What are digital workers and why is the market growing rapidly?

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Digital workers help scale business processes that require accurate data and round-the-clock precision. They do simple copy-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 it will expand at a rate of 38% between now and 2030. In my role at OpenBots, I spent the last year talking with developers, partners, and automation leaders to understand the scale and current reality of digital workers.

Use multiple workers or a digital workforce it enables organizations to handle complex workflows for internal and customer-facing projects, with scalability being a shared theme across industries.

What is a digital worker?

A digital worker is a robotic process automation (RPA) bot that mimics human behavior and interactions on a computer, involving many applications, websites, and documents.


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Traditional programmers and citizen developers build them using RPA tools available in intelligent automation platforms to perform manual, high-volume, rule-based tasks.

Automating tasks using RPA is often 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 create a digital worker from scratch after taking certified courses or watching tutorials at an RPA academy; there are many free ones. It’s helpful to know some fundamental development concepts, such as inputs, outputs, and parameters, but you can get up to speed quickly if you’re new to RPA development.

Creating a digital worker is easy if you have development experience or are tech-savvy. There are affordable low-code platforms with hundreds of built-in commands to get you started. You can also extend functionality by adding custom C# or Python code to your commands.

If you’re in a leadership position, you’ll want to consider outsourcing development to an automation partner with experience in your industry. This will ensure that you are focused on clear business objectives, while the partner has the technical knowledge to create digital workers that align with your objectives.

Why digital workers are important

Teams in the banking industry, along with many others, rely on digital workers to increase its human labor. A notable example is KeyBank, which has a strong digital workforce to scale its processes. Without digital workers, they would have hundreds of hours of work undone each week.

Tedious processes that follow strict rules, such as copying data into a system and verifying its accuracy, are standard administrative tasks. Tasks like these are essential for a business to function, but that doesn’t mean a highly-skilled employee has to perform them.

Humans can only work so many hours before getting tired, and they don’t always complete tasks in a similar way. Digital workers, on the other hand, perform rule-based processes without deviating. This consistency translates into higher revenue, lower compliance costs, and efficiencies.

Working with a development partner

Organizations new to automation will have to create their digital workforce themselves or have it done 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 in a matter of weeks for your first automation.

Digital workers can perform almost any task at human worker can do on a computer. Because it’s so broad about how you can incorporate, those who go the DIY route often get stuck in the analysis paralysis stage, not knowing where to start.

A partner will help narrow the focus on processes that will produce immediate ROI. Automations have to make sense and also produce results to justify their value. Working with a partner ensures that they are creating a quality digital worker that meets your needs.

Building automations yourself

If you’re in operations, it might make sense for you to build an automation yourself. You’re in the trenches and you know the processes that could benefit from automation. This path is ideal for people who enjoy learning new terminology and understand the potential as they become automation champions in their organization.

The courses will make you a competent citizen developer and give you the foundation to create digital workers of simple to medium complexity. He can learn the basics of RPA in a few weeks. From there, he will gain experience expanding bots, creating new ones, deploying them, and maintaining them.

Understand who will update and maintain your digital workforce. Having a simple change management process is also underrated. Passwords change and programs will need to be updated, which will log a bot offline. Have a plan for who on your team will take over your digital workforce.

Prove it through tests

The digital workforce is still a relatively new concept. Even veteran automation leaders with decades of experience are still getting used to it. Still, the opportunity to be 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 execution, you will understand its impact on your business and personal. Like the KeyBank example, digital workers have become crucial to their operations, but they had to prove it first.

There is no reason to wait either. There are low-risk options to start developing digital workers, and it’s not theory that will win the day, but test fast, fail fast, and be open to change.

Jason Dzamba is director of media at OpenBots


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