RPA an Essential Tool for Digital Transformation
Updated: Jul 10, 2019
Starting a digital transformation journey may depend on one's business needs, available funds, or the knowledge and skills of employees. The good news is that the key ingredient to such transformation is also an "easiest route to automation" and this is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Multinational professional services network PwC referred to RPA as a software used to performing manual, time-consuming, rule-based office tasks more efficiently by reducing cycle time and lowering costs more than other automation solutions. The PwC in Canada estimated that 45% of work activities could be automated, and this automation would save $2 trillion in global workforce costs.
Cathy Tornbohm, vice president at Gartner, said some employees of end-user organizations will continue to execute mundane tasks that require them to cut, paste and change data manually. But when RPA tools perform those activities, the error-margin shrinks and data quality increases.
Gartner reported last November that the biggest adopters of RPA include banks, insurance companies, utilities and telecommunications companies.
"Typically, these organizations struggle to knit together the different elements of their accounting and HR systems, and are turning to RPA solutions to automate an existing manual task or process, or automate the functionality of legacy systems," Tornbohm explained.
Business and technology specialist Soumik Roy, attests RPA is "the easiest route to automation for most businesses" referring to functions such as human resources, finance, marketing, and operations.
He explained RPA is easy to implement, affordable even for the smallest of SMEs, and usually ranks high on employee adoption compared to more aggressive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT)-driven data platforms.
Benefits of RPA
RPA's great value is it allows professional employees to focus on higher-value work since routinary tasks are automated 24/7 and this allows them to hone decision-making skills and their essential roles be it in finance, marketing, HR, customer service, among others.
Designed to remember and interpret the actions of applications, RPA as a software can map out each process and automatically complete transactions, use data to generate responses, and connect with other systems to complete tasks.
According to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation & Artificial Intelligence (IRPA AI), any company that uses labor on a large scale for general knowledge process work, where people are performing high-volume, highly transactional process functions, will boost their capabilities and save money and time with RPA software.
IRPA AI, as an independent professional association for buyers, sellers, influencers and analysts, noted that besides process automation, and IT support and management, automated assistant can also be made through RPA as in voice recognition software or automated online assistants. This may cover developments in how machines process language, retrieve information and structure basic content thus RPA can provide answers to employees or customers in natural language rather than in software code. This technology can help to conserve resources for large call centers and for customer interaction centers.
Automating Repetitive Processes
The IRPA AI highlighted that RPA elevates the nature of work by removing people from dull, repetitive tasks.
"Just as industrial robots are remaking the manufacturing industry by creating higher production rates and improved quality, RPA 'robots' are revolutionizing the way we think about and administer business processes, IT support processes, workflow processes, remote infrastructure and back-office work," the professional association said.
In an article published by TechNative it listed top 10 processes that enterprises can automate using RPA, such as "key stakeholder onboarding/maintenance; user setup and configuration; report aggregation; payroll processing; customer due diligence; competitive pricing and monitoring; order processing; shipment scheduling and tracking; and customer relationship management (CRM) updates."
The article's author Daniel Schmidt, who has 20 years’ experience in the enterprise software industry specializing in the improvement of customer engagement technologies and processes, categorized automation opportunities in three types: "high volume, high value, and high stakes."
He elaborated that high volume are highly repetitive processes and easy targets for automation, as they take significant time that could be spent on work that requires more human thinking-related tasks.
The high value refers to important processes for the business, ranging from money-related processes such as sales quotes, those that create enhanced customer experience, reduce churn and so on.
As to high stakes, Schmidt explains mistakes in these processes could potentially land the enterprise in hot water. For example, a copy-and-paste error could result in a costly compliance breach, or a process backlog could cause routine missing of deadlines.
Schmidt cited order processing, and shipment scheduling and tracking are typical time-consuming manual jobs with the former involving tasks like address verification, data entry, printing invoices and shipping labels, updating warehouse inventory, re-ordering if stock is low, and much more, while the latter includes scheduling, updating and reporting shipment status between internal systems and portals is typically a manual job.
"If [shipment scheduling/tracking] isn’t executed smoothly, the price paid is in the customer experience. RPA extracts shipment requests from incoming emails, log jobs in scheduling systems and provides pick-up times in customer and/or carrier portals," he added.
Integrating Legacy Systems
Another feature on why RPA has transpired to be a game-changing component of any digital transformation solution today is that it also enables the successful integration of existing legacy systems using API or Application Programming Interface.
Through RPA, existing systems and acquired new technologies can be brought together for a fully-digital operations that resolve business challenges.
RPA allows enterprises to keep legacy systems by making integration with new cloud and web/app-based services possible. This refers to the ability to front-end your legacy with modern tools, web applications, mobile applications as well as connect it to the cloud.
In cultivating collaboration, RPA allows different teams working on data and actions tied to legacy systems to collaborate efficiently be it the finance, human resources or other departments.
Just last week, Forbes featured how Ryder, a leading logistics service provider (LSP), uses RPA to reduce the labor associated with producing transportation plans.
Steve Banker wrote Ryder is using RPA to automate highly manual tasks associated with planning optimization in their legacy transportation management system (TMS). It is also used to examine carrier websites for appointment scheduling. There are application programming interfaces between their RPA and the TMS.
"Ryder started the implementation in November 2017 and launched their first bot in January 2018. Only two people were dedicated to the implementation. New bots can be built in about two weeks. In short, implementing the RPA was quicker than upgrading their TMS," Banker reported. "The RPA implementation has also had good payback. They now have 133 bots running that execute 1300 daily tasks. The automation has allowed them to redeploy 6.5 transportation analysts. Optimization runs that use to take 1.5 hours can now be done in half an hour. And the consistency is better. The bots do not make data entry mistakes."
Banker ended his article by admitting RPA is not on top of mind when it comes to digital technologies involving supply chain realm, but adviced that for those looking to automate highly manual tasks with a high degree of accuracy and consistency, RPA can be a good technology to explore.