why are SMEs, in particular, increasingly drawn to RPA?

Oded Karev - ©NICE
Automation increases productivity, eradicates errors and reduces employee attrition. It ensures flawless execution of many businesses process, which means employees' time is spent serving customers rather than performing routine tasks or correcting errors. For SMEs, this means increased bandwidth for employees and greater efficiency across business units.

It also makes it easier for businesses to scale, bringing a range of benefits that puts businesses in a better position to serve the customer. Once a process is created for one employee, it can easily be replicated across the business with minimum fuss. New working methods can be implemented across the business to deliver greater flexibility and cost-control and also enable a better working life for the employee.

What are the most tangible benefits for RPA for small to mid-sized companies?

Robotic process automation means SMEs can meet their service level agreements 100% of the time, creating a new standard of service. As robotic process automation takes over the repetitive, routine manual work, human error is eliminated and costly mistakes no longer happen.

Which industries will benefit most from RPA?

All industries can benefit from RPA. Every organization, in every vertical, has repetitive, time-consuming, error-prone processes that demand accuracy and speed, and don't necessarily rely on human 'out of the box' thinking. The automation of these processes has become a reality for organizations across a wide array of industries.

How has RPA become more sophisticated over the years? What's most impressive to date and what can we expect for the future?

In the early days, automation worked best with structured data, where businesses knew exactly what the data they collected was about and how they could use it. Data was streamlined and ready to meet specific needs. But with the emergence of mobile technology and other relatively new forms of engagement, the variety and volume of data has made that process more complicated.
Automation growth on autopilot
There are millions of audio and text files that hold very rich information, but are also very difficult to analyze. Since it's virtually impossible to listen to all calls and read all email and chat interactions, robotic process automation makes it easy to gain insights from all this valuable data.

At the moment, the artificial intelligence that underpins automation works best with narrow and specific instructions but as that artificial intelligence gets more sophisticated, automation will take on more complex tasks and processes. Like any other major technological advancement before it, it will enable us to perform our daily functions and processes better.

Are there any challenges associated with RPA implementation for SMEs, and how can businesses overcome these?

Deciding on what to automate can be a huge challenge. With customer expectations constantly changing and new channels of engagement emerging, deciding on where to begin, as well as the long-term plan is not always the most straightforward process.

There is also the issue of how automation fits in with existing systems and processes. For example, if existing applications have APIs or other data feeds built into them, the value of automation is less significant compared to enterprises that have a landscape of quite a few different types of applications--homegrown, legacy and new--and using an army of people to integrate across those systems. Justifying the investment in this case can be difficult for SMEs.

What are your bold projections for RPA adaption over the next five, 10 or 20 years?

The convergence of ongoing data growth and more sophisticated artificial intelligence will lead to more complex automation processes. As businesses tackle more customer engagements across multiple channels, and new data channels emerge, they will also be better equipped to automate processes as they see fit. Employees will no longer have to perform routine, repetitive tasks. They will be freed up to concentrate on the really important aspect of business - that is, serving the customer.

As well, in the age of advanced artificial intelligence, employees will no longer have to make repetitive, transactional decisions. Instead, they can focus on building relationships, providing excellent service and focusing more time on decisions that affect wider business growth and strategy.

Oded Karev


Oded Karev is Global General Manager of NICE's Advanced Process Automation division, which covers all of NICE's robotics solutions.

He moved to this role after serving as NICE Director of Corporate Strategy, leading some of the company's key growth initiatives.

Prior to joining NICE, he was with Accenture's Strategy Consulting practice where he specialised in delivering multi-channel strategy, customer journeys optimization and digital transformation projects for large banking and telecom enterprises.
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