Robotic Process Automation is a form of business process automation where instructions make a bot carry out a task over and over. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) mimics human-computer interactions so that tasks happen in high speeds. When applied commercially, huge volumes of tasks can be automated, thus limiting the use of manpower.
RBA does not involve physical robots, but programs that execute transactions. They have so far been applied to automate back-office tasks such as payroll and insurance claims management.
It is a fast-growing sector in business and according to Grand View Research Inc, businesses will be spending more than $8.75 billion annually on RPA. The blending of machine learning with rules-based processes unlocks more possibilities of what RPA can achieve commercially. Bots that follow a set of instructions have been around for a while now. However, with AI, the RPA industry is set for rapid year-on-year growth.
To help understand RPA better, it would be useful to look at a few application areas.
A lot of back-office tasks can be automated to save cost and improve accuracy. RPA can be used by organizations that handle large volumes of invoices every day. Such an organization has to manage data from banks, vendors, customers, and third-party service providers. Bots can be built to extract information from documents and input it elsewhere. For instance, data from purchase requisitions can be used to generate purchase orders.
Bots can also check for the accuracy of invoices by doing a 3-way match with the purchase orders and delivery notes. 3-way match automation reduces invoice handling costs by up to 70% for big organizations.
Huge organizations that have hundreds of employees joining or leaving each year have to manage the process of onboarding those joining. The IT team must create user accounts for them in the company’s workflow management software. The new staff also company email addresses together with the proper access rights. It’s possible to use RBA to quicken the onboarding process, including sending them the necessary documents and notifications.
Automating onboarding ensures contract documents or, reference materials, or other important internal documents get to new employees without fail.
Large Data Migration and Entry
Companies migrating from legacy systems to more modern systems often face the challenge of transferring data. Old legacy systems often lack the capacity to interact with new systems. Companies therefore must transfer data manually using formats such as CSV. This is normally prone to clerical errors.
However, with bots, it’s possible to write a set of instructions to extract the data and convert it to CSV format. This saves time while eliminating the risk of errors.
Auto-Generation of Reports
One area that bogs down employees and hurts productivity is having to send regular reports to their line managers detailing tasks they have accomplished. RBA can automate this by gathering relevant data and automatically emailing it to the concerned party. This allows the employees to focus on tasks as opposed to compiling of reports. This form of reporting can be useful when a manager has numerous employees working remotely in varying time zones. There will be no need for follow-up calls and meetings attempting to keep track of what employees might have missed in their deliverables.
The Benefits of Robotic Process Automation
The ability of RPA to automate menial tasks is the most highlighted benefit. Companies can reduce the manpower expenses but up to 30%. However, there are a few other key benefits.
First, RPA reduces operational risk which is crucial where human error is very costly. In the retail sector, where a company has thousands of suppliers, RPA ensures accurate extraction of data from invoices as well as cross-checking invoices with source documents. Invoice fraud, if undetected, can easily be the cause of insolvency for retail companies. RPA eliminates this risk.
Commercial RPA can also have a positive impact on the productivity of a company’s workforce. By automating repetitive back-office tasks, people take up more challenging tasks that have a direct bearing on company bottom-line. Employees who handle tasks that require critical thinking find greater satisfaction in their work.
It’s also crucial to consider the scalability that RPA can unlock for small businesses. It gives businesses the capability to expand quickly through automation which enables quick and accurate handling of large volumes of transactions.
Challenges of RPA thus far
While indeed the benefits of commercial Robotic Process Automation are quite clear, the pitfalls exist too. The first concern is over the effects it could have on the workforce. According to Forrester Research, RPA could threaten up to 200 million jobs which is close to a tenth of the global workforce. This might lead to pushback from labor lobby groups against the widespread commercial application.
Another challenge lies in the complexity of deploying bots in big organizations. It can be a costly affair because the platforms on which the bots interact keep on changing. When this happens, a lack of flexibility could lead to the need for reinstallations of the bots. A change to an application can lead to loads of work reconfiguring the RPA. According to Deloitte, scaling bots remains a challenge for a lot of companies.
Getting Commercial Robotic Process Automation Right
To properly execute RBA at your company, you must set and manage expectations of what you trying to achieve. It’s best to go for those things that have an immediate and noticeable impact on your efficiency and bottom line. Customer service is always a great place to start where bots can help respond to client queries. Customer service bots are a blend of artificial intelligence and RBA to unlock round-the-clock service for customers.
The design of the RBA process must be correct because failure to do so risks wreaking the whole system. Proper robotic process automation requires a set up of tens of bots to carry out small but related tasks. It’s, therefore, best to work with a vendor who’s well experienced to design and implement the automation process.
If your company is seeking opportunities to improve efficiency through commercial RBA, check out Transcendent Software. We are an IT services company with over two decades’ experience in helping clients make the best use of their IT infrastructure.