What is RPA and is it Right for My Company?
“Robotic Process Automation is the technology that allows anyone today to configure computer software, or a “robot” to emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process. RPA robots utilize the user interface to capture data and manipulate applications just like humans do. They interpret, trigger responses, and communicate with other systems in order to perform on a vast variety of repetitive tasks. Only substantially better: an RPA software robot never sleeps and makes zero mistakes.”
One analogy that often resonates is the concept of a manufacturing line. You recall the photos of the early automotive assembly lines designed by Henry Ford. Automotive assembly lines were highly human labor-intensive. Production volumes were limited, quality varied, and production reporting was difficult. As automation increased so did improvements in the items on the previous list. People learned to manage the automation learning new skills and raising their productivity levels and value to the company.
Dig deeper into the definition and benefits of RPA in this article.
The same is true for business process automation. People build robots to process the information specific to the task, per the organizational rules. Productivity goes up, as well as quality and reporting. Employees are focused on higher-value tasks, again learning new skills, raising their productivity levels, and their value to the company.
Sounds Simple Enough
And on the surface, it is. In an effort to help drive adoption, several of the major players in robotic process automation offer “academies” with access to their software to create and manage a limited number of robots.
But while RPA is a straight-forward technology on the surface, its use requires much more than just coding a robot. Just like any other “Data” effort within a company, the end results, and how to maintain them must be thought through.
The good news is a lot of the research has been performed.
RPA isn’t just for major corporations. Small to medium-sized businesses may benefit as well. The business cases exist, and with a little research, and business partner buy-in, the decision can be straight-forward.
What Industries can benefit from RPA?
Businesses whose employees spend a lot of time entering data, generating invoices, and performing other simple workflow tasks may want to consider an RPA solution. Those include:
And Processes within those industries
With a simple internet search, you can find heatmaps for the industries listed above. These heat maps identify processes with the highest ROI potential based on processes that are:
- Highly transnational
- Highly scalable
- Have low-complexity rules
- Highly standardized
Remember, the processes in most cases, with the highest ROI potential, likely lie outside of the IT department’s domain. More importantly, in order to truly gain the economies of scale of RPA you need the business process owners to understand how RPA can benefit them, and suggest business processes where RPA may be a good fit. The leading companies in this space recognize this and provide tools to drive adoption and suggest candidate processes for the pipeline of RPA projects to be considered by the Center of Excellence (COE).
In the last paragraph, I mentioned a COE. With a bit of reflection, you can easily see how RPA adoption might quickly accelerate within an organization. This leads many organizations to adopt the creation of a Center of Excellence to keep current robots running, evaluate opportunities for new RPA implementations, optimize their RPA production environment, and provide ROI analysis and reports to management.
And there are other considerations:
- You may not own the processes that have the highest ROI potential
- Your company may have more pressing priorities that do not include RPA
- You do need a budget and a strategy with measurable milestones
- Your company culture may not be open to automation
- People may not understand how RPA works and worry RPA could lead to a technology “money pit”
All valid, but manageable considerations. If this is your first foray into RPA, or you want to take your current implementation to the next, or enterprise-level, I recommend you read our other blog posts on RPA and Intelligent Automation. I wish you the best on your RPA journey.