How is RPA used in practice?

Since the emergence of robotic process automation (RPA), the business media has been keen to promote the many RPA business benefits and how technology can solve a range of widespread problems. However, there’s a tendency to jump straight to the top line – “boost efficiency by X percent”, “increase engagement by up to Y times” – without properly explaining the nitty-gritty. What does RPA in action look like? How is it commonly used to automate tasks? And which tasks does it automate?

That’s why we decided to create this article. We want to cut through all ambiguity surrounding RPA, and explain how it’s really used in practice, so you can truly grasp what it can do for your business. Once that clicks, you’ve got the foundation on which to build all your understanding of RPA and how you can make the most of it. Let’s explore that now.

Three major areas of RPA in action

To begin with, it’s useful to identify some process areas in which RPA has historically proven to be most valuable. Most businesses have accounts or payroll personnel, or at least staff who perform those kinds of tasks. All businesses deal with information – which is what “data” really means – and so they have processes for some kind of data entry or transfer. The processes we’ll focus on here take place in these areas of work. We’ll start in the accounts department.

1.  Handling stacks of invoices

Think of how many transactions the average business makes every day. Most of these need invoices, whether for good/services received or provided. That all adds up to a lot of invoices to be processed, usually in one go. It’s as long, repetitive, tedious job, but someone’s got to do it.

Fortunately, that someone is now an RPA “bot” – a sort of digital worker within your RPA tool that does the work for you to automate specific tasks. In the “invoice capture phase”, a bot can take a digital copy of an invoice (in Adobe’s PDF format, for instance) and extract data such as the bank account information, order reference number, price, address, and tax.

You can also assign another RPA bot to cross-check the invoice against purchase orders and other documents, to ensure everything is correct. If not, the bot will flag the invoice and alert a human user to make a manual check. But, if everything’s fine, the bot will record the invoice information and move on to the next.

Old fashioned, manual invoice reconciliation can occupy much of a human worker’s time and constitute a sizeable workload. When RPA takes these invoices off their desk(top), your employees are freed up for more enjoyable and valuable work. Tired, bored workers are also more prone to slipping up, and RPA bots don’t make mistakes such as typos or transposition errors. A perfect success story for RPA in action.

2.  Entering and transferring data

Moving information between different documents or systems is another high-volume, repetitive task that’s both time-intensive and prone to worker fatigue and human error. It’s also another process that’s ideal for RPA to handle.

Just like a human member of staff, an RPA bot can copy and paste customer data, for instance, from an email or online form into a database, spreadsheet, or CRM system. It can do this more quickly and accurately—in fact, up to six times faster, as non-profit organization Pay It Forward discovered when they adopted Nintex RPA for their data entry needs.

An additional key benefit when you automate tasks like these is that it creates a data trail. Every step in the process is documented for easy examination later. That’s good news for auditors and auditees.

3.  Payroll processing

Finally, let’s look at payroll processing. It’s high-volume, repetitive and rule-based: exactly the kind of job for a bot. Manual payroll processing can involve a workload that your personnel would be much happier without, so they may be overjoyed to see RPA take the weight off their shoulders.

RPA bots can cross-check information across multiple systems, including the number of hours worked and the employee’s pay rate, as well as earnings and deductions. Having done that, the bot can then pull all this information into one place to help with the creation of paychecks, as well as actioning reimbursements and more. With such a wide variety of tasks it can help with, this is one area where implementing RPA can really pay off.

Time to see RPA in action for yourself

Now you’ve got a clearer idea of the kind of tasks RPA can help with, you can start thinking about your own organization. Are there any data entry or invoice/payroll processing workloads that a bot could take care of? What about the other repetitive, high-volume tasks that colleagues or employees have to deal with? Once you start exploring the possibilities of RPA,

you can find all kinds of ways to transform your business. We hope this blog has sparked your imagination.

 

 

Want to learn more about RPA in action and how Nintex can help you automate all kinds of common business processes? Get in touch with our team today.

 

 

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