What is RPA?

Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant, is change” and this could not be any more true when it comes to the evolution of technology in the past 100 years.  The examples of this are all around us; an essential part of our life in one way or another. One of the most amazing illustrations of technology development and benefits are robots.

The word, “robot” was first introduced to the world by the great Czech playwright, novelist and journalist named Karel Čapek (1880-1938) who coined it in his hit play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots. Throughout the years, the way a “robot” looks, how it performs, or how it is perceived by people, has changed innumerably. From a mechanical arm, through the movie, “The Terminator”, self-driving cars, aerospace rockets, and a fun one – vacuum-cleaners. The one thing that hasn’t varied over time is the “mission” of the robots: assist people.

Let`s look deeper at the “The Terminator” case. Not only it has Čapeks`initial vision of how a robot looks but also the precision and speed of performing all actions are possible only to a digital “human”. Those digital “humans” or “robots’ capabilities are, thankfully, the only thing that we have taken from “The Terminator” in reality. Furthermore, like in the movie they are used to automate different processes. As a result, a significant increase of accuracy, speed and overall performance is observed.

So, what is Robotic Process Automation – RPA?

In today’s world, these robots enable companies to create true virtual workforces that drive and multiply business agility and efficiency. But what is RPA really?

According to a Gartner report, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is “a productivity tool that allows a user to configure one or more scripts (which some vendors refer to as “bots”) to activate specific keystrokes in an automated fashion. The result is that the bots can be used to mimic or emulate selected tasks (transaction steps) within an overall business or IT process.”

The use of the term virtual or digital workforce (a term coming from using multiple digital “humans”) is not accidental because it is managed just as any other team in the organization and can interact with people just as other employees would interact with one another. Not only that; but the actions performed by the robots are covering a wide range of tasks that are typically done by employees daily. These tasks may include manipulating data, passing data to and from different applications, triggering responses, or executing transactions – nearly any task that is largely driven by rules and schedules. Moreover, RPA uses a combination of user interface interaction and descriptor technologies that can overlay on one or more software applications without disrupting them in any way.

To say it simply, robots’ complete business processes, just as a person would, but faster, and with 100% accuracy in most of the cases. Not to mention, robots require a fraction of the cost, freeing up human resources to prioritize more complex tasks.

For a Decision Maker, this is the key to accelerate their digital efforts and generate a higher return on investment.

How the number and variety of automation could be expanded?

As mentioned previously, RPA is limited to automating transactional and repeatable processes based on specific rules. They will not learn from every repetition nor improve the execution of tasks. These limitations, however, could be overcome by combining RPA with the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

To understand better how AI could be beneficial, let us first understand the background of AI. The McKinsey‘s definition of “AI is the ability of machines to exhibit human-like intelligence”. This human-like intelligence gives us the ability to perform processes like reasoning (using context and rules to reach conclusions), learning (acquiring information and contextual rules for using the information) and self-correction (learning from successes and failures). Popular applications of AI include image recognition, machine vision, speech recognition, chatbots, natural language generation, and sentiment analysis.  

This special combination between RPA and AI is called Intelligent Automation (IA); which together, empower rapid end-to-end business process automation and accelerate digital transformation. RPA makes use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 4 main domains – (1) reading unstructured and semi-structured documents, (2) integration with chat and voice, (3) computer vision and (4) automating tasks discovered by task mining. This allows highly effective bots to be implemented that not only mimic human interaction, but also use more advanced content extraction systems and deep learning techniques to extract contextual information. Further, this makes RPA capable of identifying where automation can be applied by observing how human employees work.

We can easily conclude that Artificial intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are two of the most successful technologies for organizations to achieve the seemingly incompatible goals of increasing customer satisfaction and employee morale while reducing operational costs.

Things are constantly changing as Heraclitus said and it is great that they are changing for good.

What are the benefits?

So far, we covered how RPA works and what kind of actions can perform, but what would be the benefits from adopting it? The benefits of RPA are wide-ranging and far-reaching. You can put software robots to work to achieve significant and measurable improvements in areas of your business that range from customer satisfaction and employee engagement to processing speed, accuracy, and cost efficiency.

The non-exhaustive list of the benefits of RPA include:

  • Rapid cost savings: the ROI rate when we speak about RPA is something different. In most cases when a new software is implemented it takes months if not years before ROI shows up. With RPA it takes weeks – A total of 61% of participants reported their expectations of cost reduction being met or exceeded. (Deloitte Global RPA Survey)
  • Productivity: robots are working 24/7/365 without a coffee or toilet break. Also, they perform every task at least 5 times faster than a human does.
  • Higher customer satisfaction: since bots and chatbots can work around the clock, they can reduce wait times for customers, leading to higher rates of customer satisfaction.
  • Improved employee morale: people are happier when they can be creative and when this happen, they are more productive. When repetitive high-volume workload is removed from their day-to-day tasks this is possible – RPA can reduce labor intensive tasks by 80%. (Automation Anywhere)
  • Existing systems remain in place: Robotic process automation software does not cause any disruption to underlying systems because bots work on the presentation layer of existing applications. So, you can implement bots in situations where you don’t have an application programming interface (API) or the resources to develop deep integrations.
  • Resource utilization:offloading the mundane tasks to robots frees up your team to handle the tasks that add the most value to your business. What’s more, a robotic workforce is fully scalable, enabling organizations to respond to a spike in demand or a lull. That’s good for customer service and helps ease HR headaches.

The Challenging part

Of course, RPA is not a great fit for every process but is easy to spot which ones would benefit most. The challenging part comes when a company decides to automate a process via RPA and employees are fearful of the change.

No matter how large a company is, there is healthy resistance for every adaptation or major change. Most of the time it is because employees are not well informed how this will benefit them or how their roles and responsibilities may change. When it comes to RPA, there is no hardship for employees, only advantages.

For the whole process to go smoothly it’s crucial for management to explain thoroughly to the employees what this technology is, what will be the benefits for them, and furthermore, for the company. Without this vital human communication, companies can risk further development.

RPA Use Cases

In almost every industry there are processes that include repetitive tasks and for them, RPA is a savior. There are several basic processes that are applicable for all industries and can be easily automated:

  • Billing
  • Different kind of analytics
  • Data processing – extraction, validation, migration
  • Augmenting data pulling from websites
  • Various report creation
  • Integration with enterprise tools

Nevertheless, the largest adopters of RPA for more than the already mentioned processes are the Banking, Insurance, HealthCare, and Telecommunications Industries.

In the Banking sector a multinational bank average processing time of one consumer credit application is 6.5 days. After automating the process, the bank handles more than 1000 applications for less than one min.

In the Telecommunications sector a Global Telecom company ordering and delivery processes includes information gathering, data verification, service ordering via the vendors online portals, and providing notifications during the service delivery process. 10 employees are performing these tasks manually every day for 5 to 6.5 hours. After RPA was implemented 80% of the employees’ time was freed and 1200 hours monthly were saved.

In the Insurance sector a major Insurance company that is providing over 10 different policies needs to check each set of papers if the required data fields are populated with the correct information and if they are matching with an internal report. Each policy set consists of 10 pages and their monthly number was more than 15 thousand in total. The ROI of this automation was seen after only 3 months.

RPA Capabilities by Industry

Why wait?

The whole world is moving forward and as we understood from Heraclitus, everything is changing despite our desire for consistency. It is believed that if the RPA Growth trend continues, RPA will achieve “Near Universal Adoption” in 5 years (Deloitte Global RPA Survey). The possibilities of RPA combined with AI are enormous. Adopting new technology is not as scary as the anti-utopia in “The Terminator”, on the contrary, it is vastly beneficial for organizations around the world.

So why wait? Reach out and let us discuss how RPA will benefit you today.

As “The Terminator” said “This is the world now. Logged on, plugged in, all the time.” and he more than right – so better embrace it and take advantage of it rather than resist it…