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Digital workers help scale business processes that require accurate data and accuracy around the clock. They do simple copy-and-paste work, such as entering data into a system or extracting information from PDFs, emails, and spreadsheets.
According to Grand View Research, the global RPA workforce will expand at a rate of 38% between now and 2030. In my role at OpenBots, I’ve spent the last year talking with developers, partners, and automation leaders to understand the scale and current reality of digital workers.
The use of multiple workers or a digital workforce allows organizations to handle complex workflows for internal customer-facing and internal projects, with scaling being a common theme across industries.
What is the digital factor?
A digital worker is a process automation (RPA) bot that simulates human behavior and interactions on a computer, which includes various applications, websites, and documents.
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Traditional programmers and citizen developers build them using the RPA tools available on intelligent automation platforms to perform manual, high-volume, rule-based tasks.
Automating tasks with RPA is usually the first step in automating business processes. The next step is to add an intelligent document processing layer that combines AI and machine learning (ML) to process documents.
How to build digital workers
You can build a digital worker from scratch by taking accredited courses or watching tutorials at the RPA Academy – there are many free courses available. Knowing some basic development concepts, such as inputs, outputs, and parameters, is helpful, but you can quickly get up to speed if you’re new to RPA development.
Building a digital worker is easy if you have a development background or are tech savvy. There are affordable low-code platforms with hundreds of built-in commands to get you going. You can also extend the functionality by adding custom C# or Python code to your commands.
If you are in a leadership position, you will need to consider outsourcing the development to an experienced automation partner with experience in your field. This will ensure that you focus on clear business goals while the partner has the technical know-how to build digital workers that align with your goals.
Why digital workers matter
Teams in the banking industry, along with many others, rely on digital workers to augment their human workforce. A prime example is KeyBank, which has a strong digital workforce to scale its operations. Without digital workers, they would have hundreds of hours of work left over each week.
Painstaking processes that follow strict rules, such as copying data into a system and checking its accuracy, are standard in back-office tasks. Such tasks are essential to the functioning of the business, but that does not mean that a well-trained employee must perform them.
Humans can only work for so many hours before becoming tired and they don’t always complete tasks in the same way. On the other hand, digital workers perform rule-based operations without deviation. This consistency translates to increased revenue, lower compliance costs, and efficiency.
Work with a development partner
Organizations new to automation will either have to build their own digital workforce or build it for them. Choosing a development partner offers direct advantages. They will be able to guide you on the best place to start and can develop a proof of concept within weeks for your first automation.
Digital workers can perform almost any task that a human worker can perform on a computer. Because it is so broad on how to incorporate, those who go the DIY route often get stuck in the stage of analysis paralysis, not sure where to start.
The partner will help narrow the focus on operations that will produce an immediate return on investment. Automation must make sense and also produce results that justify its value. Working with a partner ensures that you will build a high quality digital agent that will serve your needs.
Build the automation yourself
If you work in operations, it might make sense for you to build the automation yourself. You’re in the trenches and know which processes can benefit from automation. This path is ideal for people who enjoy learning new terminology and understanding the potential as they will become the automation champions in their organization.
The courses will make you a competent citizen developer and give you the foundation for creating digital workers of simple to medium complexity. You can learn the basics of RPA in just a few weeks. From there, you’ll gain experience by expanding bots, building, deploying, and maintaining others.
Find out who will update and maintain your digital workforce. Also, having a straightforward change management process is invaluable. Passwords change, and programs will need to be updated, which will disable the bot offline. Plan out who on your team will take ownership of your digital workforce.
Prove it with a test
The digital workforce is still a relatively new concept. Even seasoned automation leaders with decades of experience are still getting used to it. However, the opportunity to become more efficient and competitive is a theme that applies to companies of all sizes and types.
The truth is, no one can tell you the exact ROI of adding a digital worker to your team. Through implementation, you will understand its impact on your business and your employees. Like the KeyBank example, digital workers became critical to their operations, but they had to prove it first.
There is also no reason to wait. There are low-risk options for starting to build digital workers, and it won’t be theory that will win the day – but quick testing, fast failure, and openness to change.
Jason Dzamba is OpenBots’ Director of Media
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