Half of UK businesses are fearful robotic process automation will drive them out of business


A recent OnePoll survey1 for Ultima has found more than half (57 per cent) of the UK's SMEs fear big businesses use of robotic process automation will help to drive them out of business in the next five years, yet 10 per cent believe that automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks is not important to their success.

However, the survey found that two-thirds of businesses want to use robotic process automation. Sixty-five per cent of companies reported that they either plan to or already automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks. The financial services sector leads the charge, where more than 80 per cent of companies either plan to or already automate at least some business processes.

Scott Dodds, CEO, Ultima says, "Using robotic process automation (RPA) will give SMEs competitive advantage and if they don't embrace it they will be left behind. It's not surprising 57% of UK SMEs fear big business use of it will put them out of business, as until now the technology has been out of the reach of SMEs and was only available to the large enterprises that could afford it. But this has changed, we can now offer RPA to SMEs at affordable prices through our partnership with Thoughtonomy2, one of the world's leading intelligent automation companies," says Dodds.

The survey found that 77% of respondents want to use RPA to automate mundane, transactional tasks, with 56% saying freeing up staff time to focus on more strategic work was a key driver for using RPA.

"Importantly, RPA doesn't necessarily mean job losses. McKinsey's research3 has shown clearly that employees welcomed the technology because they hated the mundane tasks that the machines now do, and it relieved them of the rising pressure of work. We call our software robots 'Virtual Workers' as they are there to work alongside humans to do the work they don't need or want to do. They allow SMEs to free up their staff to spend more time on strategic and creative projects that will give them a competitive advantage, while also improving productivity. In the longer term, as Professor Leslie Willcocks4 at the LSE says, 'it will mean people will have more interesting work'," says Scott.

RPA increases productivity by speeding up the time taken to do mundane tasks; it ensures greater accuracy and compliance by removing human error, and it also ensures greater security of data and information. RPA can be used to improve business processes in many areas including, HR, legal, finance and IT.

Ultima is making RPA robots available to SMEs as part of its SaaS offering. The firm is using the RPA technology in its own business to automate some of its own back-end operations. With a simple cloud deployment and as-a-service delivery, Ultima has worked with Thoughtonomy to develop an intelligent automation platform which requires no infrastructure and no application re-architecture.


  1. The survey was conducted by OnePoll in November 2017.
  2. Thoughtonomy is a leading RPA company (Everest Group Research 2017) which is already undertaking successful robotic process automations for some of the world's largest enterprises.
  3. 'Thank you for being late' By Thomas L Friedman, referencing McKinsey's 16 in-depth case studies.

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