Making work easier with automation

We have already explored the differences between robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). In this article we consider some of the benefits, opportunities and challenges associated with this close coupling of humans and technology.

Benefits of automation

One of the key benefits of automation is that it helps remove repetitive, time consuming and non-added value work, allowing us to focus our time on more stimulating work. Other benefits include:

  • Improving security by reducing human error (although it is worth noticing that a poorly designed process containing cybersecurity flaws could jeopardise the security of a system even further!) 
  • Better customer experience by spending less time on repetitive tasks, staff can turn their attention back to customers. This may lead to an improvement in resolution times, a decrease in the number of disputes, and overall customer satisfaction going up. 
  • Enabling innovation by releasing time from repetitive tasks, staff could dedicate that time to innovate. 

In summary, effective use of automation helps us work on what we are good at by letting robots handle the tasks that get in our way.


The adoption of a new technology always presents opportunities and challenges and RPA is no different. Key opportunity areas for automation at Oxford University include: ​

Area of work Opportunity
  • ​Procurement
  • ​Reporting ​
Human resources
  • Unifying employee datasets across disparate HR computer systems​ 
  • Tracking and updating employee records with greater accuracy​ 
  • Streamlining the on-boarding process for new hires​ 
Customer services
  • ​Robots retrieving data quickly to accelerate responses to customers 
IT and data management
  • Data validation, data cleansing, data ingestion (optical character recognition) 
  • System backups​ 
  • Helpdesk tasks​ 
  • Providing automated approvals for specific systems 
Marketing and communications
  • ​Unifying data to produce marketing programs that are more effective 
Shared services
  • ​Robots can easily extract information from different departments and collate it for staff so that they can deliver better service throughout the business. 

Challenges for deployment 

As well as all the benefits of using RPA in our work, there can also be challenges. Successful deployment can be impacted by such things as: 

  • Lack of business and IT alignment 
  • Lack of ownership and poorly defined responsibilities 
  • Selecting the wrong business case 
  • Absence of a clear RPA strategy 

There are also cultural or ethical challenges relating to people’s perception that technology is being used to replace humans, or the presence of implicit bias in the design of AI algorithms. Automation can also present cybersecurity challenges, if introduced in the wrong processes as this could lead to a substantial cybersecurity flaw. 

Nevertheless, RPA is a type of Machine Learning technology that is here to stay. As happens with all emerging technologies, learning to explore new solutions to overcome the initial adoption challenges is what drives digital innovation, and what better place than Oxford to explore those new scenarios!

Learn more ab​out RPA ​

If you want to find out more about RPA, or would like to discuss ideas about how to implement RPA in your area of work, please email and a member of the team will get in touch.