Checking the title, some (if not most) of you would say: ”Oh please, not another article about getting magic outcomes using completely inefficient techniques!”
Trust me, it is not.
This article is not meant to boast about miraculous techniques to help you gain more profit or obtain better productivity. It’s meant to unquestionably raise your awareness on The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which occurred 5 years ago and is gaining more and more ground under the acronym of R.P.A. (Robotic Process Automation).
And yes, RPA could unofficially be defined as the RIP of business process outsourcing (BPO).
An intro to RPA from a business perspective
Historically speaking, BPO companies were the first early adopters of RPA and drove demand for this technology. Some of the main automated processes were: documenting and records management, claims, bookings, invoice management, CRM, HR, and IT processes.
RPA is an agile technology which allows employees to configure ’software robots’ (non-physical robots, built on computer algorithms) to emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process (e.g. capture and interpret ID applications used for processing transactions, manipulating data or triggering and communicating responses with other digital systems).
Simply put, from a business perspective, RPA is about replacing human work with technology. From a purely financial perspective, it’s about replacing a variable cost (wages) with a fixed cost (robot’s license). It is estimated that RPA can automate between 70% to 80% of a company’s rule-based processes.
By itself, RPA is not an intelligent technology, as you cannot substitute RPA for human judgment. RPA needs to be guided and trained by the human judgment to generate the expected results.
Looking at it from a singular perspective, RPA is the low-hanging fruit of the automation journey which is based on two categories of robots:
- Basic robots, which perform specified tasks (literally RPA), and
- Advanced robots, which adapt, respond to and learn from their environment (AI, NLP, ML).
Both of these robots will do what they are designed to do and will continue to do it like that indefinitely.
Having said that, keep in mind that the barriers of RPA and AI are slowly breaking down. The traditional operational, technological, and process boundaries which kept the two mostly apart until now, are slowly but surely coming down: business priorities regarding AI and RPA are converging, RPA and AI tools and platforms are becoming integrable (e.g. Uipath’s AI Fabric) and plenty of efforts are made towards ensuring a 100% accordance between the models, inputs, and outputs used for both technologies.
How can RPA boost your company’s value?
We believe that your company’s value will increase because:
RPA is a non-disruptive technology, working only through front-end GUI (graphical user interface) and allowing employees to focus on more value-adding tasks, creating more time for face-to-face communication with customers, and more room for human creativity.
Robots work around the clock, for as long as the systems are available, regardless of the hour. Companies using RPA register a lower cost per transaction, reduced human operational errors, increased accuracy, and speed, and have a much easier time dealing with regulatory issues and maintaining compliance.
Improved service delivery will grow your customers’ satisfaction and loyalty, making for prolonged, mutually beneficial partnerships.
RPA adopters are highly confident in RPA’s capacity to deliver the promised benefits with a trust level ranging between 84% to 92% for the top three expected benefits (accelerated efficiency, reduced manual efforts, and improved customer service), according to Forrester’s 2019 survey on RPA.
RPA, between myth and reality
One very important fact: RPA is perfectly compatible with any programming language – be it C#, C++, Python or Java. RPA sits on top of a company’s IT infrastructure, making for quick and efficient integration.
I can’t stress this enough: the affirmation that RPA would come into conflict with existing IT systems is completely unfounded. Make sure your IT team is well aware that RPA control rooms are understandable and accessible, and that RPA perfectly fits into a typical IT release management process (planning, scheduling, controlling).
RPA bots can use the operating system applications exactly as a human user would do it. Bots can launch and use applications (opening emails and attachments, logging into applications, moving files and folders), can integrate with enterprise tools by connecting to systems APIs, can read and write to databases, can augment the data by scrapping data from web, can process different data (extract data from documents, make calculations, input data to forms, merge data from multiple sources, copy and paste data).
Bots can do these functions on virtualization solutions like Citrix or Windows environment. Most vendors do not support other operating system environments like Mac OS or Linux.
Another fact: adopting RPA entails a radical shift within your company, a surefire way towards evolution.
My recommendation: get a small-sized picture of how software robots would run within your company’s environment. Start your RPA journey small, by first testing a POC (proof of concept) of a prone to automation process (e.g. extract data from one information system and introduce it into another, while using logical operations applied to the extracted data). Then move on to processes that would be easy to automate, while still having the potential to bring in substantial benefits to everyday operations.
The RPA expansion and its main adopters
The financial services firms, also known as BSFI (banking, financial services, and insurance), are RPA’s top customers with 44% of the total market share, followed by telecom, healthcare and manufacturing companies.
Public sector institutions have their fair share of RPA as well. Only in the US, a raw estimation suggests that about 5% of federal occupations could be entirely automated, while about 60% of the existing jobs could be partially automated.
Large corporations are favorites in the RPA adoption race due to their financial advantage, but thanks to process-mining software, SMBs are great at proving ground for the benefits of adopting RPA.
Source: HfS Research, 2018
An article by our colleague, Marius Ungur - RPA Business Analyst