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Forces of change: The Great Resignation & digital workers

The Great Resignation, the term given to a mass exodus from the workforce, has impacted on many companies this year. It has also started a discussion on how automation and digital workers (also known as "robots" or simply "bots") can be a solution. 


Robocorp has heard from our partners  that the Great Resignation has been one reason for the increased demand they are seeing for their automation implementation services.  The partners have indicated that businesses are interested not in the cost savings that come with automation, but also in the litany of less quantifiable factors like the mental-burnout associated with being understaffed. Digital workers can indeed be a solution, and they  can step in to do the jobs people are willing to leave now—routine work done by hourly employees. 

While now is a good time to explore automation,  I encourage companies to think about the big picture, and how they can build sustainable solutions to automate work. This is also a significant opportunity for many new companies to offer implementation services for  these digital workers,not only as a replacement to fleeing talent, but as a piece to augment the work of their remaining staff for the better.

 A common RPA marketing phrase says that RPA can remove the boring, routine work and help employees  do more demanding tasks. It is true that RPA helps to automate routine work, but as a whole, the situation  is  more complex.  The average office worker cannot typically build robots to take care of their routine work. Even if they can do it, it is not a scalable or robust solution. Typically, companies must do more to become more effective. Automating the routine work of retail store cashiers doesn’t make this retailer a new Amazon. But when it is done properly, automation is a transition to better efficiency and more meaningful jobs.

Companies have a lot of opportunities to use automation to  streamline operations and offer more attractive jobs for their employees. To get real results the company must:

  1. Set clear targets. What are you looking to do with automation, and how do you see it impacting your company?   I encourage companies to  look beyond one-off automation projects, and consider where digital workers can get sustainable results.
  2. Implement the  automation properly.  The solutions must be robust, and they must be scalable. They need to be able to handle a company process, not just a single employee’s work.  And they must work with the other IT infrastructure and live with the changes in the environment.
  3. Select professional automation tools. The solutions must be professional enough to make robust and scalable solutions and enable integration with other IT solutions.
  4. Consider the pricing model of the tools compared to the value of the tools. To put it another way, will the automations provide a positive return on investment? 
  5. Choose the right partner. There are enough partners and developers that are able to use the tools to build automation solutions and also offer automation as a service.

While these requirements may sound obvious, they are not always the reality with RPA solutions and automation implementations. Much of the  RPA development has been a kind of trial-and-error work. Companies buy tools to automate work, without  clear targets of how to best use them. It is important that the purchase decision and implementation be made by the right team, as this can ensure that the project brings sustainable value.  

For example, to curb the effects of the Great Resignation, companies can buy RPA licenses and start to hope that employees automate something and achieve some concrete results. Often hope and good intentions are not enough. It is crucial to set clear targets, outline concrete steps, select the right tools, and find the right people or partners to implement the automation. Then you can expect results and also get rid of routine work permanently.

 And this is not rocket science. Many companies can easily identify several tasks where the results can be achieved, for example:

  • Payment reminders
  • Invoice processing
  • Regular data entries
  • Month-end closing
  • Collecting regular reports

 Every team in every company  can probably identify routines like these. While these are simple tasks that are not complex to automate, it is still critical to implement automation systematically and professionally, not ad hoc  by people to make what I call “chewing gum” automation.

 When an automation project receives proper planning and implementation , then they can bring results, including: 

  • Better work satisfaction and a culture with less meaningless work
  • Savings with recruiting and training of new people
  • Increased efficiency and accuracy in administrative work
  • Enabling employees to work from anywhere
  • A reduction of risk related to downtime
  • IT systems that work better together

 Many companies also need a reliable partner to implement automation, and in some cases, to operate it. This offers significant new business opportunities for smaller and larger consulting and IT services companies. With the Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) or RPA-as-a-service(RPAaaS) models, they can also create recurring revenue business models. Partners also expedite implementation, and create more cost-effective solutions for enterprises. 

Robocorp is proud to offer the building blocks on which consultants and enterprises alike can build professional, robust, and sustainable automation solutions. Robocorp’s partner program helps consulting and IT companies to build their own business. Robocorp makes this by especially focusing on the following components:

  • Cloud based cost-effective environment to operate digital workers
  • Open-source tools to build and implement digital workers
  • The AutomationOps methodology  which encourages the combining  of the best parts of RPA, software development and IT system operating
  • Consumption based pricing
  • A partner program to empower partners to offer the best automation solutions to their customers.

While the Great Resignation provides angst for businesses losing employees, it also provides an excellent opportunity to implement new technologies that can make your business more resilient and efficient. Augmenting your team with digital workers can also improve the satisfaction of your employees and customers. But it is critical to embark on the automation journey with proper planning, professional tools, and an experienced partner—not to simply buy the tools  and hope for the best.

About the Author

Jouko Ahvenainen is a Co-founder and COO of Robocorp, a serial entrepreneur, and a tech and business pioneer.