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Future of Automation: In Conversation with Ezhil Arasan Babaraj, CTO of qBotica, Inc.

At qBotica, we have a wonderful team of talented people. Each member of our team brings their own uniqueness and flavor to the company. This week, we met with Mr. Ezhil Arasan Babaraj, CTO at qBotica and a veteran in the Automation Industry with 22 years of experience, and picked his brain about automation, its future and a host of related topics. Here are some excerpts.

Q. What is the value of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) for businesses?

Ezhil: Automation is not a very new concept. The IT industry itself was able to grow on the very fundamentals of automation. For any task that is performed by humans and has a high error rate or requires more hands-on-the-job, automation in some form is the best solution. Many industries have applied automation in different forms throughout history. The IT industry caught up to it relatively later.

From an automation standpoint, businesses get value out of it from the very early stages. There are several advantages automating their process to drive efficiencies and reduce costs. For example, simple tasks like, voice processing, payroll processing, purchase orders etc are repetitive tasks that can be automated. Across verticals in a business, from operations, marketing to finance, some level of automation always helps.

The common thread connecting all the problem areas of a business is the same. Be it optimisation or growth, automation is a key area that needs to be considered as a strategy for any business. No matter the size.

Q. Who needs RPA – small businesses or large enterprises?

Ezhil: The problems for a large and small business are very unique. They cannot be compared. For example, in a large business, maybe the problems are dealt with by a ten-member team. The same problem is dealt by only one person in a small business. Due to this key difference, automation becomes a key factor for driving efficiency in small businesses, due to the lack of affordability and availability of human resources. Now, in the case of a large business, RPA can be used to optimise the enterprise’s current spending to create room for higher margins.

Let’s look at it from a growth standpoint. For example, there is a back office with a 1000+ team members. This team brings in a turnover of $200 million. With the same team strength, they can apply automation and grow that number by a 100% to reach $400-500 million.

And so, RPA has unique and successful applications in big, medium and small businesses from an optimization and a growth standpoint.

Q. How do you build a successful RPA program?

Ezhil: When it comes to automation, business leaders will buy into the premise very easily, because it is the shiny new tool in their arsenal. When automation is implemented, the expectation is that it will run 24×7 and will provide unlimited resources etc. However, the reality is very different.

For any RPA program to be successful, it needs a clear objective. Before implementing automation, there are several questions that the leaders must ask:

  1. Where can the solution benefit the most?
  2. Is the goal to reduce costs or resources?
  3. Is the goal to drive growth?

The areas of benefit need to be understood fully and goals must be set in place.

The leadership needs to narrow down the areas that need help from automation rather than making sweeping changes across all processes in the organization.

Once the area of operation is identified, where RPA can fit in easily and enhance the process, the company also needs to figure out the specific use cases.

This will be followed by a trial period during which the team will need to experience the difference the automation brings about, learn from that and determine the final value of the proposition.

The other question to ask is, “how to create a program that works for your organization?” Understanding the organizational culture is a key factor in successful implementation of RPA. The automation process has to be tailor-made to fit the specific needs of the organization. For that to work, the leadership also needs to address the culture of the organization. The automation process will be more effective if based in the culture. The lower the resistance to the system, the better the adoption and chance of success. Once all of this is done, and RPA has been implemented, the success of a RPA can be measured with continuous usage and acceptance in the workforce.

Q. What are some trends that we should watch out for in the world of Automation over the next 5 years?

Ezhil: In the last decade, around 2010, UIPath came up with the RPA software. After them, many players came into the automation space. Initially it was not even considered a market, but as of today, it is valued at over $1 billion dollars. In this period, the automation processes have evolved from just tackling repetitive tasks to becoming intelligent processes. At qBotica, we have our own IDP or Intelligent Document Processing solution, called DoqumentAI. What this means is that many level-1 and level-2, human-based tasks are now being undertaken by AI. This will only grow and improve over the years.

There are many other areas of interest where research is ongoing. For example, there is a study being conducted to understand the way that a human learns technology: What is a browser? What is a system? How it can be accessed? etc. Eventually, a bot could potentially understand and learn all this. And with that knowledge it could create its own automation software in the future. This will be a world where bots will create bots. When this threshold is reached, the cost of automation will dramatically reduce. And as soon as that happens, small and medium businesses will gain access to this technology. Once it appeals to smaller businesses, it will become much more ubiquitous in the future.

Q. What are a few key things all CTO/CIOs should keep in mind when developing their automation capabilities?

Ezhil: Any new system or automation, apart from the technology side of it, is basically human centric. So, any CXO looking to implement automation should definitely think of the company culture first. This helps to prepare the organization for successful automation implementation. The leader must have knowledge of technology as well as business. They need to consider strengths and weaknesses of their teams. And once identified, prepare the team for any upscaling or RPA integration.

For the RPA integration and running, one can partner with external teams but eventually an in-house team will be required. The reason being that automation heavily depends on in-house systems. Along with updates to in-house systems, automation also needs ongoing maintenance updates, which an internal team can provide. This is where an Automation Center of Excellence plays a pivotal role in the long-term success of RPA integreation.

The other watchout with automation is financial management. With the implementation of any RPA, at the very start it looks good because the anticipated savings are high. However, the business must be prepared for some degree of uncertainty and flexible enough to bear any unforeseen costs.

And lastly, the organization needs to choose the right technology partner. It is important to look at partnering with someone who wants to grow along with the organization and not just sell a solution and disappear. A lot of providers try to license out a decided number of bots. Now, that might not even be necessary for the specific organization. Avoid bulk licensing and choose a flexible and adaptable partner, who will work with you in your RPA journey. Reach out to our team at qBotica today to see how you can implement RPA in your ecosystem.

Q. Any parting thoughts/learnings from your experience with automation?

Ezhil: Automation is looked at in two different aspects. There are a set of people who do not believe in RPA. They feel that it is putting together something by stitching and that it is not a true solution. The other set of people believe in it because it works for them.

On the other hand, there are many low quote platforms that are emerging quickly. We have enterprise services, integration platforms etc entering the industrty as well. There is a lot of talk about micro-services that enable a business to be agile and efficient as well.

My thoughts here are that the business shouldn’t get carried away by the jargon. Understand what the automation process is and only choose that which is required for your organization. Sometimes, people or organizations want automation, even when they can really function without it. They can manage with a custom solution to help their business.

At qBotica, we are very honest with our customers and tell them that RPA is different from a custom software solution and give them a fair recommendation on what best suits their needs. Once people have this knowledge, they can make better informed decisions for their businesses.