Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a new technology that launches programmable software bots, which can automate routine, rules-based tasks. In recent years it has been introduced in the financial services sector (HSBC, Co-op Bank, Deutsche Bank) as well as organizations in the telecoms, retail, healthcare and other sectors.

This project will investigate the impact the use of this technology may have on workers’ employment and skills in knowledge-intensive services, such as financial services, which are undergoing a massive digital transformation of their back-office operations. It will explore how the institutional context influences the adjustment to automation via reskilling, redeployment, or redundancies.

Drawing on the inter-disciplinary expertise of the investigators, it will contribute to theory and evidence, first, on the characteristics of automation, its effects on the work restructuring and workers’ skill-mix; and second, the national/sectoral institutional responses and the reconfiguration of sectoral ecosystems and business models.

The findings will inform Digit’s work under Research Theme 3, developing sector case studies of the nature of digital adoption by employers, and how this is potentially transforming business models, management practices, and employees’ experiences of work.

Research objectives

  1. What are the characteristics of RPA?
  2. What is the impact of RPA on employees’ skills and their jobs?
  3. How are the business models and ecosystems reconfigured (firm boundaries, inter-organizational forms and firm capabilities)?
  4. How do national/sectoral institutions influence the adjustment process?

Method

  • Semi-structured interviews
  • Case studies

Researchers

Principal Investigator: Dr Andreas Kornelakis (King’s College London)

Co-Investigators: Chiara Benassi (King’s College London), Damian Grimshaw (King’s College London), Marcela Miozzo (King’s College London), Patridk Briône (Involvement & Participation Association)

Digit member: Dimitra Petrakaki (University of Sussex)

Working paper

Robots at the Gates? Robotic Process Automation, Skills and Institutions in Knowledge-Intensive Business Services

Kornelakis, A., Benassi, C., Grimshaw, D. and Miozzo, M. (2022), Digit Working Paper No. 4