Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is just one of the technologies that many experts believe is influencing the 4th industrial revolution, where physical and digital technologies are combining to create organisations that are interconnected and interoperable. But what is RPA and why should you be embracing it? This article will answer these questions.
- Your human and digital workforce can coexist, working to their own strengths.
- Think big, start small with manageable process automation projects you can build and expand.
- Choose a RPA vendor who has the ability to scale with you as your business needs change and technology evolves.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is software, or a set of tools, that can be programmed to use structured data and logical rules to complete routine tasks. It is best suited for processes that are repetitive, time-critical, prone to error, data-driven, and rules-based (predictable).
Technology insight specialists, AI Multiple, found a typical rules-based process can be 70-80% automated by using RPA tools.
Consider your organisation or department what are the repetitive, labour-intensive, clerical tasks that your teams are carrying out? What data do they download, update and put into different systems? What information needs to be merged, consolidated and output on either customer, supplier or employee documents? What do you need to track and monitor? And the big questions is, how much time are your staff spending carrying out these tasks?
A typical rules-based process can be 70-80% automated by using RPA tools
Most of these tasks are core to how the business operates but are not often core responsibilities of employees, rather a business need. RPA can automate these tasks easily and is less disruptive than other technologies because its outcomes are often valued by employees. Think of it as a back-office processing centre but without the human resource. All those mundane tasks that your team loathe because they take a long time to complete and are distracting them from completing higher-value work, can be automated.
What Robotic Process Automation isn’t
You’ll hear many experts using different terminology to describe automation technology and it can be confusing to understand the differences, and which ones are relevant to you.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the technologies that gets mentioned a lot when providing examples of tools used to automate processes. It can learn, develop, interpret and analyse data, recognise patterns, make predictions, suggestions and recommendations. Therefore it is important to recognise the difference between AI and RPA. With RPA you have to set rules and basically tell it what to do, whereas AI is ‘self-learning’ so it will ‘think’ and ‘learn’ for itself and then act on what it thinks is the correct solution.
Artificial Intelligence definitely has it’s place and is the focus of many exciting headlines and articles as it displays the ‘intelligence’ of automation technologies. But, AI can be very disruptive, is typically more expensive and can take longer to implement than RPA because it requires you to understand a process in great detail and be able to build complex scenarios for the intelligent automation to work from.
If you’re starting on your process automation journey, be aware of AI, but it’s worth considering smaller RPA projects that you can implement in weeks not years.
The main thing is not to get caught up in choosing a technology, but instead focus on learning where these technologies can be put to work in your organisation and department. Understanding your current capabilities and using the technology that will deliver you the best results, without large capital costs and lengthy implementation times. This is why for the majority of teams, RPA is the most attractive automation technology.
Six business benefits of Robotic Process Automation
Organisations need to see an increase in speed and accuracy, whilst also reducing costs. It would seem logical to look at reducing the millions of hours employees waste on mundane, repetitive, labour-intensive tasks that could be automated with the right tools.
There are numerous benefits to using Robotic Process Automation tools, but here are the top six most rewarding benefits you’ll want to know:
- Cost reduction – due to the far-reaching business uses of RPA, consistent reporting on costs savings is yet to be seen. But some organisations have reported up to 75% savings, and many say the percentage saved was higher than expected.
- Flexibility & scalability – when you have fluctuating volumes and peak periods you may have to provide extra resource to cope with the demand. Robotic Process Automation technology can be scaled up or down as you need it, so you shouldn’t have to think about the extra resource needed as RPA adapts to your business needs.
- Improved consistency and accuracy – we’re all familiar with the phrase “we’re only human” when a mistake occurs. Even the most conscientious and driven employees can make mistakes and are even more likely to do so when completing repetitive and mundane tasks. However, small mistakes can cost businesses dearly.
- Staff time focused – many early commentators were concerned with the impact of RPA technology on human jobs. However, this isn’t the case. Robotic Process Automation should work alongside your human employees. Their core activities are still there but now they can focus on these and do the jobs only humans can do: creativity, making connections, strategy.
- Improved efficiency – tasks that previously took hours by humans can now take seconds or minutes to complete by a robot, which may give you the competitive edge that is needed in your fast-paced industry.
- Boost in productivity – robots do not eat, sleep, take holidays or phone in sick. Customers expect a real-time response and 24-hour service, which you can now deliver effectively with the help of automation tools.
Is Robotic Process Automation for you?
If you have ever thought “why isn’t this automated?” then Robotic Process Automation is for you – so why not embrace it?
You may be feeling the pressure to change and automate all your business processes and there are many vendors in the RPA space that are offering all singing, all dancing intelligent automation solutions, but realistically these will take years to implement successfully.
Robotic Process Automation doesn’t mean you have to completely change the way you operate. Think big but start small. What will RPA mean for your organisation? What processes would benefit from being automated? Where will it add value? What are your pain points? Pilot small automation projects first and then build on them and implement them on a wider-scale. Choose a vendor that is agile and flexible and that can evolve with you.
Automation in action
Many RPA providers focus on automating the information that comes into your business, for example taking a document, scanning it, analysing the content and inputting the information into one of your operating systems. There is no denying there are many benefits associated with that automation process. However the scope, content and layouts can be very broad and you can’t control the business systems that are producing them. So the RPA tool you choose to implement will have to be able to cope with all those different formats.
If you compare that with outbound communications (the information you send out of the business to customers, suppliers or employees), they probably come from a centralised system. You have great knowledge of the people and processes that are involved in that activity, as a result, your automation project is much smaller.
Starting with RPA for outbound communications will enable you to demonstrate to the business all six of the benefits highlighted previously in weeks not years. You’ll be able to build your knowledge to expand automation projects going forward.
Robotic Process Automation resources
If you’d like to learn more about how RPA could work for you, your teams and your organisation, then head to the White Paper area on our website.
There are several resources available to download for free, including:
- Robotic Process Automation in Payroll
- The Future of Document Automation
- Digital Transformation: it Starts With a Document
- Think Big, Start Small: Why It’s Time to Embrace Robotic Process Automation
Or if you’d like to speak to one of our automation experts, please get in touch.