UK: Augmentation Through Automation - The Future Of Automation On The UK Business Services Sector

Last Updated: 13 June 2017
Article by James Yearsley and Ben Perkins

A growing case for automation

The falling cost of technology and the rising cost of labour have combined to make automation a more attractive proposition for many business services operators. This comes at a time when a number of business services operators are struggling to maintain or grow profits even though demand for their services continues to rise.

In this report we focus on two main groups of automation technology which have the potential to transform service delivery:

  • Robotic process automation (RPA): RPA can be used to automate repeatable tasks such as system monitoring, the distribution of software basic technical support the provisioning of IT equipment and workload scheduling. It can be implemented quickly and at a low cost.
  • Intelligent automation (IA): IA tools enabled by cognitive technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing have more of a transformative potential. For example IA can allow for immediate answering of customer queries and can also improve compliance with complex legislation by automatically reviewing documentation.

The potential impact of automation on the workforce

Deloitte analysis shows that while a quarter of all jobs in the services sector are at high risk of automation, 45 per cent are at low risk.

  • We expect the pace of automation to increase exponentially over the next few decades
  • While 35% of all jobs in the UK are at high risk of automation, just 25-31% of jobs in the Business Services sector are at high risk
  • Labour costs are set to rise for the next five years, in part due to the introduction of the National Living Wage, putting further pressure on Business Services organisations' profit margins
  • Repetitive and highly structured jobs are likely to be reduced, while new, higher-skilled roles will be created.

Harnessing automation for growth

While automation will impact the Business Services sector, robots will not replace the need for human labour, nor will automation mark the end of outsourcing.

Deloitte research has shown that technology has created nearly four times the number of jobs than have been lost. Where RPA and IA have been widely implemented there has not been a significant reduction in headcount rather it has been used to increase the efficiency and productivity of workers.

There are opportunities that arise from automation technologies that can allow business services organisations to increase productivity and relieve pressure on margins:

  • Augment – Organisations can use automation to augment the existing workforce by increasing the efficiency and productivity of workers and deliver cost and customer service benefits to the client.
  • Upskill – The ability to redeploy workers to areas where they can add more value, relieving them of routine and repetitive tasks, will lead to better employee retention rates and morale.
  • Commercialise – Business Services companies have a key role to play in supporting their clients' own digital transformations.

Download the full report

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