Taxwise Or Otherwise

The past couple of years demonstrated rapid growth in Robotics Process Automation (RPA), which continues to be a strategic priority for many organizations. Research published in December by Gartner showed that RPA adoption grew by 60% from 2018. It also predicted that in 2024, automation combined with redesigned operational processes will reduce 30% of an organization’s operational costs, making it even more enticing for industrial enterprises. With such momentum, RPA is revolutionizing business operations, including those of industry leaders, which has led to an automation-first mindset across all industries. In the face of RPA implementation, more organizations are finding ways to adapt quickly to the increasingly competitive business environment.

An automation-first mindset enables everyone in the organization to drive robotics ideas. It embraces continuous improvement by analyzing processes and eventually identifying candidates for automation, thereby building on the framework that improves productivity without spending too much on sophisticated software or hiring additional manpower. Guaranteeing the success of an organizational automation-first mindset lies in one critical factor: engaged people. Without it, automation is reduced to a catchphrase, and RPA is just another technology.

RPA is playing a vital role in the age of digital transformation. While it has showcased its benefits, many fear that it will replace jobs and diminish the value of human workers. While full-scale RPA implementation eliminates job redundancies, organizations tend to overcomplicate this benefit; as a result, people misjudge the intentions of RPA and automated solutions as a whole.

Undeniably, RPA has an impact on an organization’s workforce. People are so used to spending most of their time on high-volume mechanical tasks that accurately adhere to a set of procedures that they fail to find meaning in their work. However, this is where one of the significant benefits of RPA comes in. Through robotics, people can concentrate on value-adding activities that create higher knowledge and encourage the acquisition of new competencies as RPA takes repetitive and low-value tasks off their hands. Employees can focus on meaningful work where they can gain leverage over robots and machines. Even though RPA initially disrupts the status quo, its long-term benefit is to create strategic roles that give people a more profound sense of purpose in an organization.

To ensure a people-centered RPA implementation, organizations should have a well-designed change management program that will allow employees to appreciate what RPA is and dispel their fear of replacement by highlighting how it augments the quality of their outputs. People often dread disruptive technologies because they bring change, sometimes job losses; therefore, organizations implementing RPA, regardless of scale, should disclose their purpose with an effort to support those employees directly impacted by the change. How to harness technology for people to learn new skills and unlock opportunities should be carefully defined and planned out. If effectively undertaken, an RPA initiative will be embraced by people, setting the tone to kickstart the strategic plan for technological transformation.

For an organization to succeed in RPA implementation, it must nurture a culture that commits to a shared mission, applying the ‘ABCs’ of change management.

First, organization-wide ‘Awareness on RPA’ should be prioritized to address resistance to change and empower stakeholders to be program partners. This goal is usually achieved by conducting an RPA business onboarding and articulation on why change is necessary rather than maintaining the status quo. The RPA onboarding should create a safe space for people to air their thoughts and be more participative. It invites insights and suggestions from the stakeholders to identify tasks that can be automated. As ideas are pooled, it is necessary to emphasize how RPA will enable people to focus and develop their core skills. This method will help eliminate fears of job replacement and secure the commitment of people as they warm up to the idea of change.

Second, organizations should ‘Build a base of knowledge.’ To get people engaged, they must be equipped with sufficient knowledge on the tools to be used in pursuit of the automation initiative. Each person within an organization can take ownership of the RPA implementation process through training activities. The change will eventually resonate in the entire organization. Firms can invest in setting up RPA boot camps, initially for a small group, with the intent of creating the base knowledge of the firm on digitization and automation. They can eventually champion RPA and lead projects within their departments, cascading their newly-acquired skills and knowledge to their team members as the organization prepares to expand involvement towards enterprise-wide integration. Other highly-valued skills like data analytics, design thinking, and collaboration should also be included as core skills in preparation for the changes in job roles once RPA has reached its full scale.

Finally, to sustain organization-wide engagement, a change management program should leverage the power of communication through storytelling. Newsletters and focus group discussions on how RPA helped individuals be effective in what they do, increased their productivity, improved their efficiency, and provided job satisfaction, will help sustain initiatives on robotic transformation. Sharing the impact of an RPA project on both the operational and financial aspects of the business will inspire people to align their individual goals with the organization’s success factors, reinforcing the vision of creating a better work culture.

The goal of the change management program is to empower individuals, freeing them from menial tasks and preparing them to assume greater roles that contribute to innovative insights. People can be empowered when organizations acknowledge their sentiments, encourage their involvement as early as possible, and actualize support as employees go through the process of change. Because no matter how profound RPA is (or any technology for that matter), one thing remains certain — human capital will continue to be the most valuable resource of any business.

The views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Isla Lipana & Co. The content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for specific advice.


Jay Armand B. Ogayon is a Digital Transformation Solutions Manager at Isla Lipana & Co., the Philippine member firm of the PwC network.

+63 (2) 8845 2728