How Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Can Accelerate Your Business Performance
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
By: Katherine Ina Fuentes, QuickReach Digital Transformation Consulting Associate
Imagine being an accounting staff. You log in to your computer, open an Excel sheet with the encoded reimbursement requests. You manually copy-paste each cell into the appropriate form in your accounting system. You then process it in the accounting system, before copying and pasting the same information into your ERP, your printing system, and your old, legacy system to generate the reports that your management needs. If you were to compare different files with the same content, you would have to pore over every matching or unmatching cell and maybe correct the erring number.
This repetitive process of opening files, transferring data, and matching is just some of the things that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) improves best. But what is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and how can it help increase operational efficiency?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a kind of code that sits on top of your server or computer and mimics everything that a human does, but much faster. Think of it as a robot that, once you have taught it what to do, can repeat the action for tens of thousands of times without the need for vacation or weekends. It does the jobs assigned to it, 24/7/365.
What RPA can do best: connecting to legacy systems. Just some of the things that RPA can do are:
Manual copy-pasting can lead to errors in minute ways such as forgetting to include a character while highlighting the text, pasting the data in the wrong window, etc. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can remember the exact data and paste it in the appropriate matching field.
Login and Matching
Keeping track of the various login credentials for multiple systems can be tedious, leading to confusion as to which credentials are for which password. RPA can input these credentials perfectly. From there, RPA won’t get confused by the number of lines it has to go through in order to fetch a count of transactions or records that you’re looking for. RPA can also match what you are looking for, word-for-word compared to manually scrolling through multiple pages to check whether parameters match.
RPA can open various websites or systems in seconds to retrieve information and paste them into a file. One example of this could be in vendor accreditation where a procurement officer checks various government websites to see if the potential vendor is on their watchlist or not.
RPA can help with assigning tasks to staff members by looking at each member’s unanswered tickets and route the latest ticket to the member with the least amount of tickets currently in their bucket.
Creating Re-defined Reports
After determining the information that you need, RPA can regularly fetch this information from various systems and consolidate them into an Excel file and send them to decision-makers on a regular basis.
While there are plenty of other functions for it, RPA is most ideal for when you need to connect your current systems with your older legacy systems. While newer systems can “talk” to one another via API (or Application Programming Interface), legacy systems do not have this feature. It’s then very difficult for these older systems to send information to newer systems. This can lead to inaccurate data and reports. With RPA, you can be sure that your data is mirrored properly across systems.
Cost-Efficient and Scalable
It’s difficult to keep hiring people for data-entry and manual tasks. Aside from their monthly salaries, you must also contend with their compensation and leaves. RPA can help by allowing these hires to move to more value-adding tasks such as data analysis while the robot handles the repetitive tasks. Humans can take weeks to train and be familiarized with the processes, while a robot (or multiple robots) only needs to be trained once and be run.
Would RPA replace humans completely?
While robots are more capable than humans in repetitive tasks, they are only there to assist humans with their day to day work. Humans can make informed decisions with RPA conducting data transfer and routing. Humans can also do more value-adding work such as coming up with recommendations from the reports created by the robot, creating forecasts, and management tasks. At the end of the day, it’s humans that decide on the process and the decisions. RPA only makes data transfer much faster and more accurately.
When RPA won’t work
Since RPA can memorize and execute the exact instructions that you have given it, the robot will not be able to complete the task if a part of the page has changed. For example, if you ask a robot to log in a system for you and paste the information into an Excel sheet, it will not be able to login if the system’s interface and fields have changed.
RPA is also only as good as the data input you give it. Any mistaken input of fields such as a name or a number might be overlooked by the robot. You must ensure that the data is correct before instructing the robot to process the information. However, most RPA providers have a system by which humans can audit the robot’s performance through a log of all completed, halted, or incomplete processes. By revisiting the audit logs, humans can pinpoint where or how a robot has gone wrong and then rewrite the instructions for the robot.
RPA and Business Process Automation
Ultimately, RPA alone will not automate your whole business. It is only one tool in ensuring efficient deliveries of their required output. It is humans that have to design and rethink their processes in such a way that would maximize the use of technologies such as RPA. At the same time, humans must also rethink their controls in the whole process flow. Process managers must think of their processes from an end-to-end perspective: from initiation of the request to fulfillment and reports. From there, they can review which specific actions are repetitive, which actions require routing, etc. It would then make sense for them to implement RPA for only those actions lest they risk over-digitizing processes which could lead to more headaches in the future.
RPA is a technology that is rapidly gaining more buzz year by year. With effective planning and process management, RPA can help your business not only become more efficient but also more productive.