Picture a member of your back-office admin team. Once or twice a week they set aside a couple of hours to process forms that have been sent in by customers, copying information from PDF files into a spreadsheet on your system. It is the part of their job that they like the least, yet it is essential for smooth running business operations.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is an increasingly popular technology that attempts to automate these kinds of repetitive admin tasks. So, where should you begin?
What is robotic process automation (RPA)?
Robotic process automation can be defined as: “the automation of repetitive, high-volume steps in processes. Software robots, or ‘bots’, emulate the actions of human workers to execute rote tasks within applications via their UI”.
RPA is about using software robots to conduct a wide variety of tasks where there are rarely exceptions that need human intervention. Opportunities to automate routine tasks with RPA include:
- Opening and closing customer accounts
- Data entry
- Processing applications
- Performing file or system backups
- Conducting checks
- Sending automatic notifications and reminders
Business benefits of robotic process automation
According to Gartner, the size of the RPA market is expected to grow by 20% in 2021, showing just how popular this technology is becoming. Let’s look at the business benefits of robotic process automation:
- Saves time and money
Did you know that over 40 percent of employees spend up to a quarter of their workweek on manual, repetitive tasks? If even a small proportion of those tasks could be automated, that would free up employees to work on more creative and productive activities which could contribute towards your bottom line.
- Boost employee satisfaction
The negative impact of tedious and mundane tasks on employee wellbeing should not be underestimated. When work feels meaningless, it can affect an employee’s mental health and reduced their motivation.
- May reduce errors
When tasks are repetitive and involve endlessly clicking dialogue boxes or copying and pasting information, there is a significant risk that people will lose focus and make mistakes. Robots, on the other hand, do not get tired or distracted. As long as the task is well defined, there is next to no chance of mistakes or errors happening.
- Faster processing for more satisfied customers
In many organizations, employees will block off a certain amount of time each day or week to complete repetitive data entry tasks. This means that some customers will have to wait several hours or even days before their information gets processed. On the other hand, RPA means these kinds of tasks can be completed immediately with no extra effort. And that means more satisfied customers.
Starting to automate routine tasks with RPA
If your organization could benefit from RPA, where should you begin? In our recent blog series on setting the stage for robotic process automation, we explored this topic in more depth. However, the fundamentals are relatively straightforward:
- Choose appropriate tasks for automation
Not all tasks are ready to be automated. Typically, RPA is most appropriate for repetitive tasks – and there are almost never exceptions. This includes things like scraping data from forms and entering it into spreadsheets, copying and pasting text from one interface to another, or submitting information into a database.
- Identify process pain points
Speak with your colleagues who conduct repetitive tasks and find out which processes take the most time.
- Map out workflows
Spend time with the employees who normally do the task at hand, then map out the process workflow in detail. Take note of every single step and interaction they have with the user interface.
- Test, test, test
Before you let the RPA go live on a specific task, test it thoroughly in a testbed environment. Use previously processed data to trial the bot to see if it is completing the tasks as expected and producing the same results as a human being.
- Deploy and monitor
After deploying the RPA, you will want to monitor its progress and ensure that it is producing the correct results.
Scaling up your RPA
As you start to experience the business benefits of robotic process automation, the next step is to scale that technology up across the organization. The effective implementation of RPA deployment at scale involves:
- Creating a center of excellence for robotic process automation which shares its knowledge and experience with other departments.
- Appointing a leader in charge of automating routine tasks with RPA. This person will be responsible for seeking out tasks that could be automated across the business and promoting the benefits of RPA to colleagues.
- Ensure that RPA works across silos – the greatest business benefits for robotic process automation come when it supports workflows between different departments and makes them more efficient.
Ready to automate routine tasks with RPA?
If your organization could benefit from RPA, the next step is to learn how to use the technology.