Impact of Covid19 on RPA Automation

As the Coronavirus Pandemic unfolds, we are having to deal with multiple crises at the same time. This tweet sums it up well.

We do not know yet know how all this will pan out. As per a survey by EY, a majority (73%) of executives expect COVID19 to have a severe impact on the global economy. More than half (52%) are having to reconfigure the operations, as they deal with the disruptions in their supply chains.

Organizations are responding in real-time to the rapidly evolving crisis. As they respond, RPA is seeing an impact at multiple levels. Let us look at the short term impact and how this may play out in the near future.

Current Impact

All Organizations are currently focused on navigating the immediate impact of COVID-19. It is impacting demand, supply, revenue, and profitability.

There are many places where RPA is helping with the immediate impact. We are also seeing adverse impacts due to the crisis. To tide over this, there is some pro-bono work being done.

Let us look at each of these starting with how RPA is helping organizations with the COVID19 impact.

RPA to the rescue

During this crunch time, many organizations are using RPA to deal with the immediate impact. RPA is helping largely in Healthcare, Government, Insurance, Retail, and at some Manufacturers that need to ramp-up quickly (For E.g. Sanitizers). Here are a few examples:

  • RPA is helping US Federal agencies with Covid19 response: At the General Services Administration (GSA), RPA is helping speed up collection of infection count data – one of about 20 new automation across the US government tied to the response. Other federal agencies have similarly turned to RPA to keep pace with the spread of the virus by analyzing data more rapidly, monitoring workforce health more precisely and performing tasks not being completed by workers.
  • RPA is supporting Retailers with online order surge: Amid the surge in orders due to the COVID-19, retailers needed to add many full-time and part-time positions for warehouse and delivery workers. This means processing millions of job applicants under significant time pressure. RPA takes off some load by doing background checks.
  • RPA is enabling badly needed COVID-19 Testing: RPA is helping US hospitals see if patients are already in the electronic medical record (EMR), records the test results, and sends them to the CDC. While it takes a human 2-3 minutes to execute, the RPA Automation executes in 14-16 seconds.

Adverse Impacts

In spite of these bright spots, many RPA customers are going through an unprecedented crisis. All Companies are dealing with some form of VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) right now.

In the midst of this uncertainty, Organizations are even turning off the bots as their Operations are unable to continue without people in the office. That is a sad situation and could be a wake-up call to have well-designed bots that can continue working even in such situations. Meanwhile, People who did RPA right are monitoring the bots remotely and keeping some semblance of their Operations going.

Some of the RPA projects are being put on hold or being canceled. Many Business leaders are seeing their transformation plans slowed down. Organizations are only implementing projects that can be implemented quickly and has clear outcomes. In light of the Pandemic, the projects that solve real business problems are being prioritized.

Meanwhile, RPA Vendors are helping out as much as they can.

RPA For Good

As Business deal with the crisis, there is some Pro-bono work being done by RPA vendors. They include free applications and services to tide over this in the short term. Here are a few examples of help RPA vendors are providing:

  • Blue Prism is donating resources and Digital Workers to automate processes related to COVID-19. They are stepping up to assist with automation projects that help alleviate the strain on businesses.
  • UiPath has launched a pro bono automation project with a Hospital to free up nurses dealing with infection control including Covid19. RPA Bots are helping with the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) at the Mater hospital. UiPath is also supporting Romanian public sector organizations in combating the Covid19 spread.
  • Kryon has helped one of Israel’s largest healthcare providers, Maccabi to automatically download of COVID-19 test results from the Israeli Ministry of Health. Kryon is offering to provide this same service to any healthcare organization, across the globe for free.
  • Appian is offering a free Application to Manage COVID-19 Response. “The app establishes a central command center to safeguard the health and safety of employees. It tracks health status, location, travel history, and any COVID-19 incident details.”

Even as Enterprises work through these crises, they are looking to accelerate Automation when they get back to normalcy.

Looking forward

While we do not know for sure how long these disruptions would last, we could see some form normalcy return in a few months. As we start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we would see action in at least two areas:

Accelerated Automation and Digital Transformation

Almost half (41%) of the global executives surveyed by EY expect to accelerate Automation when they get back.

Many companies had pressure on revenue and profitability targets even before the pandemic. They had transformation initiatives underway which they plan to double down on post-crisis. Around 43% of the executives say they will focus on prioritizing changes in new investments in digital and technology.

Apart from Automation, they would not want to be in the same situation again.

Taking steps to be more resilient

The Pandemic and the shutdown of activities all over the world have exposed the vulnerabilities of operations and supply chains worldwide. As per the EY survey, over half (52%) are taking steps to change their current set up.

Most businesses have started asking how they can be more resilient in the future. How can this work be performed remotely in any kind of disaster scenario? Can these be automated and monitored remotely?

Coming out of the crisis, all businesses could become more interested in how RPA and automation can help. They could explore options to automate as well as augment their current workforce so that the work can be performed remotely.

Companies that will survive long term are the companies that have the flexibility to keep the operations running in such uncertain situations.

Conclusion

Unmistakably, the future would have most of the current activities automated. We are also seeing that the newer generations would like to see more satisfying work. This Pandemic could help us accelerate to this Digital future.

It is a massive challenge and an opportunity. In the long term, the shifting of our work online could prove to be a great accelerator of digitalization for all kinds of businesses.

No one knows how all this is going to turn out. But, we know that there would be a new normal.

Surely, Coronavirus will permanently change the way we work, learn and live.

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