RPA or Robotic Process Automation, is now a mature technology that can resolve significant issues in efficiency, productivity and cost-cutting. RPA along with Intelligent Automation have the potential to take business process automation to the next level which will offer faster and more efficient information processing. RPA can do to the businesses what Machines did to the factories after Industrial Revolution.
Businesses have already invested in business applications to digitize their processes. These have automated their business processes and provides insights into their past and current metrics which is widely being used for business decisions. Even with all these software applications, businesses depend human interventions for a lot of their back office operations. This is expensive and error prone.
Process automation is achieved by the robots mimicking human interactions based on the business intelligence rules set by the organization using simple user interface.
When one process is completed, the information is passed on to the next process as input and initiated automatically. With the RPA technology maturing over the last decade, end to end Process Automation can be implemented in most of the industries. The main requirement is that the business rules must be clearly defined for the automation to be efficient.
As far as the cost is concerned, Process Automation is not expected to cost more than an outsourced resource which can be considered as a very reasonable investment. In fact, it will turn out to be more efficient and less expensive over time as automation will make the processes and output more predictable and completely rule out any possible human errors. Once implemented and set up, it doesn’t need any induction or training period.
Automation takes away the elements of possible human errors such as typos and wrong selections. They are programmed to perform certain tasks which they will do without any mistakes which guarantee better accuracy.
Since machines does not need any rest, they can be programmed to perform 24 hours a day throughout the week.
Employees can focus on better tasks
Mundane tasks such as data entry that require the employees to routinely repeat the tasks can be automated. This increases the employee morale as they can put their skills to better tasks that require their expertise.
Record the process to increase its efficiency
The processes done by the robots can be recorded to analyse them in detail. This detailed analysis will help the engineers to improve efficiency even more by fine-tuning each step.
Flexible and Scalable
RPA makes the processes more flexible and scalable. Once the automation program is completed as many robots can be deployed to perform it. Moreover, with slight changes in the program, the same robots can be used to perform other tasks when required.
So what’s Intelligent Automation?
Intelligent Automation is one step beyond RPA. In process automation, the instructions are clear. The business rules are pre-set and the robot only has to follow the instructions blindly. But when it comes to Intelligent Automation or IA, the robots are given a situation where they have to decide upon the right process to follow. This requires some detailed analysis of the situation after which only the set of instructions to follow can be decided upon. IA requires the implementation of cognitive technologies such as Deep Learning. Deep learning can be integrated with RPA to create autonomous processes that can think, decide and complete the process intelligently.
Ultimately, the main advantage that can be reaped from these technologies is attaining higher process efficiency and better output without increasing the cost of investment in such advanced technologies.
So will RPA and IA wipe out human decision-makers?
That’s exactly the expectation during the Industrial Revolution when machines took over manual devices and tools that required extensive human interaction. But did that wipe out humans completely from manufacturing? No, right!
Whether it is RPA or IA, machines and technologies always have limitations. They cannot replace the complex human minds and brains. But they will definitely help fine-tune the performance of the processes under the known and programmed circumstances. Human reasoning has not yet been cracked by the scientists and hence IA and RPA cannot replace that power. They can only follow the instructions and their thought process is confined to taking simple decisions in the operational level based on those instructions.
How about the Business Process Outsourcing Companies (BPOs)? Will IA and RPA replace the need for Outsourcing?
The BPOs could benefit much more instead of losing by adopting these advanced technologies. Accuracy, time-efficiency and cost-efficiency are the main advantages clients expect from outsourcing. If the outsourcing firms can offer these by adopting IA and RPA, it will be beneficial to their business as well as their clients.
What are the major challenges faced by IA and RPA?
Though most of the industries can benefit from these technologies, not every business will benefit. So identifying the need for automation remains the first challenge. It needs careful analysis of your business processes.
- You need to identify a pilot process to automate citing the need for automation and how it will improve the process.
- Based on that, you can list out the pain-points, the vital metrics for evaluation, and how you plan to deploy automation in case it is found feasible.
- Identify the apt operating model for the process and the supporting resources. You also need to identify how to monitor the automation.
- Identify the RPA partners and choose one
- Now you can plan the automation map which specifies duration, stages and strategy to scale the automation. You need to have a clear idea about how you will convince the need for automation to the stakeholders and other partners affected by it.
The next issue faced will be employee resistance. The employees may feel threatened by process automation and resist the change. The organizations need to educate them how they plan to implement the automation and convince them that it will benefit them and the company in the long-run.
Another issue can be the unrealistic expectations that come with process automation. Do not expect it to completely revolutionize your business. Setting realistic goals will allow you ample time to study how automation is impacting your business and accordingly you can alter or improve the methodologies adopted.
In case you don’t plan the RPA to merge well with your existing system, it can become a completely new headache for your business. So integrating the automated processes seamlessly is another challenge.
Apart from all these, the biggest challenge remains the kick start! Deciding upon the automation and going ahead implementing it will be the biggest challenge to face.
How does it benefit businesses?
Automation will benefit all industries in different ways. If process automation is carefully analysed and decided upon and if the RPA partner is competent, the business can attain high levels of process efficiency which will make it more productive and thereby increasing the profitability. Even though small businesses look upon automation as a highly expensive affair, it does not cost as much and they can reap the benefits within a short while of implementing it. They can save on the workforce and time taken to complete the processes which will help increase their profitability. Small businesses can reap the benefits of automation giving them a competitive edge when compared with their competitors.