What to Consider When You’re Preparing to Adopt Robotic Process Automation
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) refers to the use of software bots to automate mundane, repetitive tasks within businesses. In doing so, it has the opportunity to transform the workplace across a number of industries.
People are paying attention in ever-greater numbers, too. According to a recent projection, investment in RPA tools is likely to grow from $6.1 billion in 2021 to a massive $7.64 billion in 2028. In other words, these bots are going to become an increasingly ubiquitous part of the business toolset.
But while customers are keen to jump on the RPA bandwagon, it’s essential that businesses ask the right questions up front. Here are four of the points to think about as you consider your RPA strategy:
1. Consider how it can add value, not just reduce costs
Many businesses had a hard time in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. While things are starting to pick up now, there are still plenty of lingering effects in terms of a depressed economy and tough conditions. This means that, for lots of business owners, a technology that promises to help reduce costs is transformative based solely on that.
But RPA isn’t just about eliminating or reducing certain costs within your business. Particularly when adopted as part of broader digital transformation ambitions by a business, RPA can have a far more significant impact on automation efforts. Consider, for example, how RPA can help improve the customer experience by speeding up response times and customer onboarding. A bank that currently relies on its highly paid analysts to carry out the Know Your Customer (KYC) process can not only save money automating these tasks, but can additionally reduce the length of time it takes from hours down to minutes. To put it another way: don’t sell RPA short.
2. This isn’t humans vs. machines
Thanks to science fiction movies, RPA may sometimes be viewed in terms of humans vs. machines — or, at least, human workers vs. process automation. In reality, things are different. RPA isn’t about automating people out of their jobs so much as it is about making people a more valuable part of the workplace.
For example, RPA’s ability to automate mundane, repetitive tasks opens the door for the humans who previously had to perform them to focus on more interesting, valuable work for the business. RPA can also make people better at their jobs, and therefore more valuable to the business.
Rather than being RPA bots that carry out tasks on their own, Attended Automation bots refer to RPA tools that sit on the desktop and are triggered either on a preset schedule or by certain user actions in the process workflow. They can be used to aid workers by, for instance, offering them recommendations for better dealing with customer queries, aiding with on-the-job training, assisting with compliant behavior in scenarios where there is a regulation that must be aided by, and more. Making sure that employees — and stakeholders — are aware of these RPA advantages is crucial to getting the most out of the technology.
3. Use it as a chance to revisit your existing business processes
RPA does best at step-by-step, highly repeatable activities. Not every task that a business has to carry out falls into this category. However, you may be surprised by how many tasks RPA can assist with. To prepare for RPA, or at least to see whether RPA may be able to help, look at whether it’s possible to redesign or standardize the processes you perform. Poorly documented processes carried out by businesses can lead to bad practices, such as inconsistent process knowledge across employees.
While humans may vary the tasks orders, tools or processes they use to carry out jobs, look at whether this is necessary — and if it causes more negatives than positives. Creating step-by-step methodologies for jobs, which sometimes involves redesigning processes, may seem daunting. However, doing so may allow them to be automated more efficiently. Even if they cannot be automated at present, developing these clear-cut processes may prepare them for digitization at a later stage.
4. Know how you’re going to measure RPA outcomes
When you hire a new COO, you probably have a very clear idea of exactly what the right candidate is going to bring to the table, and how their work will translate into revenue growth or other direct outcomes for the company. You should have a similarly detailed idea about how RPA is going to impact a business. Part of this is having a clear understanding of what it is that you want RPA to achieve and how best to measure this. It may be about simply reducing costs, or reducing process times, compliance violations, error rates, or customer satisfaction rates.
Make sure that you know what RPA outcomes you are trying to achieve, and then ensure that vendors can give you the answers you want about how to measure these.