The evolution of robots that can rapidly perform manual tasks is proof that the world is experiencing a robotic process automation (RPA) transformation. Much of today’s automation is based on software performing routine office tasks and functions.
The bots are designed to take over tasks that humans typically perform. This ranges from updating customer data to filling out spreadsheets. Some bots do this by logging into an application just like humans, pulling information from the website, updating it and entering it back into another application.
Other benefits include reducing labour costs and error rates associated with manual labour, and improving customer retention. A big advantage of RPA bots is that they are usually inexpensive and easy to implement and do not require extensive system integration or custom software development. These aspects are crucial as companies look to grow without adding cost or friction for employees.
We recently worked on a case that illustrates the benefits of automation.
a call from an old colleague
It was with great pleasure that we recently received an email from a former colleague, now working for a technology company. He remembered his time in our QA & Testing team and wanted to know if we could help him with some activities which he needed automating in their licensing department.
Following an acquisition, the company was forecasting an increase in the need for licence renewals (from 20 per day to 40 per day) and a reduction in SLA from 24 hours to 30 minutes. Their goal was to increase capacity while maintaining the same number of staff so that employees would have enough time to focus on important decisions.
To achieve this, we needed to familiarise ourselves with their current licence renewal process. We learned that the process was triggered by receiving an email from the client. From then on, it went through a series of repetitive tasks that went through SAP, an application only accessible via a remote server, and which included Excel and PDF files.
By implementing RPA, the company was able to achieve their goals. Consequently, they also decided to review the existing process to become more efficient.
how is RPA changing businesses?
Bots are already starting to change the way companies communicate with their customers. At one company, for example, sophisticated algorithms called “roboadvisors”, working in conjunction with people, offer customers personalised financial advice. Cognitive RPAs are used by a transport company to automatically refund customers for late-running trains. A natural language processing tool analyses the meaning and sentiment of customer emails as they arrive and then identifies the crucial information in the text to serve the customer. This reduces processing time and manual labour by more than 80 per cent. Higher customer satisfaction increases revenue and reduces customer turnover: just some of the business benefits of cognitive RPA that goes beyond simple automation.
RPA can be used to achieve quick wins! However, scaling RPA is another matter altogether. Bold claims made by implementation consultants and vendors about RPA are not helpful. CIOs, therefore, need to approach this subject with a cautiously optimistic attitude.
Many implementations fail because design and changes are not properly managed. In the rush to implement, some companies ignore the communication exchange between the numerous bots, which in turn can disrupt a business process. Before implementation, you must consider the operating model design and define how the different bots will interact.
The most effective RPA implementations have a centre of excellence staffed with personnel who ensure that the company’s efficiency targets are achieved
CIOs need to scale up RPA gradually while integrating it faster. The saying “start small, learn fast” applies here. Take a step back and think strategically about how you scale in terms of your governance and staffing models if you want to see early success.
what is the key to successfully implementing RPA in your organisation?
Understanding your bottlenecks, know where you need to free up bandwidth intelligently. You need people who can successfully apply the tools to all their challenges. And you also need to find key contributors to those workflows that understand them well enough to be the knowledge masters, to guide the hand of all the ‘automators’ that are going to do the work.
This article was originally published in Netzwoche: Wie eine robotergestützte Prozessautomatisierung funktioniert