Is there a ‘Head of RPA’ or ‘Chief Robotics Officer’ at your company? There will be

By Shak Akhtar, Global SVP Robotics Solutions, Redwood Software

In 1983, James Baker, then-executive vice president of General Electric Corporation, addressed a White House conference on productivity with the warning that US businesses “must automate, emigrate or evaporate”.

Three and a half decades later, and the option to ‘emigrate’ (offshore) no longer makes sense when RPA cybershoring can do a better job at a lower cost. That just leaves the maxim ‘automate or evaporate’.

Depending on which figures you trust the most, there are different predictions for the size of the RPA market in the coming years. A conservative estimate from Forrester puts that figure at $2.9 billion by 2020, while a more bullish outlook from Statista predicts a global spend of $4.9 billion in the same timeframe.

Either way, the trend is clear: back-office automation and robotics are going to have an increasingly large impact on businesses and the way in which they operate, increasing efficiency, reducing errors and streamlining processes.

It follows then that companies who invest in RPA solutions are now considering whether they need a dedicated role for a person to oversee the integration of robotic processes alongside human tasks.

However, the pace of adoption and development of new tools in the automation space is currently outstripping the number of people being put into positions of robotic oversight.

Last year, C. Dwight Klappich, research vice president at Gartner, noted that “while robots are rapidly growing in use, development of effective principles, processes and disciplines for managing automated workers are still in the very early stages”.

He added: “Regrettably most organizations currently do not even believe that ‘things’ should be part of their management DNA, but this must evolve as ‘things’ take over more and more functions.”


An evolving role

Achieving automation levels of up to 100% requires a structured and strategic approach that spans both business units and IT – with responsibility for RPA projects currently defaulting to one of these two units.

The creation of the ‘chief robotics officer’ or ‘head of RPA’ role allows businesses to place an individual who serves as the bridge between the two units, as the glue that connects RPA projects throughout the wider organization. This helps ensure maximum efficiency and cost savings as new robotic deployments roll out.

Gartner estimates that 10% of enterprises will have a ‘chief robotics officer (CRO)’ role or equivalent by 2020 – just two years – but the very nature of that position will continue to change as the capabilities of robots continues to expand.

This means that while any head of RPA or CRO role might today focus on technical implementations and maximizing efficiency, that remit might grow to include more management-focused activities.

“The likelihood is that the most successful managers going forwards will have equal measures of engineering, logic and problem-solving and IT skills, while relying less on softer, traditional management skills,” Klappich says.

Whatever the final skillset or job description includes – and that’s going to be a work in progress for quite some time – within a few years, there will soon be a new member of the C-suite as essential as the CIO and CTO are today.


To find out how to future-proof your RPA and achieve the lowest possible TCO and fastest TTV, get in touch with Redwood.


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