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RPA spend to increase after Brexit

Organisations will spend 20-30% more as a result of admin overheads expected after the UK leaves the EU, but companies are unprepared and skills are in short supply, analysts say

Business spending on robotic process automation (RPA) is expected to increase by 20-30% in the coming year as a result of administration overheads related to Brexit, analysts say.

Systems supporting procurement and supply chain management, as well as finance and human resources, will be affected, with organisations turning to RPA and other automation technologies to respond quickly to Brexit changes, according to Sarah Burnett, research vice-president at Everest Group.

There will be more forms to fill, she pointed out, such as customs declarations for goods entering or leaving the UK, and companies may need to engage with third parties and swap information with customs brokers and logistics service providers.

Burnett added there might be different rates of duty to pay, which would have to be calculated and applied correctly, as well as additional forms to fill for hiring EU citizens. While these areas will drive the increase in RPA adoption, the analyst noted that currently organisations were mostly unprepared.

“Some planning will have been done, but without a ratified EU divorce bill there were no details to work to. Organisations that have invested in RPA for other business reasons and have developed skills for it will be at an advantage,” said Burnett.

Many organisations Burnett talks to have set up General Data Protection Regulation-style programme offices to look into new and existing projects that will have to take Brexit into account, including RPA.

“But [such initiatives] haven’t got the sense of urgency that I would have expected, considering the future increase in tasks that will require processing. On the other hand, there is a lack of information on the areas that will need attention, so organisations are stuck in a chicken-and-egg situation,” the analyst pointed out.

According to Burnett, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in sectors such as manufacturing are likely to be most affected by the increase in documentation they will have to handle. While RPA would be helpful to these companies, the analyst pointed out SMEs tended to be the last to adopt such innovations due to reasons including cost.

The predicted increase in RPA spending will also stumble into a lack of expertise to work in such projects. According to the analyst, this includes the ability to optimise document processes for robotisation, including where robots will find the relevant information to process and how it needs to be processed. Knowledge of how to use RPA software, as well as how to create, run and maintain robots, will also be in high demand.

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