What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation(RPA) refers to the automation of computer-centric process using software robots. RPA aims to free humans of repetitive tasks by replacing them with a virtual workforce and enabling them to dedicate their time and effort to more complex and value adding tasks and provide oversight. RPA primarily targets processes which are highly manual, repetitive, rule-based and standard electronic readable input. Robotic automation uses robots to run application software in the exact same way that a human works with a software.
What are key market drivers?
Cost pressure, growth, outsourcing market saturation, customer expectations, new technology, compliance & regulations are most important market drivers that are forcing many companies to re-evaluate their current operating model and the way they deliver functional and cross-functional processes to their internal or external stakeholders.
Companies are always looking out reduce costs and improve customer experience. Some industries, for instance high tech, are rapidly growing, so instead of adding headcount they are looking for smarter ways to scale up. New technologies, like RPA, AI, digital solutions have a big impact on the market and influence the way organizations choose to deliver their services.
Equally importing, outsourcing is becoming more saturated. There are new regulations that are constantly being put in place, which are forcing companies to look at these drivers and evaluate alternatives in service delivery.
What are key benefits?
- The time needed to implement an RPA wave and the time to accomplish the ROI is much shorter compared to other technologies, like Business Process Management and Enterprise Application Integration.
- RPA enables enhanced processes through enhanced process quality, compliance, security and continuity. All of those lead to an increase in the throughput and a boost in the overall productivity.
- Better customer experience is achieved through augmented service quality that has the potential to reach an accuracy rate of 100%, given the high repeatability and zero fatigue.
- RPA typically helps decrease the delivery time, with a prospective reduction of up to 90% in cycle times. Not only is the customer experience improved, but also the employees’ experience, as RPA enables companies to eliminate manual repetitive work.
- The new army of virtual Full Time Equivalents (FTE) can take over the non-value-added tasks performed manually by humans, while they in turn become virtual workforce managers, monitoring the robots and handling the exceptions.
- Cost reduction is another important benefit: an RPA robot costs a fraction of an FTE and can work 25/7/365, RPA is a non-invasive technology which has not got any major IT architecture changes or deep integration with the underlying systems (unlike BPMS).
- Scalability and flexibility are two of the most important benefits. Once a process has been automated and deployed to a robot, it becomes a matter of minutes to mobilize additional robots to manage volume fluctuations. Scaling to robots up or down can be done quickly, for either no extra or minimal cost.
- All the activities performed by robots can be logged and interpreted through customized reporting tools, for the most part providing visual dashboards that can be adapted for each operational requirement.
Which processes should an organization automate with RPA?
- Processes that are highly manual and repetitive make the best candidates;
- If the steps in the process change frequently without following a pattern, it’s usually not recommended to automate.
- Standard readable electronic input is another important criterion in RPA suitability.
- Processes that have images as input can also be automated, but they require the use of additional technologies to convert the input to a digital format that the robot can process. Although technologies such as the one provided by ABBYY FelexiCapture have proven themselves to be extremely useful in these cases.
- It’s recommended to start with processes that have a high volume of transactions and highly frequent because they will, of course, save the most time if automated, and effort invested in creating the automation will have a much bigger impact than it would if monthly or annual processes with a low number of transactions were automated.
- Mature and stable processes are ideal for RPA as they are typically standardized, well-documented, with low exception rates, and it is not expected for them to generate new scenarios or undergo significant changes through optimization, redesign or other improvement initiates that usually apply to younger processes.
- It is strongly recommended to avoid automating a process that will be changed in the short term.
In every organization HR Services, Finance and Accounting, IT Services, Supply Chain processes should automate with robotic process automation tools.
- HR Services include a variety of repetitive process, which are highly standardized through different form templates, and are occurring regularly and frequently. Some examples include recruitment, data entry, payroll, personnel administration and many more.
- Finance and Accounting is an area where a significant amount of processes has already been automated by many companies. Processes like Procurement to Pay, Order to Cash, Vendor Management and many others have proven ideal candidates for automation; bringing important benefits such as cost saving, error reduction and faster processing.
- IT Services is another department where RPA can be leveraged. Typical IT Support scenarios such as password reset, account unlock, and others can be easily automated, and for complex cases Chatbot integration can be a great solution. The biggest advantage is, automating these simple tasks allows the IT department members to focus on more important and sophisticated projects.
- Supply chain processes are typically repetitive and time-consuming. Activities such as Inventory Management, Invoice and Contract Management or Work Order Management make good candidates for RPA.
These are, of course, just a couple of examples out of many, but a good starting point for any company that is looking to adopt RPA.
- Van der Aalst, Wil M. P.; Bichler, Martin; and Heinzl, Armin (2018) “Robotic Process Automation,” Business & Information Systems Engineering: Vol. 60: Iss. 4, 269-272.
Available at: https://aisel.aisnet.org/bise/vol60/iss4/1