Automation 'kills jobs' but shouldn't scare workers, a top leader at a $1.3 billion software firm says. Here's how executives can get the workforce on board with the buzzy tech.
Companies go to great lengths to position automation as a technology that will benefit employees, not replace them. Jason Kingdon, executive chairman of robotic process automation firm Blue Prism, however, said the tech "kills jobs." Companies can take steps to better communicate the impact of automation to employees, he told Business Insider. The Bank of Ireland, for example, hired an outside marketing agency to help with internal messaging when it was investing in the tech. Click here for more BI Prime content.
Sign up here to receive updates on all things Innovation Inc. Companies take great strides to reassure employees that investments in automation and other advanced technology are not meant to be a replacement for human workers. But ask one of the leaders of Blue Prism — a company that aims to help companies automate common, repetitive, and mundane computer tasks — and you get a more direct answer. "It kills jobs, no doubt about it," Jason Kingdon, executive chairman at Blue Prism, told Business Insider. Kingdon is well-qualified to make such a statement. Robotic process automation — or RPA, which Blue Prism specializes in — is one of the hottest technologies on the market. Overall, the market is projected to reach $10.7 billion by 2027. Competitor UiPath, which last year went through a dramatic round of layoffs, won an eye-popping $7 billion valuation after closing a $568 million funding round. And tech behemoths like Microsoft are wading into the fray with their own RPA offerings. Blue Prism counts Ernst & Young, Accenture, IBM, Microsoft, and others as clients. But despite Kingdon's own thoughts, several prominent executives at those firms have cautioned against the potential for job loss due to the uptick in automation. No more 'sneaker brigade' Kingdon clarified that it's a certain type of job that is at risk — largely manufacturing jobs that are already gradually disappearing, seasonal jobs that are dependent on new government policies, and other positions tasked with basic functions that can increasingly be done more efficiently by machines. Banks, for example, used to hire what Kingdon referred to as the "sneaker brigade," or employees that were brought on to quickly bring the institutions up to speed on new regulations. That is not longer needed, he said, due to RPA. "That kind of stuff will disappear. The kind of stuff where you have to deal with multiple applications will disappear. And if you talk to the people that do those jobs, it's absolutely welcome relief," he said. Adoption of such tools, Kingdon argued, leads to higher job satisfaction. As employees become more accustomed to the applications, he said they become much more enthusiastic about it. It's not an uncommon talking point. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, for example, is positioning the tech as a way to improve work-life balance for its staff. But fear of automation is unlikely to subside. If companies are serious about actually implementing it, many need the support of their employees for it to succeed. That's why it's critical organizations make the effort to spend time figuring out how best to communicate the changes to rank-and-file workers. Kingdon — who has worked in the AI field for nearly three decades — outlined how Blue Prism is working with firms to make the adoption easier. 'This is the future' For Kingdon, there's no use in sugar-coating the impact of technology. "If you are in operations, this is the future," he said. Instead of trying to tip toe around the inevitable, he argued that exposing employees to the technology can actually eliminate many of the fears — largely because it shows them how much automation can improve their jobs. "You suddenly become part of the business in terms of the way that you're engaging customers and the way that you're designing process flows," Kingdon said. "When operations staff really get that it's like, 'wow, this is, this is the first time that we've got a real product that's for us.'" When Blue Prism helped the Bank of Ireland use RPA to make sure it was in compliance with new regulatory requirements, the financial institution hired an outside marketing firm to help message the switch to employees. Ultimately, a process that could have taken three years and an enormous amount of money, was completed for a fraction of the cost in less than one year, according to Kingdon. It was such a success that Blue Prism eventually brought on Brian Halpin, the former chief of RPA at the Bank of Ireland, as its global head of customer advisory. While such an approach may be too costly or cumbersome for other companies to employ, it shows how imperative it is for executives to consider how to message the tech investments to rank-and-file employees. SEE ALSO: A top UiPath exec called its recent layoffs a 'natural part of the evolution.' Here's how the hot AI startup now plans to scale in 2020. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Taylor Swift is the world's highest-paid celebrity. Here's how she makes and spends her $360 million.
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Microsoft's acquisition of RPA firm Softomotive prompts sector leaders including UiPath and Automation Anywhere to brace for war
Microsoft's acquisition of Softomotive boosts the tech giant's ability to offer robotic automation tools to enterprise...Microsoft's acquisition of Softomotive boosts the tech giant's ability to offer robotic automation tools to enterprise clients for automating common, repetitive computer tasks. It also highlights the rapid growth of the robotic processing automation, or RPA, industry, one of the fastest-growing segments in tech, whose importance became even more pronounced in the COVID-19 crisis. Microsoft's move has prompted leading RPA startups, Automation Anywhere and UiPath, to prepare for stiffer competition with the tech behemoth. Click here for more BI Prime stories. One of the hottest sectors in the tech industry is poised for a major upheaval. Last week, Microsoft bought robotic process automation startup Softomotive, boosting the $1.4 trillion tech giant's ability to offer clients tools to automate common and repetitive computer tasks. The acquisition highlights the growth of RPA, which has been one of tech's fastest growing segments. And its importance has become even more pronounced in the COVID-19 crisis, as first responders, government agencies, and companies turn to the software to respond quickly to the outbreak. "Microsoft is further democratizing RPA and enabling everyone to create bots to automate manual business processes," the company said in a blog post announcing the deal. RPA also has become an increasingly competitive arena, which was underscored by reactions from the industry's two leading startups — UiPath and Automation Anywhere — to the Microsoft deal. "We are happy to compete with a company like Microsoft in this space," Bobby Patrick, UiPath's chief marketing officer, told Business Insider. "We do not underestimate Microsoft. This will force us to invest even more in R&D. In fact," he added, the company was "announcing 100 new R&D open positions." Dayna Fried, Automation Anywhere's senior communications director, echoed a similar view, telling Business Insider: "We welcome competition in this category and are confident in our ability to continue to lead … RPA is all we do, and we do it well." A surge in demand RPA remains a relatively small market, which Gartner estimated was worth $850 million in 2018. But it's growing rapidly, in that year expanding more than 60% year-over-year. And the coronavirus crisis has accelerated that growth. Recently, the industry's three major heavyweights — Automation Anywhere, UiPath, and Blue Prism — described a surge in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic. UiPath, for example, said it is adding more than 10 customers every day as first quarter revenue surged past internal forecasts. Automation Anywhere says it has seen an uptick in demand in major industries, including airlines, hotels, financial services, and hospitals. "We've seen strong demand for automation, particularly from customers wanting to accelerate digital transformation projects to enable business continuity and return-to-work," said Riadh Dridi, Automation Anywhere's chief marketing officer. Blue Prism Chairman and CEO Jason Kingdon also said businesses are rapidly making adjustments to their operations. "You are seeing people lean into it amid a rapid adjustment in business processes," he told Business Insider. "Compared to other businesses, we are probably in a more fortunate position." Looming challenges While tech spend globally among top companies could decrease as much as 8%, automation remains a key strategic investment. And experts say the wave will continue well into a post-coronavirus world, as companies navigate new social distancing requirements and a workforce split between the physical and virtual worlds. "Automation has been a major force reshaping work since long before the pandemic; now, it's taking on a new urgency in the context of business risk and resiliency," analysts from research firm Forrester wrote in a recent report. "Firms will look to automation as a way to mitigate the risks that future crises pose to the supply and productivity of human workers," they added. The outlook is so rosy that UiPath may actually accelerate its plans to go public in 2021, CEO Daniel Dines told Business Insider previously. But the sector itself is going through a transition. The Microsoft acquisition gives the company a key foothold in an industry that, until now, was largely composed of upstart players and devoid of any significant pressures from tech industry titans. But while Microsoft now poses a threat to top RPA players, such as UiPath and Automation Anywhere, analyst Ray Wang of Constellation Research said they should be more worried about broader trends in enterprise tech. The rise of AI and other automation technologies could make RPA less attractive as a separate tool. "RPA vendors shouldn't be worried about Microsoft as the RPA competitor," Wang told Business Insider. "They should be more worried about how AI and automation will become features, not standalone products, in the future, and how hyperscalers such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft will embed these into their platforms for developers." Abundant use cases Still, Automation Anywhere, UiPath, and Blue Prism are seeing a plethora of widespread use cases amid the pandemic, from both private and public sector clients. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one of the major federal healthcare agencies, used software from UiPath to administer a remote wellness survey for its 4,100 employees. And in New York's Suffolk County, CIO Scott Mastellon employed the company's tools to automatically input data from as much as 4,000 lab tests per day into a shared repository with the local healthcare organizations — freeing up roughly 15 full-time employees from manually entering the information. Large and small banks alike used RPA to quickly submit thousands of loan requests from small businesses looking to capitalize on new government funding. Florida-based First Home Bank, for example, tapped Blue Prism's software to make the submission process 30 times faster than manual entry — ultimately saving what the bank estimated at 100,000 jobs. The technology was so successful that the Small Business Administration prohibited lenders from using it in the application process after it crashed the agency's website. But despite expanding books of business, there are signs some power players are bracing themselves for tougher economic times. In April, Softbank-backed Automation Anywhere laid off a reported 10% of its workforce — a move the company said would help support a pivot to cloud-based solutions. Prior to that announcement, CEO Mihir Shukla had told Business Insider that "interest from customers has increased significantly overall" since the start of the pandemic. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What makes 'Parasite' so shocking is the twist that happens in a 10-minute sequence
Amazon is known for putting candidates through a rigorous process that involves hours of interviews and...Amazon is known for putting candidates through a rigorous process that involves hours of interviews and includes a "bar-raiser," someone designated to assess whether a candidate will fit into the culture. Business Insider spoke to insiders about how to master Amazon's 14 leadership practices and prepare to answer behavioral-based questions backed with data and examples. Advertising is a big part of Amazon's hiring effort, with more than 1,000 advertising jobs open across seven teams. Click here for more BI Prime stories. Amazon is known as one of the most difficult companies to interview with, putting candidates through tough questioning and quizzing them on 14 core leadership principles that prioritize behavioral traits over job qualifications. But as its expected $17 billion advertising business grows, Amazon has become one of a few companies that is rivaling Facebook and Google as destination for job-seekers, said two insiders familiar with Amazon's hiring practices. Advertising in particular is a big focus, where Amazon has more than 1,000 openings across seven teams. While hiring activity can widely vary by time of the year, that figure is well above the 130 roles that were open in June. "They are actually working on genuinely cool problems in the space," said one source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person is interviewing at the company. "There is a bit of prestige of having Amazon on the resume." Business Insider spoke to current and former employees, one job applicant, and a recruiting firm for tips on getting a job at Amazon and what to expect. How to get in the door A referral will give candidates a leg up, and employees get a bonus for making a successful referral, but Amazon doesn't lean on referrals as much as other tech companies, according to Glassdoor. 12% of reviewers on Glassdoor said that they got an interview at Amazon this way. To compare, 15% of Netflix employees come from referrals, and 25% of Facebook employees come from referrals, according to Glassdoor. An Amazon spokesperson said that while referrals can give candidates a boost, the company's full interview process plays a bigger role. How to prepare for the interview Amazon is known for tough interview questions. Instead of asking about people's background or resume, candidates are asked behavioral-based questions. The goal is to find people who align with the company's culture, and it's normal to only be asked a few questions during an hour-long interview, sources said. Connor Folley, CEO of Amazon-focused adtech firm Downstream and a former Amazon employee, said that he prepared for interviews by scouring Glassdoor and compiled all of the questions into a word document. "You'll find that people with no marketing experience are hired into a marketing manager role," he said. "More important is your proclivity towards these leadership principles than having experience in the role itself." Here are some examples of typical interview questions, according to Amazon's Glassdoor page: Tell me about a time that you disagreed with a manager or team member. Describe a time when you went above and beyond the scope of your job. Tell me about a time that you handled a crisis. What is an example of a time you had to make a high-impact business decision with little data or time. Amazon's 14 leadership principles are at the core of the interview process. The principles include "customer obsession" and "learn and be curious." Applicants are encouraged to memorize the principles and provide examples of how they embody the values. Amazon also uses the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result, in interviews. Candidates are first asked to describe a situation where they were faced with one of the leadership principles. They are asked to detail the problem and how they solved it. Data-based answers can make a candidate stand out, sources said. The Amazon employee estimated that more than half of successfully answering interview questions comes from being able to quantify an experience and explain it well. For example, Amazon may ask an advertising job candidate about how they helped a brand with its ad-targeting strategy. A good answer would include specific controls and measures the candidate used to tweak the strategy, the employee said. Avi Bogart, managing director of recruitment at Three Pillars Recruiting, a firm that places talent at adtech and media companies, said this focus on specificity is meant to evaluate a candidate's credibility. "When someone isn't being specific, chances are that something is missing — that's such an important thing for how Amazon candidates respond," he said. How the interview process works The interview process lasts about a month, which sources described as quick for a hiring process. Hiring managers are expected to get back to candidates about next steps two days after a phone interview. Those who get an in-person interview can expect to hear back within five days, say people who are familiar with the system. "Amazon has a rule to treat their candidates like customers," said the advertising employee. "They're not in to waste candidates' time. They want to be quick, transparent and over-communicate where they are in each step." An hour-long phone interview is followed by in-person interviews with multiple people in what's known as Amazon's "loop" system. It works like this: Candidates come in and interview with about six employees one at a time, with each employee asking questions about one or two of the leadership principles. Interviewers type detailed notes, which limits the amount of eye contact that they make with candidates. All in, the process can last six or more hours, according to sources. Most of the interviewers are employees in the area the candidate is interviewing for. There's also a person called a bar-raiser from a different department. Sources said that candidates might not know which interviewer is the bar-raiser. These people are well regarded internally and undergo rigorous training to act as a neutral party whose role is to ask tough questions. Bar-raisers are meant to make sure that the candidate is better than half of the employees who currently have the role. Both the bar-raiser and hiring manager have to agree to make an offer to a candidate. "Their job is to dig deeper and probe you — they'll always ask 'Why?'" said Rina Yashayeva, VP of marketplace strategy at Stella Rising, an ad agency that specializes in Amazon and a former Amazon employee who worked there for three years. "Everything should be backed by data." While Amazon's interview process is rigorous and specific to the company, Downstream's Folley said going through the process is a good way to get jobs elsewhere. Downstream's hiring system uses the same method as Amazon's. "We find often times in our hiring that when presented with a rigorous hiring process, the right kind of candidate appreciates it, sees it as a challenge and feels comfortable aligning their personal brand and career with that organization," he said. "It's almost like the process of becoming a Navy SEAL. You see the challenge, want to prove that you can meet it, and become part of that team."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Apple forever changed the biggest tech event of the year by not showing up
Microsoft is introducing automation into its Power Platform tool that helps businesses do data analytics, app...Microsoft is introducing automation into its Power Platform tool that helps businesses do data analytics, app development, and app connectivity. With robotic process automation added, Microsoft's Power Automate tool will be able to automate tasks across many applications on a device that uses a Windows operating system. This tool essentially creates a bot that mimics keystrokes and mouse clicks to turn manual tasks into an automated workflow. It can be used to automate tasks like invoice management. The robotic process automation market has been expanding tremendously and a lot of it is centered around Microsoft applications so it makes sense that Microsoft is trying to leverage that with this new tool, Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, told Business Insider. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Microsoft is introducing automation into its Power Platform tool that helps businesses do data analytics, app development, and app connectivity. With the platform, Microsoft is expanding its reach beyond Office 365 productivity products and Azure cloud computing and offering more tools for its customers. The Power Platform is meant to create tools or applications with little to no code. At its Ignite conference on Monday, Microsoft announced that it is adding robotic process automation to its power automate tool (previously called Microsoft Flow) which helps move data from one system to another. Power automate is one part of the larger Power Platform tool. Robotic process automation or RPA helps businesses automate repetitive tasks across many different applications. With the automation added, Microsoft's Power Automate tool will be able to automate tasks across many applications on a device that uses a Windows operating system. This tool essentially creates a bot that mimics keystrokes and mouse clicks to turn manual tasks into an automated workflow. Those bots can run in the cloud on individual computers or in the background to automate tasks. Previously, the tool could only learn to automate tasks by uploading a video of the process. "This is part of a much bigger initiative we're leading at Microsoft of making it so you can bring digital experiences to all parts of the business," Charles Lamanna, Corporate Vice President of the Low Code Application Platform at Microsoft, told Business Insider. One way businesses have applied this technology is by automating invoice management. TruGreen, a company that offers lawn mowing services, has tested the tool and is using it to automate the process of taking in invoices. A bot grabs the invoice attachment from an email, starts scanning and reading the content, and then posts it into their financial system, something that previously needed to be done by manually copying and pasting. The robotic process automation market has been expanding tremendously and a lot of it is centered around Microsoft applications so it makes sense that Microsoft is trying to leverage that with this new tool, Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester who has written a book on AI and automation in the workplace, told Business Insider. "The RPA providers that have come into the market in the last two years, have been growing quite a bit, getting very high valuations...in a sense feasting on the Microsoft ecosystem...operating and providing value in it but none of that value has been accruing to Microsoft," Le Clair said. What was announced Monday has a very limited scope, Le Clair said "it would be dangerous to underestimate the effect of Microsoft's product as it evolves in the longer term." He thinks companies like UI Path that do this type of automation could be impacted by Microsoft entering the space. The tool is available in a free trial phase starting Monday.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Taylor Swift is the world's highest-paid celebrity. Here's how she makes and spends her $360 million.