Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is regularly cited as a key enterprise technology, but according to a survey published today, there are serious misconceptions surrounding the technology.

RPA refers to software designed to work side-by-side with human workers to carry out basic business processes, such as processing invoices, vetting CVs or dealing with customer queries.

The worldwide RPA software market grew 63% in 2018, according to Garnter, which predicts that 85% of large and very large organisations will be using some form of the technology by 2022.

Although RPA has the potential to improve productivity by taking on some repetitive or monotonous tasks in order to free up workers for other things, it is often misunderstood.

RPA misconceptions abound

A survey of 800 people conducted by V1, which provides automated invoicing software, has revealed many misconceptions surrounding the technology. 22% of those surveyed believe that RPA requires a physical robot, and 24% believe it is expensive.

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Common fears around automation threatening human jobs was also evident in the survey, with half of respondents believing that RPA will take their jobs and 16% saying that it could lower morale in the workplace.
This lack of understanding could mean many businesses are missing out on the benefits of RPA.

However, according to the World Economic Forum, machines, robots and algorithms could help create 133 million human  jobs globally over the next ten years.

“People continue to believe that walking and talking robots are threatening our jobs but this couldn’t be further from the truth”, says V1’s director Dean McGlones. “RPA is not a physical robot. Rather, it’s a software robot or tool with machine learning capabilities for the touchless processing of tasks that are time-consuming and repetitive. What this means is that RPA can actually change job roles for the better.”

“It can enable the workforce to work smarter, not harder – freeing up staff to gain greater control, enabling more incisive decision-making as well as improving productivity and morale. Businesses therefore needn’t expect so-called robots to replace humans in the workplace any time soon.”

28% of V1’s survey respondents believe the biggest impact RPA will have on the workforce is increased productivity, with supply chain, finance and HR and Payroll thought to benefit most form the technology.

McGlones adds: “Ultimately, RPA’s potential is huge but it will only become mainstream if we challenge the misconceptions and improve understanding around robotics. This starts with educating people what RPA actually is and how it can be used to their advantage at work.”

He believes that in the future, it will become easier for for smaller businesses to deploy RPA thanks to the cloud, with cloud-native software eliminating some of the barriers to adoption:

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“Businesses, regardless of their size, shouldn’t think twice about using RPA – especially if it’s cloud-connected – and they can start small too. With RPA software, they can initially focus on one or two processes that involve low-skilled, manual and repetitive tasks, and plan and test its impact on operations and staff. It’s also a great indicator of the benefits large-scale RPA deployment could bring in the future – but without the fear of large-scale failure.”

Read more: “There’s not an industry that we don’t touch”: How Automation Anywhere is building a digital workforce.