This article was initially published in March 2017 and has been updated in July 2020.
What processes are your competitors automating? How many of them have already began scaling automation at an enterprise level? If these are questions you’ve asked yourself, reading this article is a good place to start clarifying some of the questions you may have about how RPA can benefit your company.
If you’re from Australia, you can even take a look at our most recent whitepaper, a Thought Leaders Survey: How Are Australian Companies Leveraging Automation?
Before you start your automation journey, or even a pilot program, we recommend that you first identify the right business processes to automate. To do this, you can use your internal tools or you can ask an experienced RPA partner for help. Either way, you should keep in mind that processes that are eligible for automation are: manual and repetitive, rules based, mature and stable, have readable inputs, low exception rates, high volume/frequency, and measurable savings.
“Redwood Software conducted a survey of 300 corporate managers in the US and UK, which found that ‘79% of enterprises said automation delivered time savings, 69% cited “improved business productivity” as the key benefit of automation, [and] 61% said automation regularly provides cost savings.”
This data supports the opinion that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can deliver dramatic improvements to business procedures. Although RPA does have multiple applications in an organisation, some tasks are suitable for Robotic Process Automation, while others are not.
Simple tasks should be automated as a first step, while more involved activities can be automated later, when a company is already familiar with RPA. Non-standardised, variable processes are a challenge to the limits of RPA’s capabilities.
RPA as a competitive advantage
It is much easier to automate rules-based, consistent activities using RPA, as this is what it is really designed for. RPA offers companies a distinct competitive advantage:
- It offers a quick return on investment: According to McKinsey, the revenue in the first year upon RPA implementation shows a growth of 30–200%.
- It facilitates compliance: RPA minimises human error (a source of never-ending compliance stress for organisations). Also, software robots are perfectly suited to multiple-source data management and report generation.
- It improves cybersecurity: Encryption, segregated access to data within an RPA team, provision of a ‘zero touch environment’, active directory integration, or managing alerts, are just some ways by which RPA actively supports security.
- It makes data management more efficient: RPA can bridge the gap between different legacy data processing systems, and perform comprehensive data analysis.
- It makes people really matter: Employees no longer have to carry out boring, repetitive, monotonous tasks, so they have greater flexibility and time to engage with customers and to provide higher-value customer service.
If you want to find out more, you can read our article about why RPA is your competitive advantage.
Companies considering RPA need to know which kind of processes should be automated to attain the outcomes they seek. In this article, we will delve into this topic by uncovering the five most important factors to help organisations work out if a business activity is suited to Robotic Process Automation and how they can leverage this technology to its full benefit.
Factor 1: The Level of Human Involvement
Tasks are most suitable to automation if they:
- Fluctuate with transactional demand
- Are time consuming
- Require high attention to detail and high levels of involvement on the part of an employee.
These kinds of activities might include data input and output, order/claims processing and entering customer details into the company database.
In the survey by Redwood Software previously mentioned, it is stated that ‘99% of organizations still spend considerable personnel time doing repetitive manual tasks, with almost three quarters (74%) spending over a quarter of their time doing so.’
Automation of these processes allows them to be executed more quickly and accurately. Employees who previously used much of their time checking and quality controlling these activities are now freed up to use their time on more complex and vital tasks such as building stronger relationships with customers.
Factor 2: The Intricacy of the Task
RPA can be used to conduct quite simple tasks such as data copy and paste or typing, to those more intricate activities such as fraud identification or accounts payable. The intricacy of a process is decided by factors such as the number of systems used, the amount of human involvement, or the quantity of steps that need to be taken to complete the activity.
Unfortunately, more complex tasks are harder to automate, even though such automation would potentially offer greater dividends to an organisation’s business operations. This difficulty could be overcome with a larger investment of time and money. However, a better approach is to just start with automating simple activities.
This allows a company time to get a handle on how RPA software works in practical terms. Then these small Robotic Process Automation successes can be built upon, with the enterprise introducing automation of more complex tasks as they become familiar with the software and can better use it to optimise their business systems.