As organizations the world over fight to continue business and growth amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, one thing that is helping them stay afloat is collaboration tools and technology to enable more and more employees to work from home. Is this pandemic going to bring about a real change in the way work happens going forward?
We spoke to Milan Sheth, EVP India, Middle East & Africa, Automation Anywhere on how the Coronavirus epidemic will change the way businesses work in the future and how RPA will evolve in the post Covid-19 era.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview-
How do you think the Coronavirus epidemic will change the way businesses work in the future?
We are seeing the power of RPA help enhance organizations’ and governments’ responses to global health crises, enabling faster and more accurate tracking of new diagnoses and accelerating the dissemination of reliable, trusted information to citizens. Many companies are revamping their policies and organizational structure concerning restricted travel plans, remote working, and so on.
“Given the present scenario of the COVID-19 pandemic, intelligent automation will become a key component for any company to ensure business continuity and will play a significant role in augmenting the power of the human workforce.”
Digital assistants for every employee could become a reality as bots are powered to run 24/7 with near-zero error rate, enabling organizations to reduce costs and improve business efficiencies.
Would you say the virus could result in a serious blow to the 9-5 office culture?
Business continuity plans typically allow a subset of employees to work from home. However, not all organizations can provide a secure infrastructure for their employees to do this. Yet, the spread of COVID-19 across the globe poses a roadblock in the 9 to 5 culture. However, Automation Anywhere has devoted significant resources and attention to ensuring that our employees have the necessary tools to collaborate, communicate and work regardless of where it takes place. Our channels of communication for employees, customers and partners will always remain open and unrestricted. The proliferation of new video conferencing and cloud technologies means you can get work done from anywhere.
“Work becomes something you do, rather than somewhere you go.”
What will be the impact on the opportunity and scope for automation tools after this pandemic? How do you think they will affect the way work happens in the future?
With the world shifting toward remote models of operation to combat the spread of Covid-19, intelligent automaton has become increasingly important as governments, health systems, and hospitals across the globe mobilize. While the medical community works against the virus, innovators are leveraging telemedicine, artificial intelligence, data tracking, and diagnostics to identify the cause, mitigate its spread and help solve business disruptions.
Many industries have begun to see a surge in demand for solutions today due to the Coronavirus crisis. We are helping those organizations with intelligent automation solutions that can help with business mitigation and continuity, particularly in healthcare, public sector, and the supply chain, and are working with our partners, customers, developers and students to create a new library of bots that are ready to deploy and provide security and safety protocols in our effort to combat this crisis. Here are some of these solutions.
• The company collaborated with NetCraft, one of our technology partners in Macau, China, to help build a public service GPS-enabled dashboard that shows current local COVID-19 statistics, sites of infection, hospital wait times, local availability of masks, bank status, and other useful information — updated every few minutes. In its first few days, the site received 50,000 as Macau’s population logged on to receive real-time, trusted information.
• In Mainland China, Automation Anywhere partnered with Pactera and leveraged RPA to develop the Pactera Employee Risk Assessment Tool to help assess employee risk to Covid-19. Deploying Automation Anywhere IQ Bot to collect and analyze data, the tool is able to manage the risk of Covid-19 infections of employees returning home after traveling outside of the region, and then suggests a course of action to minimize its spread. The tool is now being used by several of Pactera’s customers.
• The company is offering virtual training sessions through Automation Anywhere University with a comprehensive library of free, self-paced courses to help gain expertise in building software bots. AAU has extended free training for our Advanced Certification program to become a bot builder, through June 30, 2020. This is to encourage users to develop bots and spark a race for new solutions that automate and streamline healthcare and other business processes.
• Additionally, AA is working to launch an innovation lab, where any RPA developer (customer, partner, independent user) can contribute code/solutions, ideally but not necessarily involving RPA. This would be hosted on GitHub rather than on Bot Store and be operated independently of Bot Store to avoid the perception of opportunism.
What can organizations do to impact productivity for employees working from home?
Scheduling situation assessment calls periodically with teams across the geographies can be one way to look at this. Sketching contingency plans with teams will help in tackling the situation without hampering the work productivity. Ensuring the employees have a proper in-home network and connection services also needs to be taken care of by the organization.
As work from home (WFH) becomes a necessity, how can companies fight the cybersecurity risks associated with working from home?
Maintaining compliance standards becomes a challenge for CIOs to enable teams to run critical programs on specific platforms that might only function on a secure network. Automation Anywhere just launched Bot Security, the industry’s first security program to set the standard for securing software bots that enable business continuity. This flexible, multi-tiered framework ensures that bots built by our own workforce, as well as customers, partners, and publishers of bots on the Bot Store are pre-certified and trusted – to scale RPA more rapidly and securely. With Bot Security, users downloading ready-to-deploy intelligent software bots no longer have to compromise on security as they build RPA solutions to access critical data, track the virus’s spread and direct citizens to vital information from trusted sources.
The company’s Bot Store is also built on a security framework that ensures rigorous trust, governance, and compliance requirements. Bot Security now includes four levels of protection: malware scan, self-attestation, and developer training; threat model and static analysis, and penetration testing to address the most stringent security concerns.
What is your prediction for the RPA industry in the post COVID era?
After any economic downturn, technology companies witness increased demand for their solutions as corporates need to optimize their business processes and reduce the cost of business operations.
“We strongly believe that our customers and partners will find Intelligent Automation as one of the key technologies to help scale business and navigate unforeseen challenges.”
Already, intelligent automation is becoming a buzz word amongst CIOs, as it infuses RPA to automate complex processes with advanced technologies such as natural language processing (NLP), vision, speech, deep learning, reinforcement learning, predictive analytics, and more. The current crisis will help evolve this technology to better handle semi-structured (invoices, purchase orders, and contracts) and unstructured data (free-flow text, voice recordings, and images.) As organizations integrate more artificial intelligence (AI) with RPA, it will allow for more end-to-end business process automation that delivers greater impact.