This article was initially published in November 2019 and has been updated in December 2020.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the technology that allows companies to configure software robots to imitate and execute the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process. RPA robots manipulate data and access applications just like humans do.
Software robots are capable of mimicking many–if not all–human user actions. They log into applications, move files and folders, copy and paste data, fill in forms, extract structured and semi-structured data from documents, scrape browsers, and more.
This being said, executives who are researching and considering implementing RPA to give their companies a competitive edge still have a lot of questions about RPA. Among them: how automation affects their team, how it will change the company’s operations and resources, and how they can try it before committing to a large-scale implementation. Read on to find out the answers to these questions, and more.
As we were preparing for a podcast interview for the ePodcast Network, the questions we had to answer about robotic process automation inspired us to write this article. We gathered our customers’ most prominent questions and concerns and we did our best to provide appropriate, solution-oriented answers.
Many customers share similar questions before they set upon implementing and deploying RPA in their companies. These are questions that everyone asks (and should ask, in fact) at the beginning of their RPA journey. So no, you are certainly not the only one.
We are here to help. Hopefully, at the end of this article, you will get most of the answers that you need in order to make the right decisions regarding automation.
Before proceeding with the list of RPA questions and answers, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to find out when our ePodcast Network podcast is live.
Top RPA questions and how we answer them
1. What is robotic process automation and who can benefit from it?
Our favourite, functional definition describes RPA very widely, as ‘a useful tool for maximally efficient use of of a company’s available resources’, where ‘tool’ covers both software and services.
It is a kind of software that emulates human activities, but performs them more quickly, accurately, and tirelessly that human employees. Functionality is indeed the most important trait of automation, and it is used in terms of the capacity to facilitate an optimal resource allocation leading to best possible results.
Companies across a wide range of industries (e.g., finance, banking, hospitality, healthcare, media, HR) can benefit from automating the rule-based, repetitive processes (see question (3) below). Indeed, according to McKinsey & Company, automating business processes through RPA can lead to a Return on Investment between 30 and 200% in the first year after implementation, and to 20–25% savings on average.
“According to McKinsey & Company, automating business processes through RPA can lead to a Return on Investment between 30 and 200% in the first year after implementation, and to 20–25% savings on average.”
We support a humanistic approach to RPA, according to which automation makes people really matter. In other words, people are the ultimate beneficiaries, be they the company’s employees or its customers.
Robotic process automation removes the burden of repetitive, tedious jobs from employees’ shoulders, and it thereby frees them to put to better use their typically human strengths such as complex reasoning, emotional intelligence, or communication skills. As a consequence, their job satisfaction is increased and so is their customer centred approach to the tasks they perform, which, in turn, boosts customer satisfaction.
2. What are the benefits of RPA?
Operating cost reductions is perhaps the most tangible benefit of RPA (as the above-cited McKinsey report shows). However, the umbrella of RPA benefits is much wider than that. Consider things like improved accuracy and quality, the reduction of technology integration costs, revenue leakage detection and subsequent reduction, headcount flexibility, the improvement of risk, compliance and audit management, rapid scalability to demand spikes, or workforce shifts to higher-value tasks.
According to the founders of CiGen, since RPA can complement or even replace document automation tools in conveying professional and meaningful messages, it enables high-level communication. For example, robotic process automation can be used as a tool for the automatic creation of documents, by comparing data stored in different systems. In Daniel Pullen’s words, this means that “RPA can be used to ensure the end-users are receiving accurate and current data”.
3. What types of processes are suitable for automation?
According to CiGen’s Leigh Pullen, beginning RPA implementation with those business processes that are best suited for automation is crucial for tapping into the vast potential of robotics; it is, indeed, one of the best practices for maximum gain. Some of the most relevant process features are:
- Stable, predictable and well-documented processes, with consistent and well defined operational costs;
- Processes requiring readable input types;
- Processes with low exception rates, which do not require complex human intervention;
- Processes that can be quantified in terms of measurable savings;
- High volume /high-frequency processes, which often provide a faster ROI.