In a midst of change and the modernisation of technology, Lithuanian companies are increasingly looking for solutions to automate their processes. These solutions may be based on robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning or artificial intelligence. One of the largest banks in the region has already implemented robotic solutions and has saved 100,000 hours of human work. Now, at least a tenth of all employees’ productive time is dedicated to the development of new technology.
RPA – WHAT IS IT?
What is RPA and how does it work? Why is it important for Lithuania? What kind of competencies are the “must-haves” for an RPA specialist? These are the topics I discussed with Mantas Katinas, Chief Executive of Invest Lithuania, Povilas Treigys, the IT Vice-Dean of the Mathematics and Informatics Faculty (MIF) at Vilnius University (VU) and Gintautas Tamulevičius, Associate Professor at the Mathematics and Informatics Faculty in the Data Science and Digital Technology Institute (DMSTI), Vilnius University.
The technology involved in robotic process automation allows various routine tasks in IT systems to be automated. “To achieve a specific purpose, specialised robotic software is used. It allows us to set up and execute a sequence of steps in the IT system automatically. RPA solutions are applied to routine tasks, such as collecting data, integration and filling in forms. The automation of such processes allows us to speed up the work with data by more than ten-fold, thus increasing a company’s operational productivity. In the future, we can expect even greater automation (at this moment, automation without humans is impossible), as well as the integration of
RPA technology with other technologies and artificial intelligence-based solutions. There is no doubt that RPA technology will lead to one of the largest change to IT systems in the near future,” said Gintautas Tamulevičius.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
G. Tamulevičius was echoed by the IT Vice Dean of the MIF, Povilas Treigys – RPA is able to assist a person with routine work: “We often have the challenge to transfer data from an old to a new system and to integrate them both. Usually, all the data between the old and the new system is transferred by a person, who acts kind of like a “robot”. The work process is clear, it is defined by the rules, and the employee knows exactly what tasks he has to perform every day.”
“Of course, this kind of routine job frustrates the employees and reduces their motivation. Thus, the opportunity to replace routine human work with a software robot arose. This replacement does not mean that the company implementing an RPA solution has to let go of some employees – certainly not. Robots need to be supervised, hence the employees are not fired. Instead, the employee who understands the activity, goals and processes of the company well, has an opportunity to learn, and later to program and supervise the robot, and to control the processes it executes.”
IMPORTANCE FOR LITHUANIA
According to M. Katinas, the Chief Executive of Invest Lithuania, robotic process automation is especially important for service centres in Lithuania: “We are able to see the results quickly and to save labour hours. All companies are looking for greater opportunities. The keys, which are able to encourage companies to implement intelligent management solutions, are bringing the automation community together, as well as talent development (in the field of process automation) and incentives for process automation. Automation is an employee-friendly strategy, whereby they increase their level of competence. The employees not only have the opportunity to earn more but to become more competitive in the labour market as well. The growing use of RPA solutions makes us realise, once again, that a talented specialist in a specific field just isn’t enough anymore. It is important to note that in many companies there are large numbers of employees who work with routine processes and have already utilised very simple solutions, such as hotkeys, and have learned to automate some of the trivial tasks themselves.”
“Those employees who are skilled at process thinking not only learn the basics of process optimisation/engineering quite easily, but also master the basics of IT and learn quickly how to use IT tools for process automation. Likewise, employees who work in the IT field can increase their competence, while trying to understand business processes. A lot of attention is being dedicated to broadening knowledge about automation processes and breaking the stereotypes about ‘robots’,” said M. Katinas.
Those employees who are capable of performing robotic process automation, or tasks involving intelligent process automation, must be proficient in the topics of management, process management and project management, as well as knowing information technology and being skilled in programming. “The training of specialists with these competencies has recently started in the Information Systems Engineering program in the MIF at VU. It is focussed on business processes, data analytics, software development and technology applications,” added the Chief Executive of Invest Lithuania.
BRINGING THE COMMUNITY TOGETHER
The MIF at VU was the first in the country to introduce an RPA module into the programme for IT Systems Engineering (the module has been available to students from 2018), which reaffirmed their status as the leader in Information Technology among the country’s universities.
“We created a programme that would be beneficial for both business and for Lithuania. We talked to the representatives of various enterprises, who indicated the competencies and the types of employees that they needed. In order to design and operate a robot, an employee must understand the different aspects of modelling the business processes, have precise and logical thinking and know the basics of algorithmisation. Additionally, the employee has to be able to program. We are currently collaborating with one of the leading automation software developers – BluePrism. It provides its service to the second-largest service centre in Lithuania, Western Union, which now has one of the most advanced RPA solutions.” “The RPA module is offered to MIF students as an optional subject in their second year. Why is it optional? We are keeping an eye on the feedback from students for now. Besides this, the lecturers have to ‘grow’ their RPA competencies in close cooperation with the RPA software suppliers,” said P. Treigys.
RPA TECHNOLOGY EVENT
19 September of 2019, the first meeting of the RPA community took place. “It was the first community meeting of the process automation community and the service centres that are implementing process automation, and was one of Invest Lithuania’s initiatives to encourage the development of process automation. The initiative is unprecedented in other countries. So far, the events carried out elsewhere have been very isolated, and complex solutions have not yet been sought. Bringing together such a community and expanding the career opportunities will strengthen Lithuania’s position in the fields of cognitive process automation and artificial intelligence,” – said M. Katinas.
The MIF at VU representatives also participated in the robotic process automation RPA Meetup event, organised by Invest Lithuania. “During the event, spokespersons from different companies presented their RPA technologies to a large audience, reviewed the current trends in process automation and evaluated the prospects for the implementation of RPA technology in the near future. The speakers shared their experiences of the ongoing RPA projects in Lithuania, emphasising their importance for the country’s technological and economic development, and explained the growing demand for RPA specialists. In addition, it was mentioned that Lithuania has the potential to become a leader in the field of RPA technology,” shared G. Tamulevičius about his experience at the event.