COVID-19 has impacted business in numerous ways. Demand has plummeted, supply is affected, internal systems are also falling apart. We are not only facing uncertainty and employee health risks, but also bracing ourselves for an economic slowdown. In such cases, a company needs to be prepared to respond to the challenges and to a new business environment. This is not a simple task and involves using technology to integrate processes. Robotics Process Automation (RPA) in particular will help businesses survive in the COVID era in many ways.
RPA will increase operational efficiency and can streamline operational costs by 30%, according to this report by Gartner[RK1] . What makes it even more amazing? RPA will reduce operational expenditure but will ensure the same level of productivity and output. In fact, if we look at data from previous recessions, we understand that those companies that used technology to improve operational efficiency survived and even turned profitable, versus those companies that fired employees and scaled back drastically. Indeed, insurance companies like IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance have benefited greatly from AI, ML and RPA, which led them to make swift business recoveries during the COVID-19 crisis.
How to improve operational efficiency of a business
While RPA has been around for a while, important trends in a post-COVID world include sentiment analysis of online customers and connecting them to backend, marketing teams. Not only will RPA be a critical part of business, it will shape businesses to come. We all know that an AI system in Canada predicted the COVID-19 outbreak. Technology is not only about facilitation but predictive and preventive analysis. So how do we improve the operational efficiency of a business with RPA? Use it to work with other technologies and add intelligence to the mix.
How Business Process Management (BPM) fits in
Business Process Management involves optimizing repetitive and many mundane tasks. It involves many moving parts, including structure, optimization, and extension. It combines human and machine interventions seamlessly. RPA is more intuitive, organic and gets better the more it is used. Here’s how BPM fits into the RPA conversation. Both can be used together, integrated for the purposes of intelligent automation. For example, companies can run sophisticated plans and operations on cloud while RPA runs more rote and repetitive functions and communicative tasks. Both systems make each other watertight and better with continuous implementation and end-to-end efficiency.
Here’s an example of insurance claims process. It is complicated but if we use RPA, the repetitive tasks like collecting and processing customer data are automated. With RPA, bots will extract relevant data from multiple locations and create the report. BPM, meanwhile, can be used to optimize this process further. Using them both together can transform your processes completely.
RPA can address more critical business needs
RPA is interesting and important because it brings resilience to the business and adapts to change. It frees up staff hours and cuts operational costs significantly. It improves the quality of customer care and interactions and saves more time. Here are some ways in which RPA can solve critical business needs during a disaster. It can also pave the way forward for many companies and devise forward-thinking strategies.
From call centers and order processing to data allocation and document processing, RPA can really help businesses during crises by getting them to cut costs, focus on core productivity and increase output in less time.
- Turbocharge efficiency: Apart from cutting staff hours and optimizing time, RPA can reduce the risk of human errors caused by repetitive tasks. For instance, RPA can handle call center volume in many ways and this really impacts travel and airline agencies, among others. RPA helps healthcare companies to automate reporting of coronavirus tests, inventory control, clinical trials of vaccine, and so much more. When processes are streamlined and automated, companies achieve efficiency by reducing staff and working hours drastically. RPA also facilitates an easy transition to all-digital workplaces and customer engagement scenarios. By automating manual tasks, employers can be engaged with more analytical and fulfilling work.
- Make businesses tough and flexible: During an unprecedented crisis like a pandemic, we need businesses to be ambidextrous and flexible. They should adapt to changes and the new normal. RPA systems help a business work with constant process changes. Here’s a small example – let’s say there is a small change that employees need to make to daily tasks. The servers are equipped with RPA programs so that processes are smooth and adaptable. When the organisation has new and evolving needs, RPA can capture automation ideas from staff, engage remote workforces and build quick automation pipelines to support them.
- Minimize costs, maximize output: The biggest misconception about RPA is that it replaces humans. Instead, it empowers them and supports them, taking over mundane and high-volume, overwhelming tasks so that employees can work on projects that require the use of more interesting skills. The biggest benefit? Cost reduction. Around 10 robots can do the work of 100 people, so the company can hire efficiently and pay their employees well, while remaining smart and agile. Workforce robots can also be scaled down and up. They can be set up cost-effectively. Today, even small and medium-sized companies can use RPA developer tools.
With many companies adopting RPA, we will see the next wave of RPA implementation. In fact, according to Forbes, there will be a new market – for robotics-as-a-service (RaaS).
RPA in the time of COVID
RPA is helping global businesses to not only address the crisis and survive but come out stronger. Supporting and managing a remote work place is the biggest advantage in using RPA. Reducing waiting time for requests, handling call volumes and speeding up essential tasks – these advantages really push a business forward during this crisis. Call center agents can pull up customer data faster, answer calls more efficiently, work with bots in addressing call volume, do quick and easy digital paper work, and bring about faster call triage processes. RPA reduces human error and entire processes can be automated intelligently, pushing a company to do more sophisticated work and to evolve to bigger capabilities and capacities.
What’s next after RPA? Hyper intelligent automation (HIA)
Companies are looking at the next level of automation capability – a marriage of automation and intelligence. HIA is a seamless integration of automation and cognitive capabilities.
While many businesses have adopted RPA, they are seeing a bigger buzz about hyper intelligent automation! According to this study, hyper intelligent automation will become the key to survive the blow of COVID-19.
RPA focuses on task execution and operational efficiency. When you talk about HIA, you talk about intelligent automation and connecting different applications within the same enterprise, a cross-connectivity that is automated and becomes smarter with use. You not only have automation but you have AI technologies like Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, Speech Analysis and more. With RPA, human error and slow decision-making can slow down the process, something that can be reduced in HIA.
Companies like UiPath and Microsoft have been able to get over setbacks even from a pandemic thanks to their early investments and belief in HIA. A few companies have been early adopters of RPA and have now finetuned their implementation of it to build a system that cross-functions across various platforms. So we will see both in-house platforms as well as hybrid cross-platform implementations and it is exciting to see what lies ahead. The beauty of HIA is that you can even add its layers to legacy systems but there is no doubt that the future lies in hybrid cloud. Going forward, businesses that want to survive and even emerge stronger after the pandemic will need a combination of all these technologies that work best for them. RPA, on its part, is a great way to address issues like productivity, costs and profits during the crisis. RPA, cloud-driven cognitive technology, AI, HIA, analytics and big data will work in astonishing ways to also protect us against future contingencies and to ensure business continuity.