Robotic Process Automation

How Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is Optimizing ‘Business-As-Usual’

Robotic Process Automation is reducing repetitive tasks within businesses, freeing up time for employees to focus on more valuable activities.

Introduction

Business processes have become increasingly complex over time. Internal controls, regulatory compliance, siloed systems – these are just some of the drivers of this complexity. Unfortunately, increased complexity is often accompanied by an increased workload and this work is often of a manual and repetitive nature. Validating invoices, processing payments, compliance reporting – it is critical that tasks such as these are done accurately and methodically to reduce operational risk within an organization. However, they can be very time-consuming, inefficient and can lead to low morale among the employees who need to carry them out daily. Fortunately, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provides us with a solution.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

RPA is a technology that enables software (or ‘robots’) to carry out rule-based and repetitive tasks. These tasks are typically carried out by humans through a user interface (with a mouse and keyboard). RPA robots can copy the human’s actions and, in theory, replicate any systematic sequence of repeated actions within a user interface.

RPA definition
Definition of Robotic Process Automation

For example, with the power of RPA you can automatically:

  • Extract structured data from documents
  • Log into and run applications
  • Open emails and attachments
  • Fill in forms
  • Read and write to databases
  • Make calculations
  • Connect to other systems
  • …and much, much more.

The above are all examples of processes that are highly manual, repetitive, rule-based, have a low exception rate and a standard electronic readable input. This is typically where an RPA solution will thrive. Robots will take care of these menial tasks while freeing up employees for more meaningful activities that they would rather be spending their time on such as strategy development, face-to-face interactions, etc. When used in conjunction with artificial intelligence methods such as natural language processing and optical character recognition, the application of RPA can become even more sophisticated.

The interaction of RPA with humans can take on a variety of forms depending on the nature of the activity that it is carrying out:

  • On-demand - The human user manually triggers the robot when needed, to execute part of or a full business process.
  • Side-by-side - Robots work behind the scenes while the human user maintains control of the mouse and keyboard.
  • Interactive - The user engages with robots before, during and/or after the execution.
  • Always-on - Robots start processes automatically as the user goes about their day.
  • Interconnected - A coordinated collection of processes run and react to each other, with humans and robots exchanging inputs.

The Benefits of RPA

As mentioned above, RPA can emulate human actions and operate on any application with a user interface. It is non-intrusive in the sense that it does not require any major IT architecture changes or deep integration with underlying systems. RPA solutions are also generally easy to scale to business requirements.

The real beauty of RPA is that (unlike humans), a robot can carry out tasks continuously 24/7 and can often carry them out at a higher accuracy than a human. Ultimately, this has numerous benefits such as:

  • Increased employee satisfaction
  • Improved compliance and reduced operational risk
  • Increased efficiency and reduced costs
  • Improved customer experiences

RPA Use Cases

The application of RPA is not limited to certain areas or disciplines. Repetitive tasks exist across all functional areas in a business and therefore all of them are potential candidates for automation. Below are some use cases that have been seen in practice:

  • Human Resources: Onboarding and offboarding, benefits administration, personnel administration, etc.
  • IT services: password reset, batch processing, server and application monitoring, etc.
  • Supply chain: Inventory management, returns processing, work order management, etc.
  • Customer management: Order management, customer inquiries, document processing, etc.
  • Employee services: Travel expense processing, leave administration, contractual amendments, etc.
  • Finance: collections, payment management, credit management, etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list - the potential use cases for RPA is really only limited by our imaginations. Below is a diagram of the automation journey. It starts with a discovery phase where the best use cases for an organization are identified (this can be done through task and process mining). Solutions are then built and deployed. As with any robust solution, there should be a continuous monitoring and feedback loop to ensure solutions are working as intended and delivering value to stakeholders.

RPA journey
Steps in the automation journey

Conclusion

Process automation is a key optimization lever for any business embarking on a broader digital transformation. Its flexibility, non-intrusive nature and vast areas of application make it ideal for businesses looking to streamline processes, reduce costs and free up resources to tackle more pressing issues. Companies that fail to incorporate it adequately into ‘business-as-usual’ will surely get left behind.

Source

https://academy.uipath.com/learningpath/rpa-starter

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