By now, many executives have heard the term “Robotic Process Automation (RPA)”. Although sometimes misinterpreted due to the absence of robots, RPA is a powerful tool that can perform manual, time-consuming, rules-based office tasks more efficiently by reducing cycle time. And it can do this at a lower cost when compared to other automation solutions. PwC estimates that up to 45% of work activities can be automated.
In fact, a couple of RPA’s greatest benefits are often overlooked: its ease of deployment and the speed with which it allows companies to operate. But given the inevitable disruption caused by RPA, business leaders should focus on a few key implementation principles: automate as much as possible, focus on front-end processes, maximize productivity, and aim for 100% auditability. RPA can help companies organize themselves for the future. It is a foundation for machine learning, artificial intelligence and a more autonomic enterprise.
The impact of RPA on a company’s operations and competitive positioning is significant on a number of fronts:
RPA can reduce operational costs and attain ROI goals faster than other large-scale information management or transactional systems. There are two major reasons for this. First, RPA-inspired process automation is localized to a business unit or function, which means that the solution can be deployed faster and more precisely. Second, RPA does not require navigating through complicated systems integrations or require advanced programming. It works through the user interface and avoids traditional process integration, such as IT resource investment and significant development time. Companies benefit from reduced technical integration, faster implementation time, lower costs, and faster payback.
Companies can shift from a labour-centric operating model to a solution-based and technology-enabled operating model. A digital workforce is capable of working 24x7, requires limited to no oversight, and can scale in response to business growth with speed, agility and resiliency. Meanwhile, traditional workers can shift their attention to higher-value, more strategic tasks and other business development activities.
RPA digitizes expensive and error-prone manual processes. Every step in the process, every activity performed, and all sources of data have a digital audit trail. By carefully planning a company’s control processes, RPA can embed thresholds and guidelines into the automated processes, expediting testing and risk compliance. This reduces errors, improves quality and compliance, and improves customer satisfaction through reduced queries and complaints.
Unlike traditional ERP initiatives, which are usually large-scale and measure success in years, RPA initiatives can be deployed on a variety of scales. Some small-scale deployments can realize benefits within weeks, while benefits from larger-scale transformations may take 6 to 12 months. In other words, companies have the flexibility to experiment with RPA or to fully commit based on the depth of transformation that they want to pursue.