Robotics process automation (RPA) is about using computer system for automating all possible repetitive and logical or rule-based tasks. These include tasks that humans have to perform repetitively daily/weekly/monthly.
RPA enabled systems and processes can automate almost all functions and industries repetitive and rule-based tasks. Important is to ensure that the tasks and business processes chosen for RPA are firm best practice and not changing often as all steps and scenarios have to be programmed and configured for successful execution.
Computer systems can be trained to execute tasks round the clock, resulting in a lot of productivity gain and time savings as many of these tasks can be done even on holidays, weekends, after office hours etc.
RPA can bring huge benefits in long run for organizations. Benefits start from the very day RPA is put to use. The benefits seen in RPA usage are as follows,
1. Increase in productivity gain due to full process automation execution by RPA
2. Increase in accuracy as there will be no more human errors and machine will do the activities exactly as per the rules laid down.
3. Cost reduction as the organization will need a smaller number of people for executing the same set of tasks.
4. Volume of tasks won’t be an issue as it will only cost in terms of adding one or more computer system.
5. The entire process becomes scalable and flexible as the execution resources (computer systems) can be increased or decreased with speed within hours.
6. Business process throughput time and turnaround become predictable, quicker and possibly increase over time as network and computer systems are getting faster and faster.
7. RPA also ensures a full audit trail recording and error reporting by email and management report logs. This makes audit and regulatory compliance easier as all details remain fully transparent.
RPA can be envisioned as robotics in the manufacturing production lines where the robotic arms do complex assembling and product manufacturing automatically with full accuracy and agility. Robotics are used for manufacturing while RPA is used for computer systems business process automation and execution automation. RPA can be applied to many functions and areas. Here are some examples,
1. Customer order processing – RPA can help automate execution of entire customer order entry and processing steps in online (eCommerce, B2B, B2C, D2B, D2C, EDIs etc.) as well as offline (ERP systems, POS systems, CRM systems etc.)
2. Logistics and Delivery processing – RPA can help automate execution of entire logistics and delivery processing steps by ensuring all systems and records are well updated round the clock (7×24 hours).
3. Month End Closing – RPA can automate execution of month end closing activities of finance team by reducing their burden of manually updating 1000s of records and reconciling them to find the gap and adjustments etc.
4. Banking Systems – RPA can automate execution of various (like statement and account reconciliation) repetitive banking tasks by reducing workload on bank employees, allowing them to focus on customer needs.
5. Finance systems (Payroll, Claims, Assets etc.) – RPA can automate execution of Payroll processing, claims processing, assets depreciation processing and many other processes.
6. HR and Customer Service Systems – RPA can automate execution of customer service-related tasks and processes like call center operations, complaints processing, service center claims processing, customer insights processing etc.
7. IT systems and support – RPA can automate execution of many IT tasks and processes like, helpdesk operations, infrastructure and system support, IT security management etc.
Like all projects RPA implementation must be also handled as a business project with clear business case, scope and goals. It’s important to upfront understand,
1. What processes are we planning to automate?
2. Why are we choosing these processes?
3. How are we going to execute, for how long and how do we communicate about this?
4. Who all need to be involved and communicated?
5. When will we complete and measure benefits?
There are many RPA tools and organizations that help in deploying these tools. Major players as per Gartner’s magic quadrant are automation anywhere, blue prism and UiPath. Here are brief understanding of each,
1. UiPath – It is used widely as it works smoothly with drag and drop features and built automation components reducing the need for customisation and development. It is highly preferred and used by many world known organizations for automating repetitive tasks.
2. Automation Anywhere – Automation anywhere is owned by Microsoft and generally preferred for deployments across big enterprises. It can address wide range of complex automations. This is also largely used as its under Microsoft and equally efficient.
3. Blue Prism – It is in many ways similar to UiPath having drag and drop features to get the automations done. It is used by medium and small enterprises for automations and it offers programming using C sharp language.
It is very important to choose a right fit for the organization keeping the long-term view in mind. As each of them have their own pros and cons in terms of features, time to market, costs etc.
RPA is not new for most organizations as all major MNCs have deployed RPA in one or the other part of their business, often more in Finance, Supply Chain, Human Resources and Information Technology divisions.
There is still a lot of room for automating repetitive tasks in all pockets of many organizations. The more we automate the more it makes the organization productive and agile allowing them to divert all their energy and focus on their customers, solutions and services.