Business process automation: What is it, why it matters and how can your business use Robotic Process Automation to massively increase efficiencies?
In this article, we look at why CIOs and business leaders are looking into and adopting Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to eliminate tedious manual tasks and improve efficiencies across their organizations. RPA solutions are seen as the way forward for eliminating tedious tasks and reducing costs, so that staff at every level can focus on high-value, more innovative and important work.
What does Robotic Process Automation stand for?
In every large business, there are usually hundreds if not thousands of tasks that need to be automated. Many processes and systems were designed in the pre-digital era where the paper was king. So when digital systems came into play and started to be more widely adopted, business processes were still built on analog models, with digital systems grafted onto them.
Over time, businesses have gone through, and many are still on the journey of digital transformation. Instead of merely grafting new systems onto older processes, digital transformation is rethinking how companies operate.
With the start of a new decade, digitalization is accelerating at an unprecedented pace. Companies have long-since known of the benefits; but now, the advantages of taking a digital-first approach can’t be ignored as whole sectors take leaps forward. Enter Robotic Process Automation (RPA solutions), a revolution in business process automation.
Here’s a breakdown of the meaning of Robotic Process Automation:
Robotic: When IT systems, such as Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence, AI-Powered Chatbots, and other systems are designed to mimic Human actions, processes and tasks;
Process: Businesses run on processes. This is a way of shifting the role of human staff to higher-value and more value-added tasks, away from simpler processes;
Automation: Almost anything in business operations can be automated, providing you have the right systems in place to do that work, and when this is robotic, using RPA tools can simplify and streamline work that employees are doing.
As of early 2020, not enough companies are adopting innovations that would automate tedious and time-consuming tasks. According to the Forrester report, The Sorry State of Digital Transformation in 2018, many businesses still don’t have “process excellence and workflow automation.”
Let’s look further into how businesses are overcoming this challenge, how RPA works in practice (including alongside machine learning and artificial intelligence systems), and the advantages of Business Process Automation.
Different types of Robotic Process Automation
At present, there are two main types of Robotic Process Automation solutions.
Attended Robotic Process Automation Solutions: Which is also referred to as Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA). This is where human intervention or a triggering action is still required, to initiate an automated process. In many cases, this is when higher-value inputs can be fed into a system, such as notes from a client meeting, or order from another department. At that point, the automated systems can take over and streamline processes that human staff used to do.
Unattended RPA: Ultimately, the aim of RPA is to ensure that humans don’t need to do anything to manually trigger actions. Automatic systems should run autonomously, and there are already millions of bots around the world doing just that. In many cases, these are running on servers in the cloud without the need for human management and oversight.
As AI and ML behind these automated bots get smarter, they will become autonomous of learning. At present, many have pre-configured limitations, but they can run 24/7 without the need for human management and interventions.
Advantages of RPA and RPA tools
Every company will have different RPA needs. New automated systems need to be designed around existing processes, and often, as is the case with digital transformation, starting small is the most effective way to prove RPA can have a valuable long-term impact on a business.
As companies implement Robotic Process Automation systems and tools, the following advantages are often noticed early on:
- Cost and time savings on tasks that used to be managed by human staff (up to 80%);
- Large accuracy improvements, reducing errors and therefore the cost and time taken to correct those, especially in mundane admin tasks and customer service situations;
- Compliance is dramatically improved, as an automated system won’t miss or forget to check a compliance or regulatory processes as part of the work it’s been assigned;
- Get up to 100% accuracy rates, especially as a system learns and evolves, unlike where a human is managing a process (when errors are almost inevitable);
- Even when there are errors, at the input stage for example (when an RPA is attended), it won’t derail the whole system and tasks can still move forward effortlessly, and errors corrected;
- Performance insights can be delivered more accurately and quickly, in real-time, providing businesses with more accurate and timely intelligence and reporting.
For businesses looking to reduce costs, streamline processes, improve compliance, analysis and reporting, and everything from the customer journey to sales, Robotic Process Automation is the way forward.
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