Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has grown in its capacity to mimic human actions and its capabilities are put to use across most industries and business functions where a large volume of uniform nature of work needs to be done with consistency and quality.
RPA is a form of business process automation that allows businesses to develop software or a bot to perform rule-based actions at high volume with speed and accuracy.
RPA has three aspects to it:
According to Horses for Sources, RPA will reach $2.3bn next year and $4.3bn by 2022.
The economic impact of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
The economic impact that RPA can bring to businesses and national economies is not just in millions or billions! PwC found in its analysis that AI, robotics, and other forms of smart automation can bring close to $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030. That’s almost a one-fourth increase in GDP (Source).
The general fear is that RPA leads to job losses and layoffs. However, RPA should be considered as a technology that will optimize activities for higher productivity and operational efficiencies. Automation can actually complement those human workers who have upskilled themselves to use these systems.
Phrased differently, any form of automation is not going to operate on its own. They need some kind of human control, at least at a strategic level to deliver maximum RoI. For that purpose, human intelligence is still vital. It is the right combination of human intelligence and automation that is going to help an organization reap maximum RoI.
Precursors to implementing RPA in your organization
Like scaling a summit demands a certain amount of training and gear, implementing automation in your organization also requires having some crucial precursors.
In addition to a list of tools or software, implementing RPA also requires your business to make some fundamental cultural changes.
1. Understand what RPA can do for your business
RPA is not a magic wand that can ward off weaknesses and present new operational strengths. As a business leader, you must understand what RPA can do for your business and develop a strategy in that direction.
2. Choosing to be a leader or follower
RPA is a novel concept. You can choose to be a leader who is making bold strides or be a follower. As a leader, you have the first-mover advantage and also puts your business ahead of the competition. As a follower, you are spared from trial-and-error efforts and can easily replicate what has worked for others. Either way, you win by adopting RPA.
3. Striking a balance between automation and manual processes
The efficiency of RPA can persuade any business leader to upgrade all manual processes with automation. However, rapid automation of processes that are not yet ripe for automation can lead to disruptions. It is essential that automation is ramped up slowly, but steadily while reducing the reliance on manual processes.
What business owners must know about RPA in 2021
RPA can appear to be confusing because the technology itself became mature for large-scale usage only recently. There are several nuances about RPA that business leaders must be aware of. This information will help them make informed decisions within the risk threshold. Also, like with any other form of technology, automation is constantly evolving with every passing day. It is necessary to keep a tab on the latest happenings so that you do not make the mistake of taking decisions based on outdated information.
1. RPA can unlock true human potential
One of the serious problems that plague business functions is the large volume of transactions – as in sales, accounting, and logistics. In the case of accounting, managing accounts receivable itself demands a separate team of professionals. Similarly in other functions like logistics, transactions happen in real-time which are difficult to control or even alter manually. It is here that RPA can make a difference.
It liberates human workers from mundane and repetitive tasks and lets automation perform them with improved accuracy and velocity. For example, for processing a product return in an online store, RPA can send the confirmation of the order return, map it to the logistics team, and take care of posting a returns journal entry to close the loop. What RPA does is reduce the amount of manual work that needs to be done regularly.
MyState Bank is one of the early adopters of RPA in the BFSI industry. The bank uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) bots for password reset requests, rate appeal requests, and even a COVID-19 specific bot for providing customer service.
2. RPA is not a replacement, it is a supplement
RPA promises that it will spare employees from manual work and allow them to focus on tasks that require greater human thinking, innovation, and creativity.
That said, RPA is not replacing human workers. It is more a digital supplement of sorts for human workers who are over-burdened with manual work or processes. If deployed in the right manner in the right business function, RPA or any other form of automation is going to act as an agent of change.
It can spare humans from spending their precious time and effort performing manual actions that are undeserving of their human intelligence or even dangerous to work upon.
AIS — the top mobile operator in Thailand – was able to reap significant savings in time and cost by deploying bots for repetitive tasks. RPA enabled AIS to save close to 72k manhours working hours, an equivalent of 197 Full Time equivalent (FTE) through automation. RPA has also brought down the number of steps taken to resolve a complaint from 10 to 3 thus achieving significant improvement in its customer satisfaction.
3. RPA is a new concept for all enterprises
Even enterprises that have been pioneering digital innovation are just getting started with RPA. Studies also indicate that RPA and allied automation strategies are among the biggest priorities for business leaders. They are confident of the near future when RPA will fully mature into a technology that would be extremely reliable, will have 99.99% downtime, and also create new avenues for business innovation.
According to Deloitte Global RPA Survey, 53% of respondents have already started their RPA journey and a further 19% of respondents plan to adopt RPA in the next two years. The study also found that the payback period to recoup the investment in RPA takes less than a year and gives a bountiful average of 20% of full-time equivalent (FTE).
Despite being a new concept, RPA is a technology that will grow rapidly and also become an influential one in the near future.
4. Developer talent for RPA applications is steadily increasing
One of the challenges that every organization tries to address before investing heavily in technology is recruiting the talent for it. RPA development is already labeled as a new field and hence there is a far-spreading misconception that developer talent is hard to come by.
In a recent survey, at least 79% of respondents had some form of RPA certification. RPA is garnering interest as one of the hottest careers to pursue. LinkedIn, the world’s social platform for professionals, estimates a 40% growth rate in postings for RPA engineers (2020 LinkedIn Emerging Jobs Report).
This indicates a near future where RPA engineers will be easily available for hardware and software-related jobs. So, irrespective of the RPA mission that the business has, finding talent is not going to be difficult.
Conclusion: RPA as a competitive advantage
To make any novel technology a competitive advantage, the organization must have a clear strategy in place. If the foundation is laid right, agility can be easily attained. Also, it is necessary to start small by automating smaller operations before scaling RPA for bigger operations. This will help in reducing any untoward results that cannot be predicted early in the implementation stage.
Deloitte recommends a 3-step plan or a to-do list for scaling RPA.
- Start with a bold ambition – While cost-efficiencies are the primary benefits of RPA, it can also help achieve greater benefits like better quality of output and compliance.
- Build a strong foundation – The RPA process should be well-defined and documented. Even if it is going to take the form of an experiment, it is necessary to ensure that the experiment has a valid methodology, an intended result, and a study of the outcome.
- Deliver high-velocity change – High-velocity change refers to building an agile and lean team with the organization that can own and drive the RPA initiatives. A lean team is the best bet that the organization has to achieve high-velocity change.
Implementing RPA is going to be an uphill task, as with any task in the beginning. But, there are bigger prizes to be won if the right goals are set, a well-defined process is put in place, and a lean team is maintained.