Robotic Process Automation
“A new generation of business process automation capability that is driving significant benefits in all sectors and markets and combined with AI and other process automation solutions, offering the reality of a true virtual workforce.”
Despite the huge levels of investment in core systems automation, off shoring and outsourcing and process re-engineering, organisations still often have a wide range of disparate systems that have been built up over time with manual processes applied to allow for the transfer of data and the application of manual processes to meet their needs. Examples include adding new joiners to systems via their front-end user interface, extracting files from multiple underlying systems and calculating accounting adjustments and processing journals, bringing in 3rd party data files and reconciling them against underlying transactions, the list is typically very long. These activities add risk due to the propensity for errors and reliance on individuals being available with the system knowledge, take up valuable time and costs money for activities that are often not value added and where staff could be better employed doing valuable analysis that helps drive the business forward.
Enter Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA is the use of a software ‘robot’ as a programme that replicates the actions of a human and their interaction with the User Interface (UI) of a computer system. It is software that can run repetitive rule based processes as a human would do and allows for adjustment through the analysis of any exceptions. RPA does not require changes to your underlying technical architecture or implementation of interfaces as it works with your established security and control mechanisms.
RPA projects typically involve business resources but also IT and Risk who are involved to ensure overall IT governance is maintained as well as risk and compliance assessed.
What areas are typically good candidates for RPA?
The usage scenarios are very broad and typically include back office processing as well as client facing processes. The examples below are just a small set of potential areas for use of RPA:
What are some of the key characteristics of processes and RPA functional capabilities that make good candidates for RPA?
The benefits of RPA are based on the level of automation benefit specific to your organisation but typically include the following:
- Enhanced customer experience.
- Improved workforce value adds by increasing focus on high return activities which improves employee satisfaction and retention.
- Improved quality as not prone to handling errors.
- Reduced cost of low value adds manual repetitive activities via automation which can cut data entry costs by up to 70%. 33% of the cost of an offshore resource and 10% of an onshore resource. *
- Agile delivery with payback typically under 12 months with returns of 300% being common for RPA implementation**
- Reduces the critical path at peak periods such as month end accounts.
- Drives lean process improvement by reducing wastage as part of the assessment and redesign.
- Can be scheduled centrally via time or by trigger and works peak and off-peak hours 24/7.
- Works at UI level via access rights as a human would without impacting underlying technology architecture.
- Fully auditable via process and audit logs.
- Can be refined via exception handling and improvement to the rules where required.
* Everest Group Finance & Accounting Outsourcing Annual Report 2014
** London School of Economics Outsourcing Unit Research Paper Series - Robotic Process Automation at Xchanging, 2015
But where do you start your journey with RPA?
Process automation is a journey that requires careful consideration as you move towards industrialisation and building a Centre of Excellence (CoE) from a specific functional deployment to enterprise wide and will often advance to the use of associated technologies such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or Intelligent Automation with Machine Learning & Cognitive capabilities (text, visual, speech) where they have the ability to learn and adapt over time and where the capability finally becomes the virtual workforce that is treated as an operational capability in its own right. Use cases include customer feedback sentiment analysis and automated escalation, shared services feedback and time-based analysis, recruitment screening and prioritisation etc.
This integration to a suite of tools offering true digital platforms is now becoming reality with the partnering of RPA solutions like Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and Uipath with solutions such as Appian, Captricity, Celaton, Expert Systems, IBM BPM and Watson and multiple others.
How do I get started?
The initial phase of the journey typically starts with an RPA Assessment and potentially delivery of a POC where required which provides the following over a 2-3 month timescale:
- Baseline for the organisation in terms of their level 2 processes and potential for automation against a set of criteria.
- Prioritised list of processes making up a portfolio based on the greatest benefit potential. The POC is typically selected based on benefit and realisation complexity.
- This is used as the input to the business case as it estimates potential benefits, costs and ROI as well as the wider efficiencies and potential reduction in risks etc.
- IT architecture assessments/workshops.
- RPA Software selection via comparative analysis.
- Solution installation and hosting (internal, remote managed service)
- Process decomposition/keystroke analysis, configuration and testing of the POC to demonstrate the real-life value.
- Approach for building out the Robotics CoE including high level staffing and roadmap.
Contact John Adams today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss getting started on your process automation journey.