The proliferation of robots completing manual tasks traditionally done by humans suggests we have entered the machine automation age. And while nothing captures the imagination like self-directing machines shuttling merchandise around warehouses, most automation today comes courtesy of software bots that perform clerical tasks such as data entry.
Here’s the good news: Far from a frontal assault on cubicle inhabitants, these software agents may eventually net more jobs than they consume, as they pave the way for companies to create new knowledge domain and customer-facing positons for employees, analysts say.
The approach, known as robotic process automation (RPA), automates tasks that office workers would normally conduct with the assistance of a computer, says Deloitte LLP Managing Director David Schatsky, who recently published research on the topic. RPA’s potential will grow as it is combined with cognitive technologies to make bots more intelligent, ideally increasing their value to businesses. Globally, the RPA market will grow to $5 billion by 2020 from just $183 million in 2013, predicts Transparency Market Research.