Planning to hire a virtual employee? Not so fast!
Software robots are in many ways equivalent to human workers. They can do many things people can do. They can login into applications, read and write and do even complex processing of data. Yet they are vastly dissimilar. They need to be taught the work step by step. They cannot cope with exceptional situations without guidance like people can. In the other hand, they have better memory capabilities and they usually do not forget to execute a task. You could call a software robot a virtual employee. As with hiring a person, you need to also consider several things before proceeding to hire a robot (buying a robot license).
The Robot Should Not Be Idle
A robot does not sleep. It does not take breaks and it does not go on a skiing trips on the Alps, unless you instruct it to do so. It works day and night, on the weekends, during Christmas and every day in the month, if you instruct it to do so. This means that the robot has over 700 hours of working time each month. This brings us to the first consideration: do you have enough work for the robot? This should be examined thoroughly before making the hiring decision. Luckily, there are already experiences and methods how to do this.
Create a Strategy
The second consideration is about the aim of hiring a robot: what do you want to achieve with your new virtual employee? Do you want to cut cost? Are there more valuable tasks that you need to release your other employees to execute? Do you want to increase the quality of your products by removing the human error? Will the robot be used to otherwise raise your operational excellence? Many times the goal of the robot is to cut costs and other goals are not even considered. But what if you could in stead increase your revenue by providing more quality goods or better service for your customers to buy? It would be healthy to build a strategy for utilizing the virtual employees.
When you are hiring actual employees, you usually think about the skills, capabilities and experience candidates. The same applies to robots. There are different kinds of robots and they come with different brands and capabilities. This is the third consideration: what kind of robot to choose? First of all, there are several software robot suppliers in the market. The market leaders (by Forrester) are Automation Anywhere, Blueprism and UIPath. These three already differ from each other in their approach: how the robots are instructed, how the robots are controlled and how open the framework is. There are also differences on the salary model of the robot, the licensing. The tools also have pros and cons when evaluated against your process and IT landscape; the result most likely differs in other environments.
You can also think about the management of these virtual employees: will you manage them yourself or will you outsource that task? If you manage them yourself, in what part of the organization will they reside? IT department could be the obvious choice, but it could well be also the different business units or even an own separate unit! Or then you could outsource that separate unit completely. Many digital services vendors, like Atos, have the full capability to offer this service to you. This is the fourth thing to consider when hiring a virtual employee.
Of course there are many more considerations to be done like
- is my organization mature enough to employ robots?
- will my organization resist virtual coworkers (the fear of losing jobs)?
- are my processes ready to be handed out to be run by robots?
- what are the tasks that are still better handled by people?
The bottom line is that you should not hire a software robot just because your competitor has one or it is the hype of the moment. But the truth is also that these robots are coming and not hiring them in the long run would mean competitive disadvantage. Ultimately, you need to hire them, but take your time to evaluate, consult the experts, experiment, create the strategy and then execute on larger extent.