Corporate agendas in almost all sectors have always prioritised advances in technology that can lower costs, increase productivity and drive growth. Yet, this tech often can’t be embraced at the speed a business demands. This is often because of the frequently changing compliance environment in highly regulated sectors, or because of the change in process required in more customer-facing industries. However, this is rapidly shifting with Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
So, what is Robotic Process Automation?
RPA is a solution that automates the repetitive processes traditionally performed by employees, without involving any underlying I.T. systems or programmes. It creates a virtual workforce that is fast, efficient and immune from human error, and can help integrate existing systems without the significant investment of an I.T. overhaul.
RPA removes the need for expensive, time-consuming I.T. implementation because it accesses the employee’s user interface, without modifying any application or system. It’s neither expensive nor complex and can be used with minimal training, further easing the burden on the I.T. department.
Stepping in for the employee on certain tasks only, RPA is ideal for high volume, manual, repetitive, rules-based processes. It does not, however, possess artificial intelligence (AI) and so can’t entirely replace the employee. While processes can be automated approximately 80% of the time, RPA isn’t able to use subtle human judgement to deal with anomalies; exceptions to rules; complex cases or variants; or if the software goes down!
That said, it’s estimated that RPA is 65% cheaper than employing a full-time employee on the same tasks. Plus, by completing mundane jobs with RPA, an organisation can eliminate costly mistakes and improve morale by removing the less desirable elements from job descriptions.
Many organisations have vast, complicated, but dated systems that can be difficult to upgrade. Historically, it’s been cheaper to use people to bridge this problem, with employees undertaking manual process-driven duties, such as inputting customer details into new CRM systems or processing applications. But RPA can change all of that, as it frees up employees to concentrate on more customer-focused, inspiring and value-adding activities. Some of its other advantages include:
- Guaranteed accuracy, providing robust protection of data, reducing exposure to industry-specific or general regulations, such as GDPR
- Consistent step-by-step transactional trails, ideal for auditing or compliance scenarios
- Adaptability for a wide range of processes, such as applications, reporting, claims, analytics, auto-responders and data harvesting
- No downtime or set working hours, meaning 24/7 productivity
RPA is simple, but you’ll still need certain expertise
While the implementation of RPA is fast compared to other I.T. system installations or upgrades, there’s still significant planning required, as well as change management and technical expertise that you’ll likely need to bring on board to both kick-start and maintain an RPA project.
Many of our clients have embarked on their RPA journey with the specialist talent we’ve delivered, and there are some stand-out learnings:
- Far from just an I.T. or Operations issue, applying RPA is a huge transitional process for any company and buy-in from top to bottom is essential
- Internal communication on its benefits is vital, as there’ll be inevitable reassigned duties and possible headcount cuts or new skill set requirements in the workforce
- It’s important to select the right processes to automate, and then make sure that those chosen processes are accurate. Problems in the original process will render the automated one useless.
- Don’t presume that once a process is automated, the employees who previously did it are redundant. 20% of processes are not routine and others may evolve, so will need managing.
- Rather than robots replacing humans, RPA and AI will open up new types of positions where new skill sets, either recruited or trained, will be needed.
If you’re about to embark on or have recently begun an RPA project, please get in touch to discuss how our specialist solutions can add value.