To stay competitive, companies continually strive to increase productivity, control costs and provide an excellent customer experience. By improving business processes, gains can be made in all of these areas and for this reason, businesses are looking at what Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can do for them.   

Robots are now routinely used in manufacturing, where they carry out a range of tasks that are repeated over and over again in the production of goods. With RPA, it’s a similar premise, robots, or rather software ‘bots’, automate routine, repeatable tasks within business processes.

Many administrative tasks fall into this category, such as collecting data and reconciling invoices. Such repeatable, routine processes can be found in every organisation and every industry, including private and public sectors. In banking, for example, rules around ‘know your customer’ require identity verification checks. Across industries, data is entered into multiple databases supporting a range of business functions.  

If tasks involved in repeatable processes can be automated, it frees up staff time to devote to more value-add work where creativity or specialist insight is required.

Automating repeatable tasks and linking systems

Software ‘bots’, programmed to understand processes, draw on the appropriate data and co-ordinate inputs and outputs to complete tasks with minimal intervention.

What’s more, RPA works across systems. This is especially beneficial because as most businesses grow, they invest in additional systems to meet their growing needs. Over time, a whole host of solutions end up being used and working between them is generally a manual job. RPA creates links between systems, drawing upon a range of sources as required to complete tasks.

Staff time that would have been taken up completing manual, repetitive tasks is then freed-up to spend on more value-add activities for the business. In this way, RPA supports one of the objectives in business digitisation programmes of optimising how highly skilled employees spend their time, for the benefit of the business and customers.

In the case of insurance, this could be investigating more complicated claims; in the case of banking it could be verifying customers’ identities that cannot be automatically confirmed. When an activity involves undertaking a set of generally standard tasks there will always be exceptions that require special handling. By processing the majority automatically, it allows trained specialists to apply their skills where they are most needed, making value judgements and resolving issues.

For all industries, compliance is a number one priority and RPA can help in this area by reducing process errors and ensuring that compliant processes are precisely followed. 

Tips when considering RPA

As part of a wider process review, or indeed a more wide-ranging digitisation programme, the implementation of RPA should be carefully considered to optimise outcomes. When considering RPA for your business, be sure to:

  • Decide on your objectives – are these concerned with making a single process more efficient or does RPA implementation form part of wider scale digitisation? Define the aims of the programme and set realistic targets
  • Assess current business processes to determine which could benefit from RPA – this could include processes that:
    • are repeatable
    • are made up of a series of prescribed steps
    • require ‘calling out’ to multiple data sources
    • work across multiple systems
  • Set clear ownership and ongoing management of the RPA implementation – to keep it working, it will need any changes to underlying systems, such as password updates and file moves, to be ratified.

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