Process expert Will Davenport explains why firms need to achieve automation excellence with back office processes…
RPA — Robotic Process Automation — is the fastest growing segment in enterprise software, according to Gartner, which has stated that demand for this class of business solution is set to hit $1.3 billion this year.
Why? Because underneath all of the analyst interest, RPA is an efficient way to streamline repetitive and tedious back office processes.
This is good news for businesses of all sizes, without a doubt. After all, it is estimated that the average employee spends as much as 80% of their time on mundane, routine, repetitive administrative tasks — such as data entry, form filling, filing and archiving, checking compliance against policies and regulations, time spent searching for required information, answering generic requests with generic responses.
This is necessary, but time-consuming, work that ultimately adds little in the way of value to the customer interactions, which are the ones that really matter. And at its worst, when mistakes enter in, it can detract from the quality of the customer experience businesses are trying to achieve.
Enter Robotic Process Automation, which is there to reduce those errors and free up more valuable human time and attention. The name provides a clue as to what it is – it’s the automation of tasks using robots, in this case not tin men but useful software! RPA is able to take responsibility for virtually any rule-based task if programmed correctly, freeing human agents from routine, repetitive work so they can focus their energies elsewhere.
Not only does this release the resources companies utilise to focus on service, but robots are also able to operate continuously around the clock, at high speeds, and with 100% accuracy. As a result and according to many commentators, including vendor Softomotive’s in-depth recent survey, businesses are increasingly adopting RPA to improve the efficiency, accuracy and timeliness of business processes and to lower operational costs.
Bottom line benefit
According to one global study by Deloitte, more than one in two companies it polled (53%) have already started their RPA journeys, a ratio expected to rise to one in three (72%) within the next two years. And on average, those who have already moved to RPA are reporting payback on investment within 12 months, with the vast majority reporting improvements in compliance, productivity and process quality. Tellingly, 78% of organisations that have already invested in RPA plans to increase its use over the next three years.
This is because when implemented well, RPA promotes greater workflow accuracy, with some adopters claiming a complete elimination of error in some processes. One of the key benefits of RPA adoption mentioned in Softomotive’s industry survey above is increased productivity, which came out on top (cited by 53% of respondents), while improved accuracy was the second most common benefit (mentioned by 47% of businesses).
Other research shows that being assured of high levels of accuracy also supports compliance and quality control, with automated processes being fully auditable. Plus robots are able to perform repetitive administrative tasks more quickly and accurately than people, while freeing up employees to focus attention on other tasks — in particular, those tasks that can add more value to business operations, and which need the human touch.
RPA doesn’t equal AI
So RPA sounds like a highly promising technology. But as with any business investment, it is essential that you have a clear and detailed plan for its deployment. Only that way can you really identify which processes are the strongest contenders for exploiting the power of the approach, which best practice shows are the ones used very frequently, or which are highly repetitive in nature.
Finally, as consultants Deloitte cautions, get basic RPA right before looking at adding in cognitive and AI-based technologies. While automation actions do not require that much change within the organisation, AI brings with it bigger demands. But by starting with the basics of RPA, you can gain confidence in the use of the tools before making the big step to AI.
Summing up, use of RPA means brands can improve both customer service and employee work-life balance while benefiting from efficiency gains and cost savings, moving your company to the next level of business excellence.
Will Davenport is a Director at Business Systems (UK) Ltd, a specialist in providing call recording and workforce optimisation solutions.