At the workplace, bots now share space with staff

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on January 12, 2018


Software robots can replicate almost any mundane job that humans do

Suzan is the most valued employee at Australian bank ANZ’s captive unit in India. She works nearly 24 hours a day, is appreciated so much by the team members that they’ve let her take the workstation with the best view. Yet no one’s ever seen her sitting at her desk.

That’s because Suzan is not a human. ANZ has ‘hired’ 1,800 software robots to mimic the tasks performed by humans. But instead of replacing humans, they work in tandem with the 6,800 bank employees in Bengaluru.

The names of the bots are assigned based on the person who trained them to do the job.

“We had a lot of variability in our work, wherein for a month, we’d suddenly need 30 additional people to work on a new project. Hiring so many people in a short time and then training them is not practically possible. Software robots help us fill in that gap as they can be quickly trained and put to work,” Pankajam Sridevi, Managing Director at ANZ Bengaluru hub, told BusinessLine.

Sridevi said ANZ in the last two years has been working with bots and has not fired any humans, who are being reskilled to do more complex jobs that bots can’t do.

“We started a human-machine journey to create a workplace of the future more than a year ago. We looked at our standard workflow, automated several parts of it using bots and then have humans to do the exception management — to handle situations where the bot is unable to take a decision.

“After seeing the success, ANZ is now looking at adopting the model in other countries as well,” Sridevi said.

So how do these bots really work? If a human is required to, for example, create a report on the best and worst performing stocks of the day at different stock exchanges, they would typically have to go to different websites to check the stock prices, copy the details in an Excel sheet and prepare a report.

Software programs usually can’t do the same job because they require something called Application Programming Interface, or API, to pull data from different sources.

What these bots do is observe what applications humans open, where they click to get information, and how they put them together. It then replicates the same task in an automatic manner, taking away the mundane tasks away from humans who can use their skills for deeper analysis.

The entire process is known as robotic process automation and can be used to replicate almost any mundane job that humans do using computers.

“Most of the IT operations or business process operations or IT services related work now can be automated,” said Ankur Kothari, Co-founder and CRO, Automation Anywhere.

Anywhere, an automation firm, which is the largest RPA vendor in the world, was started by Kothari and a few of his friends in Silicon Valley eight years ago. The company has about 5 lakh software robots running in 500 companies across the world including India.

A typical software robot which can replace one or more humans costs $5,000-10,000 a year.

Published on June 01, 2017

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