Why the Future of Bots Relies on Regulation

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Click to learn more about author Or Lenchner.

How do we define bots? Why were they developed? Bots are about enhancing efficiency, and efficiency can be used to free up resources for further growth.

They automate manual work to make us faster. What was once a day-long or even week-long task is now reduced to mere minutes – with the help of bots, of course. 

In the long tradition of time-saving automation, better bots should ideally be able to free up workers so they can focus on the more creative, productive aspects of their jobs that require human touch. In fact, a recent report by Gartner found spending on enterprise software is expected to grow 8.8% to $505 billion this year, with much of the money flowing to robotic process automation (RPA) and other forms of digital work automation.

With that said, the majority of organizations feel that the current level of bot regulation is unsatisfactory, according to new research from my company, which aimed to look at bot regulations and guidelines within an organization and outside of it. Polling decision-makers from financial services, IT, and technology companies in the U.S. and U.K., the research found that bots are increasingly being used to improve customer service and automate key corporate functions, such as external web data collection practices. 

Bots clearly change the way we work, the way we interact with customers, and the way we make decisions. They save us thousands of manpower hours. Still, many are unsatisfied with the current level of regulations related to bot use. Currently, 45% of U.S. organizations and 33% of U.K. organizations say they actively want to see increased external regulation of bots.

How Do We Use Bots? 

Based on the aforementioned research, almost all (95%) of organizations surveyed plan within the next two years to expand their automated functions, and with that, bot usage. This is a significant number that clearly reflects the growing, positive impact the use of bots demonstrates. 

As expected, the survey also reveals the most common uses of bots in corporate environments. Customer service topped the list, with 76% of organizations utilizing bots to deal with customer queries and feedback.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the increased role of data-driven decision-making in many businesses, data-related applications are the second-most common use of bots across both geographies. For example, 69% of U.K. respondents and 48% of U.S. respondents report using bots for this purpose. Of organizations that use bots to retrieve data insights, 66% report occasionally using an external provider, while 8% of surveyed IT leaders report that their organization does not outsource operations carried out by bots to third parties.

Why? Leading web data collection use cases include e-commerce, labor research, supply chain analytics, enterprise data capture, and market research. For example, commercial entities use public web data to conduct sentiment analysis about new product launches and then curate structured data sets about companies and products to ensure that they stay relevant and win more market share. 

Web data gathering – especially smart, AI-driven, data-retrieving, cleansing, normalization, and aggregation solutions – can significantly reduce the amount of time and resources organizations have to invest in data collection and preparation. Though web data collection has existed for a long time, the use of AI for web data gathering has become a game changer. 

The other common uses of bots revealed in the survey include cybersecurity (51%), the automation of backend tasks (35%), automated trading (23%), and social media engagement (22%).

Who Is Responsible for Regulation? 

With 52% percent of U.S. organizations and 50% of U.K. organizations saying that their IT team primarily dictates or controls the bots used in their organizations, it’s clear that internal guidelines currently determine and provide their working framework for bots. However, it is also evident that bots are no longer a futuristic ambition. They are rapidly affecting almost every business function and becoming one with the business matrix. 

Until tighter regulation is introduced, most organizations will continue to rely on in-house standards and guidelines. In fact, most U.S. and U.K. organizations that utilize bots follow internal compliance-driven guidelines to ensure that their bots are used responsibly and supervised. To illustrate this fact with numbers, in the U.S., 48% of those surveyed say they have guidelines in place to moderate all uses of bots, while another 48% say they have guidelines relating to some use of bots. In the U.K., these figures are 57% and 40%, respectively.

Looking Forward

Bots are a groundbreaking tech-forward tool that must be managed and comprehensively protected by every organization and business, similar to the way employee and customer identities are protected. To achieve that, we must establish an extensive, industry-wide framework so that valued bots are not compromised by malicious actors. 

Looking ahead, bots should be used only for the exact purpose they were created for – to make us all more efficient and effective, especially when accessing the vast pool of public web data. If we excel, we will all undoubtedly win more and lose less. 

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