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How Robotic Process Automation benefits your business.

By Damian Hamer, Technology Sales

Implementing automation technologies has become one of the most common solutions for companies striving to achieve greater efficiency at lower costs. One such technology is robotic process automation (RPA), which was briefly mentioned in this article, but will be discussed in more detail here.

Deloitte defines RPA as a “software, commonly known as a ‘robot’, to capture and interpret existing IT applications to enable transaction processing, data manipulation and communication across multiple IT systems.” However, these tools are most applicable to highly repeatable processes with consistent and almost unchanging interactions with other computer programs. Simply put, RPA is a system designed to automate manual tasks.

These characteristics of RPA make the technology useful for companies aiming for error-free and timely completion of tasks that would usually take a huge chunk of a worker’s time (Deloitte estimates 15 minutes of human work to be completed by RPA in just 1 minute). This translates to a higher volume of tasks completed in less time and with better accuracy. Companies that effectively deploy RPA are then able to reap the technology’s numerous benefits whilst enjoying cost savings, as robot licenses are usually cheaper than salaries of several people.

In fact, based on case studies, RPA results in a return on investment of 30% to as much as 200% in the first year of implementation according to Leslie Willcocks, professor of technology, work, and globalization at the London School of Economics’ Department of Management, in an interview with McKinsey.

As RPA gains traction, Gartner says it is now the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market with revenues up by a whopping 63.1% in 2018 to $846 million, and poised to reach $1.3 billion in 2019.

“The ability to integrate legacy systems is the key driver for RPA projects. By using this technology, organizations can quickly accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, while unlocking the value associated with past technology investments,” says Fabrizio Biscotti, research vice president at Gartner.

So what factors should companies take into account when considering the adoption of an RPA? Willcocks lists four main considerations: strategy, launch, change management, and building a mature enterprise capability for RPA. Whilst most companies use RPA for cost savings, Willcocks argues that RPA proves to be most valuable when used as a strategic tool.

Andrew Phillips, Australia & New Zealand’s Managing Director and Vice President of UiPath, agrees to this point. He reckons, “Saving money on the bottom line is a proven benefit of deploying RPA with an average payback period of just 7 months per bot and an ROI of around 5x over 3 years. But the often overlooked strategic advantage of RPA is not in the time saved but in the work done by employees with that saved time. An employee’s value to a company is not equal to their hourly rate. It is determined by what they are able to do in that hour. Furthermore, by eliminating the boring tasks of people’s jobs they are left with more fulfilling and enjoyable jobs which leads to higher morale and better retention rates.”

According to Willcocks, launching an RPA also involves getting the right project champion and selecting the most appropriate processes. Getting the organization’s buy-in to change and adopt automation is also important. And lastly, organizations eyeing RPA should work on setting up a center of excellence at the outset.

“Long-term users have built centers of excellence over time, usually within business operations, and developed skills and capabilities within that center. They have people who assess the feasibility of a proposal from a business unit. They have people who configure a robot, install it, and develop it, and controllers who switch it on and off, and plan its work and how it fits with human work. They have some sort of continuous improvement capability and relationships with IT, governance, and security,” he notes.

In conclusion, whilst it is clear that RPA presents significant benefits to any organization, it is not exempted from having its drawbacks. For one, bots are mere ‘followers’ that do not learn over time. Boston Consulting Group notes that because RPA is slower than fully automated processes, companies normally use it in conjunction with artificial intelligence, a more advanced technology that we will discuss in the next article. This has led to the next evolution in automation – hyperautomation. Coined by Gartner, hyperautomation is the expansion of automation from RPA to a combination of technologies that enable the end-to-end automation lifecycle which includes such things as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive tools, long-running “Human-in-the-Loop” processes and other advanced analytics tools. In any case, RPA is undeniably a functional tool that comes in handy for any organization seeking efficiency, scalability and accuracy at lower costs.

Sources:
https://www.bcg.com/en-au/publications/2017/technology-digital-operations-powering-the-service-economy-with-rpa-ai.aspx
https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/innovation/solutions/robotic-process-automation.html
https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-06-24-gartner-says-worldwide-robotic-process-automation-sof
https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/the-value-of-robotic-process-automation

Damian Hamer has a strong understanding of niche skills required across the UC, collaboration, datacentre virtualization and cloud computing space. He specialises in executive search at leadership level, particularly in the recruitment of CEO / MDs, COOs, sales directors, services directors, and senior commercial roles. Connect with Damian.