Robotic Process Automation: Where To Begin
Business leaders are feeling the added pressure to do more with less since the onset of COVID-19. This might not necessarily mean reducing workforce labour, rather more employees are being asked to take on added responsibilities related to the pandemic. In the past few months, I’ve spoken with many business executives and noticed that many of them have observed diminishing productivity levels. This is cause for alarm.
With productivity decreasing, executives are looking closely to technology to pick up the slack. One particular technology trend that’s gained momentum is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA is an emerging technology that involves programming software robots to mimic human actions, automating repetitive tasks. Combining RPA with cognitive abilities will help organizations alleviate the burden of mundane, repetitive tasks from their knowledge workers while helping them to find time to do more high-value work to further accelerate their business.
In this article, you’ll discover the many possibilities for Robotic Process Automation, how it can help your organization, and where to begin.
What Can It Do?
Within any organization, there are typically certain functional business unit heads that are responsible for ensuring continuous improvements are underway. These days, leaders are expected to drive transformational change within the business units they serve. Key business units include Finance & Accounting, Operations & Compliance, Human Resources, Customer Service, Sales & Marketing, and Information Technology.
Many of these functional areas have various knowledge-based workers. Their typical day consists of working between different computer systems, some on-premises and some in the cloud. There are elements in all knowledge-based workers’ jobs that require data input, generating reports, finding anomalies, and more, with much of it being categorized as “repetitive and mundane” work. If we take a look at enterprise organizations with thousands of workers in a particular functional area, automating even 20% of their workday by offloading tasks onto a software robot will produce a high rate of return! Often, millions of dollars. Most enterprise organizations have adopted RPA in one or more business units for this reason.
It’s Time To Implement RPA
Some business leaders believe that it’s better to first fix the current broken processes and then look to automate leveraging RPA. Based on our experience, we have found that it is best to begin automating right away with one particular area of pain. Look for the areas where you find the most discomfort. Rather than just throwing bodies at the problem, look to find ways to leverage a digital workforce strategy.
How A Digital Workforce Could Help
A digital workforce is a scalable team of software robots that work alongside your knowledge-based workers or human employees, to accomplish repeated processes so humans can focus on value-adding tasks. A software robot is programmed to execute the tasks as you have laid out. They will not take coffee breaks, they will not take a vacation and they will simply do the instructions you have laid before it. Are all software robots the same? Right now in Robotic Process Automation, there are two types of robots: attended and unattended. Attended robots help with tasks alongside a human knowledge worker. They will gather data and correlate it for input from their human knowledge worker. As for unattended robots, they will typically perform back-office functions and can work between systems. They are generally more costly, however, they are a fraction of the cost of a knowledge-based worker.
Some executives I’ve spoken with have relegated RPA to screen scraping and macros. I can see why they would feel that way, based on the early iterations of RPA. However, RPA is so much more now. The solution now has thousands of APIs that connect to ERP, HCM, and ATS solutions, which include big players such as SAP, Oracle, JD Edwards, Workday, Google, IBM, and so on.
What Are The Possibilities?
Shameiz Hemani, Greenlight Consulting’s CEO and RPA Practice Lead said, “I haven’t come across an application in the last 18 months that we couldn’t automate. There have been processes that weren’t worth automating but it was never because we couldn’t work with the application stack.”
He brings up a good point. As organizations are looking to transform how work is being done, there are ways to determine if a process is worth automating. Generally, it will come down to questions such as, “is it rule-based?”, “does the current process have well-defined steps?”, and “how many people are doing this work at present?”. If all those questions line up, then you have an automatable process.
Major RPA vendors like UiPath and Automation Anywhere have introduced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into the mix. Adding key elements such as optical character recognition (OCR) and computer vision, they have developed software that can help read unstructured documents like emails, PDFs, and even handwritten notes. You can also train the robots to recognize the inputs more accurately using machine learning. Learn more about the business processes that can be automated with RPA.
So, Where Do We Begin?
Based on our experience, generating several processes worth automating to showcase the savings of manual hours helps business leaders showcase the return on investment. Some processes generate a larger ROI than others but as your enterprise begins the transformation process, you will soon see the flywheel effect of savings and efficiencies. One of the more popular options to determine your automation needs is to engage Greenlight Consulting in a two-week discovery session. We would engage with business unit subject matter experts to uncover worthwhile automations and present you with an estimated ROI report.
Want to learn more about how your enterprise could benefit from RPA? Contact us to start your RPA journey!