Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the buzzwords of the moment. RPA is an emerging form of business process automation technology based on the notion of metaphorical software robots or artificial intelligence (AI) workers. RPA is being used to automate manual tasks, where the manual task is “recorded”, and a “bot” takes over the process from a human worker. Interestingly, RPA does not cause job losses. Most organizations deploying RPA re-assign people to undertake more valuable work.
Robots are quite happy doing repetitive tasks that humans come to resent. As humans become bored, they make mistakes. Robots can’t get bored and robots don’t make mistakes. When a manual task requires a person to transpose content from one system to another, using a bot ensures that data quality and accuracy is maintained. The work is also done in a fraction of the time, significantly impacting the flow of data and information through the business—making it available for use faster by reducing the cycle time for any process.
Until recently, the only alternative to RPA was system integration, and while this may be a valid approach to take, it can be expensive and time consuming to get right. The expertise needed to code system integration is often hard to find, particularly when dealing with legacy systems. RPA is a viable alternative with a growing base of expertise. If you can teach the bot the task based on the work a human does, you can have the bot “rinse and repeat” that task very efficiently indeed.
Being able to articulate the impact that RPA can have on your own business is a great way to foster adoption through executive buy-in. Proving the value of the opportunity before any work starts can help ensure that budgets are provided to enable the work to be implemented.
Given the extensive benefits that exist, an implementation conversation should be led by the business, and cuts across the more traditional business units or operational silos:
- Employee Benefits: RPA increases job satisfaction by offering a better employee experience through the removal of boring work such as copying data from one system to another.
- Customer Benefits: RPA can reduce data errors, meaning fewer customer complaints about incorrect addresses or date of birth. The Customer Experience is also improved through lightning-fast back-office processes providing almost instant responses to queries.
- General Business Benefits: RPA reduces cycle time—more gets done and information is available for use faster than ever before. Revenues have an opportunity to rise and costs are reduced. Data quality rises alongside an opportunity to collect more data from systems previously seen as too manual to scrape. Increased analytics as a result can positively impact the knowledge the business has of how it works and respond to the market in new ways.
- Compliance Benefits: RPA reduces the number of human touch-points with data, reducing the opportunity for fraud and increasing the auditability of processes acting on data.
- Technology Benefits: the life of legacy systems can be increased. Instead of costly rip and replace or integration approaches, RPA offers an opportunity to focus on the core work of the business rather than massive system replacements. Existing systems can work harder and longer, and your IT staff can focus on thinking about continuous next, not continuous firefighting.
A quick decision about RPA implementation is enabled by creating a compelling business case. The traditional business case process is unlikely to work in this instance because it takes too long. A business case must focus on where the opportunity exists alongside understanding the impact of any change on the people in the business and opportunity to monetize the change so the investment can be made.
Building a “current state” model through a Digital Twin (1), and using knowledge of where RPA can be deployed to produce a future state
Digital Twin, will provide all the data points needed. This methodology focuses on sharing the value of the change through evidence, to get to a decision point as fast as possible.
McKinsey (2) provided research about the connection between speed of decision-making and faster execution of decisions, linking to higher business returns. When decisions are made at the right level, focused on enterprise-level value, and are committed to by relevant stakeholders, the outcomes are more successful than decisions made using other methodologies, especially if they are slow and thorough.
Good analytic tools are available for many strategic contexts. Using the right tool at the right time will assist in the decision-making process. In the example above, using the Digital Twin of the Organization to gain insight into the impact of automating manual tasks through RPA in a strategically important area of the business generates the evidence needed for a quick decision. Gaining buy-in for a $1.62M operational cost reduction is a relatively simple conversation to have.
Knowing which people and systems will be impacted enables the business to manage employees and vendors effectively to ensure they understand the changes and potential of their role to deliver more value to the business. Achieving that outcome in tens of hours rather than tens of weeks will accelerate the organization to a successful future state where the organization’s most precious resource, people, can deliver increased value to the business.
Automation, when applied correctly, accelerates outcomes, improves productivity, saves money, reduces risk, and enables organizations to scale quickly in response to spikes in volume—without the need for additional resources. Automation can also free your employees from mundane tasks so they can focus instead on engaging with customers, leading to increased satisfaction for all. Proving this case through the Digital Twin of the Organization and having the conversations that matter in the business, enable you to act faster than ever before, and quickly benefit from this new digital capability.
Thanks to Pega for providing access to their latest disruption report, 3 which includes content on the impact of RPA implementation.