Start With the Basics

General Questions

RPA is ideally suited for tasks involving transactional data from a variety of sources. Some examples of its current application include: Quote, invoice and contract management, inventory management, recruiting processes, accounts payable, travel and expenses, claims processing, collections, sales orders, compliance reporting, onboarding, procure-to-pay, education and training, payroll input and change of (address, address, name, etc.). It is estimated that up to 55 percent of the activities companies pay people to perform can be automated through RPA.

There are a few reasons many people in the midmarket haven’t heard much about RPA. To begin with, it is still a relatively new technology that is still maturing and has not yet attained its elevation curve. Given its relative newness, and its first traction among large corporations, there is a trickle-down effect that’s just starting to flow. Additionally, the technology has not had a public champion boosting it (we’re attempting to change that). We’ve got no doubt that as time goes by, the technology will expand exponentially and into many spectrums of this market.

In point of actual fact, RPA has the ability to create jobs that specifically allow employees to focus on higher value tasks. By automating repetitive and higher volume business activities such as order processing or copy-paste activities, RPA enables companies to leverage the advantages of increased productivity and efficiency by freeing time for workers to focus on value-adding activities, such as those that involve direct interaction with customers or optimization of inefficient business processes

You should care about RPA since it’s among the fastest growing industries of the operational technology industry. It’s real, it is expanding and it may boost your company’s efficiency and productivity resulting in gains that reach directly to the bottom line. We believe any tech investment which provides the instant benefits that RPA can, is well worth knowing better.

Robotic automation refers to a style of automation where a machine, or computer, mimics a human’s action in completing rules-based tasks.

In the domain of back-office administration, Robotic Automation refers to automation where a computer drives existing enterprise application software in the same way that a user does. This means that unlike traditional application software, Robotic Automation is a tool or platform that operates and orchestrates other application software through the existing application’s user interface and in this sense is not “integrated.”

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Other Questions

• No, IT infrastructure changes are required – there is no integration requirement – the robots interface with any application through the user interface in the same way a user does.

• No integration costs – robots drive existing applications.

• IT robots are “trained” by their users by being “shown” how to complete a task. This is akin to training a new employee.

• A robot once trained can scale across any number of other robots.

• The robot knowledge is extended and re-used over time.

• A robot is trained in a live environment making projects less expensive and much faster than traditional IT.

• Multiple robots applied to a task can be synchronized to deliver large-scale robotic platforms.

A “fully loaded” office robot is usually a 1/3rd the cost of globally sourced agents. The flexibility and ease of deployment means that this comparison is easy to maintain and judge the best approach to given tasks.

Robots for now only follow rules. Where a procedure requires interpretation and skill in judging an outcome then a robot may not be suitable. One technique that is common is to re-organize task-steps so that any judgment is dealt with up front – the work is prepared for robotic automation. In this way robots can handle bulk rules and hand off to humans once judgment is needed.

Benefits include:

• Robotic FTE’s are 1/3 of the price of off-shored FTE’s and can work 24/7

• Speed to automation – days and weeks to automate clerical procedures

• “Self Build” – no need for specialist IT, robots are trained by end-users

• Robots are trained to do repetitive clerical tasks and drive existing applications so no costly integration and expensive process re-design expertise needed

• A small specialist team from the business operations works alongside robots to train them, manage exceptions and continually improve the robots operational performance

• MI is automatically captured across all procedures operated.

Best projects for robot automation are bulk repetitive rules-based procedures. The flexibility of the robotic automation platform is such that it does not matter if this involves interaction with multiple systems. You can see example processes that have built by our customers with our support in the Industries section of the website

Typical projects are measured in weeks. One heuristic is that it takes as long to train a robot as it does a human. Complex new task will take longer depending of the level of object re-use available.

One of the benefits of RPA is it can be used to automate tasks in any industry, including insurance, healthcare, banking and financial services, procurement, supply chain management, and manufacturing. While many of the tasks in these industries vary in their outcomes, they also have commonalities that make them suitable for automation. Some of the back office tasks ideal for automation:

Are repetitive and consistent. These activities remain fixed over time and are not variable. Robots follow rules, so the tasks for automation should consist of unambiguous steps taken in a defined manner each time. Examples include data entry and migration, payroll, accounts payable, and more general copy-paste and swivel-chair tasks.

Don’t require constant human intervention. While robots can be stopped in the middle of a process and will alert human employees when reaching an exception, the most ideal processes are those that can be entirely automated. This will lead to the most effective results, such as cost reduction and increased productivity, in the shortest possible timetable. 

Are high-volume and time-consuming. Processes, such as orders and claims processing, that require a large investment of time and effort on behalf of your employees, as well as those that are the most burdensome for your organization, are ones that warrant and justify RPA implementation.

Menial and repetitive business tasks take up a significant amount of an employee’s time. Upon automation of these processes, much of this time is freed to focus on higher value tasks that involve complex decision making, such as developing customer relationships. But what exactly about RPA allows this to happen? The most significant payoffs provided by automation include:

Reduced costs. According to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA), RPA can reduce costs by 25-50% since robots typically cost about one-third of an offshore full-time employee and one-fifth of an onshore full-time employee.

Consistent quality. Because RPA software robots act in a consistent manner, tasks that are automated will have an increased accuracy, allowing for substantial risk mitigation. Robots will be able to streamline tasks flawlessly and execute it in the same way every time.

Increased efficiency. RPA software robots are able to work around the clock, 24/7/365. There is no need for them to take breaks during the weekend or on holidays. Coupled with increased speed and decreased cycle time, this can provide optimized back office performance in a very short amount of time.

One reason to implement RPA within your company is scalability. Order processing or accounts payable workflows, for example, can be replicated or reused across different business departments and between locations. In addition, the number of active robots can be scaled up or down quickly with little to no additional cost. Scaling your robotic workforce can be a permanent development to match the growth of your company, but robots can also be scaled temporarily to meet business demand during a specific window. Companies may experience increased demand for robotic workforces during peak times – holidays, end of the quarter, etc. – when more order processing is required. Temporary scalability is also useful when a more active robotic workforce can process extra transactions during new product or service release.  

In fact, according to the IRPA, “Separating scalability from human resources allows a company to handle short-term demand without extra recruiting or training…management will be more effective because RPA makes it easy to maintain a scalable infrastructure. In short, it’s easier to scale software than it is people.”

This is especially true when compared to maintaining employee levels to match fluctuations of business demands. Increasing or decreasing your number of robots is much more cost-effective and efficient than having to hire and release employees.

Current value propositions aside, it’s important to consider the future developments and advancements in RPA capabilities. Today, robotic software is rules-based and exceptions require human intervention for resolution. But are RPA software robots capable of completing cognitive tasks? What would the collaboration between RPA and more intelligent solutions, such as artificial intelligence, entail? With the contribution of cognitive algorithms and machine learning, RPA will be able to adapt to more complex situations, independently correcting errors and applying judgment. While transactional processes are the current focus of automation technology, the convergence of RPA with AI is on the near horizon. 

In whitepaper titled “Automate This,” Deloitte suggests, the merge of RPA and AI is expected to happen in three areas: within the market, across solutions, and among processes. The whitepaper goes on to argue that “These systems could operate as the ‘heart and lungs’ of an organization, taking in key data inputs and performing all of the internal processes that are core to the business.”

The abilities of both RPA and cognitive products will be combined into a single solution that will allow tasks to be automated in an adaptive and responsive way to maximize business outcomes. The software robots will be able to analyze elaborate activities just like a human employee in order to deliver superior performance and a more valuable customer experience.

As you can see, the questions surrounding the efficacy of RPA are critical in understanding how this technology can serve as value proposition for companies to operate as lean and productive as possible. In addressing common concerns, you should have a deeper understanding of the benefits RPA offers companies in achieving streamlined processes. While RPA may still be in its early stages, it’s already come a long way and many companies are already seeing substantial benefits from its implementation. Business activities that previously hindered productivity can now be automated to allow for a significant increase in resources and revenue, and RPA has an even more promising future ahead, especially with intelligent technologies leading the way in the next major step in automation capabilities

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