Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that facilitates the building and managing of software robots that can do the same jobs as a human agent when interacting with computer software. These robots can perform a wide range of defined actions. For example, understanding what information is displayed on a screen, selecting the right keystroke to make or identify the required data.
Why is Robotic Process Automation useful?
Automating workflows makes them more profitable as well as more responsive. Software robots work quickly and more consistently than we do. That means that employees can have mundane, repetitive tasks removed from their workload, giving them time to concentrate on more complex and meaningful work. Employees find themselves freed up to focus on collaboration, innovation and personal interaction with clients and customers. Ultimately this is a great way of improving job satisfaction amongst your team. Not to mention the improvements to baseline efficiency within your business.
For SMEs, staff time is a particularly valuable resource, so freeing up people is highly desirable. It is clear that the staff themselves welcome the introduction of these technologies. Automation Trends reported that 91% of organisations say that demand for automation from within their teams has increased in recent years.
How is Robotic Process Automation being used?
As with all exciting new technologies, the only limit on its application is your imagination! At the moment we are seeing RPA being used by businesses within the retail, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and telecom industries, amongst others.
Specific tasks that software robots have been programmed to handle tend to be repetitive and of lower value. Moving files and folders around, copying and inserting data, completing forms and completing routine reports are all well within their scope. More advanced software can perform basic cognitive processes like engaging in chats, interpreting text and understand unstructured data. These more advanced robots may use machine learn models to make complex decisions.
What are the potential problems?
Many RPA tools are built specifically for a client and the precise tasks that they need. At the moment, their lack of portability means that you may remain tied to the developer even when the technology progresses (which it will) and may wish to look for another service provider.
RPA is not a magic wand that will make your end user’s experience better. If you do not already have good processes in place, RPA will not work as well as you expect it to. It is important to plan out your business processes step-by-step. Then you will understand if automating the process will lead to a bottleneck elsewhere in the business. Complex processes with multiple agencies involved and many points of reference will be particularly difficult to automate as they need careful monitoring and oversight.