Robots get all the worst jobs: RPA use today

Deploying computing power on repetitive tasks like data duplication can save time and money, and stop boredom-created errors.
15 November 2018

Not this kind of robot. Source: Shutterstock

Ever since technology began to have a positive effect on the industry’s internal processes, it’s become apparent that the astute application of a modicum of well-placed technology can make differences. Computers are, after all, very good at repetitious tasks. When humans undertake the same, by dint of their repetition, mistakes to creep into what are often mission-critical processes.

Because of this situation, robotic process automation (RPA) is starting to play an increasingly large part in the workings of many organizations and businesses.

According to a Gartner report, Robotic Process Automation: Eight Guidelines For Effective Results, the definition of processes ripe for improvements is:

“Processes that are most suited for RPA have a high transaction throughput of structured […] data, with relatively fixed processing paths and/or user interfaces […] “

And while there are distinct economic benefits associated with RPA deployment, focusing purely on efficiency and cost savings misses the larger picture. By handling more substantial numbers of transactions without errors, customer satisfaction levels are boosted: shorter waiting times and fewer (if any) mistakes.

Internally, of course, performance improvements lead to lowered average times spent per transaction in the processing department, lower numbers of exceptions, and a higher total of completed transactions.

Some consider RPA deployment as a stepping stone to the installation of a broader, more far-reaching technology solution. Processes which can be highly effectively automated – in, for instance, a Finance Department – include account-to-report, order-to-cash, and procure-to-pay; and that’s just for starters.

So, where best to deploy RPA? Many ERPs and similar systems deployed by organizations do not allow high levels of bespoke configuration. This means that there is usually a degree of repetitive cross-entry in particular where two, three, or even more systems are run in tandem. Customer details typed into a CRM, then a Sales Department database, then a Finance system’s records.

RPA systems, however, pull data from one system to another; for instance to record trade liabilities in a secondary ERP system and reconcile intercompany accounting, and to populate a customer database in the cloud.

Users of RPAs have also found benefits accrue in areas such as specific areas such as invoicing and invoice reconciliation, customer care & call center operations, returns & logistics – anywhere that has a technological underpinning that drives the business processes.

By automating significant percentages of these types of processes, staff is freed up to perform more detailed analysis, gain extra understanding into the business, and concentrate on investigating the exceptions or cases which may require the human touch in some form.

Automation solutions range from automating individual users’ desktop processes (copying and pasting data from one application to another), right up to server-managed enterprise-wide automation deployments, which integrate business systems with underpinning authentication protocols such as Active Directory schema and third-party systems’ APIs.

In summary, an organization that that uses different software systems but whose staff spend (what seems like inordinate) time in moving data from A to B, format X to Y, can deploy RPA to take away the heavy lifting. From there, varying levels of automation can be employed to make business systems function more smoothly and efficiently.

The benefits of RPA are for your customers and your staff. And therefore, for your bottom line.