What is a digital worker and why is the market growing rapidly?

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Digital employees help scale business processes that require accurate data and accuracy around the clock. They perform simple copy and paste work, such as entering data into the system or extracting information from PDFs, emails, and spreadsheets.

According to research by Grand View, global RPA workforce will expand at a rate of 38% between now and 2030. In my role at OpenBots, I spent the last year talking to developers, partners, and automation leaders to understand scale. and the current reality of digital workers.

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

What is a digital worker?

A digital worker is a robotic process (RPA) bots that mimic human behavior and interactions on a computer, including many applications, websites, and documents.


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

Automating tasks using RPA is often the first step in business process automation. 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 build a digital employee from scratch after taking certified courses or watching tutorials on the RPA academy — there are plenty of free courses available. It’s helpful to know some basic development concepts, such as inputs, outputs, and parameters, but you can quickly get up to speed if you’re just starting out in RPA development.

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

If you’re in a leadership position, you’ll want to consider hiring an automation partner with the experience and expertise in your industry to outsource the development. This will ensure you stay focused on clear business goals while your partner has the technical know-how to build the digital staff that aligns with your goals.

Why digital employees are important

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

Tedious processes that follow strict rules, such as copying data into systems and verifying data accuracy, are standard in back-office tasks. Tasks like these are necessary for a business to function, but that doesn’t mean a well-trained employee has to perform them.

Humans can only work long hours before getting tired and not always completing the same task. Digital workers, on the other hand, execute rules-based processes without bias. This consistency translates into increased revenue, lower compliance costs, and efficiency.

Working with development partners

Organizations new to automation will have to build their own digital workforce or let them do it. Choosing a development partner offers a direct advantage. They should 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 human workers can be done on the computer. Because it’s so broad on how you can incorporate, those going the DIY route are often stuck in analysis paralysis, not knowing where to start.

A partner will help narrow the focus to processes that will generate immediate ROI. The automation must make sense and also produce results to justify their value. Working with a partner ensures that they are building a quality digital employee that serves your needs.

Build your own automation

If you are operating, you can build your own automation system. You are in the trenches and know the processes that can benefit from automation. This path is ideal for those who enjoy learning new terminology and understanding the potential as they will become champions of automation in their organization.

The courses will help you become a competent citizen developer and give you the foundation to create simple to medium complexity digital workers. You can learn the basics of RPA in a few weeks. From there, you’ll gain experience by scaling bots, building other bots, 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 take the bot offline. Have a plan for who on your team will take ownership of your digital workforce.

Prove it through testing

The digital workforce is still a relatively new concept. Even veteran automation leaders with decades of experience are still getting used to it. Even so, the opportunity to become more efficient and competitive is a topic that applies to businesses of all sizes and types.

The truth is, no one can tell you the exact ROI of adding digital employees to your team. Through implementation, you will understand its impact on your business and employees. Like the KeyBank example, digital employees have become vital to their operations, but they have to prove it first.

There’s also no reason to wait. There are low-risk options for starting to build a digital workforce, and not all of them succeed in theory — it’s quick experimentation, rapid failure, and a willingness to change.

Jason Dzamba is the communications director at OpenBots

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