A recent article in Horses for Sources generated a lot of turmoil by stating that “RPA is dead.” So, we thought it would be interesting and helpful to look at and discuss the current reality of robotic process automation.
A recent Deloitte study based on responses from over 400 executives across the industry spectrum (global business services, shared services, finance, procurement, HR, marketing and operations) singled out three top RPA-related strategic priorities:
- Focus on continuous improvement (35%)
- Increase level of automation (24%)
- Develop analytics capabilities (17%)
The top priority in particular seems to be the furthest one from the opinion that RPA is dead. Let us see then see how we can conceive the future of RPA, beyond a simplistic understanding of the message in the HfS article.
Change Management Goes Hand in Hand with RPA
Providing efficient training opportunities for the company’s staff is a vital component of successful RPA deployment, and good change management is one of its preconditions. And by “good change management” we mean one that is energetic, quantifiable and iterative.
RPA providers’ approaches to change management that share these features are the most likely to have a significant positive effect. As an argument, half of the highest geared companies, and 36% of the lowest performing ones, consider that their culture of origin is a stumbling block in the way of a successful automation journey, according to HfS.
Let’s zoom in a bit on the role of change management, more specifically, of human-centric change management. And no, this employee-centrism is by no means contradictory to automation, despite the spread of the “robots will steal our jobs” narrative, which is often used as a typical robotic process automation objection.
The advance of RPA will undoubtedly have a deep impact on the workforce; however, this impact is better spelled out in terms of helping not of hindering the current work roles. Managing employees’ expectations with respect to the shifting scope of work should downplay the negative effect of the routine change on company culture.
In fact, providing the necessary amount of training for all employees (in a top-down approach) involved in an RPA project is among the best RPA implementation practices. Training is necessary to ensure the positive connotation of the phrase “disruptive technology” that is often used to describe automation.
It must include information about the objectives that RPA is meant to attain, how software robots can assist humans in performing their daily activities, and why their help shapes the way toward higher value work.
The Current Reality of RPA Implementation: Real-World Use Cases
This is illustrative for a repetitive, high-frequency, high-volume process that no business can do without, irrespective of size or industry sector. Data from multiple sources, such as operational performance datasheet or personal records and files, must be selected for relevance, gathered together and analyzed coherently. On top of that, the analyses results must be promptly forwarded to the executives.
Everything requires painstaking attention to details, which makes the process highly time-consuming, resource-exhausting, stressful and boring. But your team can be saved by software robots, that can do everything in a fraction of a time and error-free.
This is a part of the procurement process that is based on corroborated actions of two departments: purchasing and accounts payable. Front-end software robots are experts at consistently integrating data from multiple sources, and thus support your company’s well-aligned transactions. A good practical illustration of bots’ utility is the automation of payment portal receivables for FMCG food companies.
Promoting better investment options
Bots can accurately track investment values without being hindered by sudden changes. The inherent risk of investing can be minimized by thorough, accurate assessment of investors’ portfolios.
Software robots can also offer information updated in real-time about fluctuations on the stock market, and thus help you make better decisions. In other words, they can be your financial advisors for a much lower cost than that of human advisors.
Financial management and audit trail
The subprocesses involved in financial management have features specific to most automation-friendly processes: rule-driven, error prone and highly intolerant to error. By eliminating keystroke errors and routinizing decision logic, software robots can bring your company to the state of audit readiness in a quasi-risk-free manner.
Business and process analytics
Benchmarks are necessary for the improvement of business processes and these benchmarks are often the consequence of analytics. Bots can easily track and record all the actions undertaken, from their position of experts on quantifying and appraising.
Consequently, your employees gain direct access to information-loaded details for free, which significantly reduces their workload and allows them to focus on the interactions with the clients and respond better to their needs.
Competitor price tracking
In order to set an appropriate price for your company’s products, you need to be informed with respect to the prices set by other market players. Therefore, accurate price monitoring is a very valuable asset.
Software robots can do this around the clock, with a minimal risk of error. They can also track prices at multiple levels -- individual, category and brand level -- offering you an insightful and elaborate comparative price analysis.
Revenue cycle functions
This RPA application area applies well to the healthcare industry, a sector having many simple, rules-based and high-volume manual processes that simply call for automation.
Administrative processes like new patient appointment requests, patient pre-arrival and arrival, claim denials or billing often require code changes, which can slow down the processing time. Bots enable a smooth adjustment to these changes and thus warrant coherent data handling.
Order and Invoicing
Software robots are capable to deal with multiple data formats, such as Word, Excel and email. When this capacity is coupled with OCR technology, it allows them to automatically import orders and invoices into the company’s ERP. This streamlines product delivery to customers; hence they will be more satisfied to work with your company.
A New Reality
The recent UiPath Forward event in Las Vegas hosted numerous discussions about future trends in RPA. One of the central topics was a potential new economic crisis threatening economical organisations worldwide, and how automation is likely to change the “classical” approach of laying off employees.
Scaling up bots to better handle recession appears to be an alternative, viable model that can successfully replace employee dismissal. A related trend is that of improved robot standardization, which results in an enlarged range of use cases.
Additionally, as young people entering the workforce become increasingly familiar with the current reality of RPA and the benefits of automation, and as they become more efficient by working side by side with software robots, businesses will increase adoption and move on towards process digitalization.
All in all, we believe that the future of RPA is as far as possible from a dead end. On the contrary, new developments, particularly the turn towards intelligent automation, are fully consistent with companies’ top priority of continuous improvement.