Robotic Process Automation
Modern technology means lots of business and people are working using computers online. And although technology means more access to markets and customers, the amount of administration work such as auditing, and filling forms has not decreased. One way to reduce the workload is to introduce automation. Automation in manufacturing has led to an increase in productivity and efficiency, so it was only a matter of time before automation products were offered for business-focused applications.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is business-focused automation that decreases the workload of employees and automates tasks. It generally uses software and artificial intelligence to conduct its assigned duty. RPAs can mimic most human actions such as moving folders, filling forms, copying and pasting data, logging into applications, etc, and are readily used in areas such as marketing, sales, and workflow. With such a variety of applications, RPA services are being implemented in many applications. RPA can lead to many benefits such as reduced costs and increased productivity as the time needed for getting tasks done decreases.
When deploying RPA every instance requires its virtual workstation and uses keyboard and mouse controls to execute actions. There are a few things for companies who want to deploy RPA to keep in mind:
- Set and manage expectations – RPA can increase business productivity, but many vendors exaggerate RPA’s functionality and implications. The company should have a clear idea about what they want the RPA to do and not get too carried away with its capabilities.
- Consider business impact – RPAs can be easily used on both the customer and employee ends, bringing much-needed help and acting as a stopgap between the two. This can lead to an increase in efficiency for the employees as they don’t have to spend a lot of time doing mundane tasks. Customers too should be happy as they can interact with the company more quickly.
- Involve IT early and often – The IT department should be involved throughout the process to ensure the company’s IT infrastructure is up to the task for RPA deployment and that the right resources are available once deployed.
- Planning – Planning for any roadblock while deploying RPA is essential. Companies must also plan how the RPA will interact with the company’s systems and with other RPAs which might be deployed. Another area to plan for is to see if any changes to the company’s systems will break the bot itself and monitor how system changes are affecting the RPA.
- The data rabbit hole – RPAs can generate lots of data that can in turn be used to learn new things about the company. Analysis of such data could be useful for the company to see what effect the RPA is having.
- Governance – Rules need to be in place for the governance of different RPA used. These rules incorporate information on how the RPA will be maintained, how much authority each RPA has over another, etc.
- RPA Team – For a company building RPAs, the people designing the RPA should have a long-term place in the company to develop, make and maintain the RPA. This should lead to RPA integration becoming better over time and lead to better efficiencies.
- Impact on people – During deployment, RPA can disrupt the workflow of a company and its employees. It is important to keep the employees in the loop of how the RPA will change how they work and interact with the company systems and how changes being made to the existing RPA will affect them.
Impact and Employment
One of the biggest fears about automation is that it replaces humans and thus will lead to mass unemployment. But according to the Harvard Business Review, most companies who have deployed RPA have just redeployed their employees to do more interesting work. A study published by the London School of Economics highlighted that RPA and redeployment of the employees lead to greater productivity as RPA takes over the mundane and repetitive tasks while actual employees can do essential work. However, Gartner has said that RPA is a threat to outsourcing as now processes will take place in data centers increasing demand for skilled process designers but decreasing the demand for low-skill workers.
It is expected that RPA will lead to productivity and efficiency gains in the global market, with Oxford University predicting that up to 35% of all jobs to be automated by 2035. Developed economies will see and net gain from this trend as they have the skill and technological infrastructure to develop and support RPA.
Some current deployment for RPAs includes:
- Banking and Finance Process Automation
- Mortgage and Lending process
- Customer Care Automation
- eCommerce Merchandising Operation.
- Optical character recognition (OCR) Application
- Data Extraction Process
- Fixed Automation Process
As applications and designs for RPA evolve, it seems like RPA will be linked with more emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to create smarter automation products. Products such as unassisted RPA (RPAII), Hyper automation have been discussed recently. RPAII would run without needing any user inputs, while Hyper automation is a combination of different automation tools. Both these tools aim to help achieve a more efficient RPA which will cost less to develop and deploy.
As the modern workload has increased, technology is starting to be used to help the employee by automating repetitive and mundane tasks. This reduction in workload should lead to higher morale and productivity in the company. Although there seems to be some debate on how RPA will affect employment, there seems to be a consensus that automation leads to increased productivity for the company when deployed correctly.