A lot has been said in the last few years about the transformative power of technology and the change it is bringing to how businesses operate. However, one technology, in particular, seems to be spoken about more than most – Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
RPA has been around for some time but recent developments in artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies have brought it some newfound fame. Solutions that have been suggested for some time now seem plausible and business cases for investment can be more easily made.
As such, investment in the technology is growing rapidly. For example, Grand View Research predicts that the RPA market will be worth more than $3 billion by 2025 due to challenges such as increasing market competition and changing customer preferences. Acumen Research takes things a step further, predicting that it will hit the $4.1 billion mark in 2026.
So, why exactly are more and more businesses embracing RPA technology and how can they ensure a successful transformation?
What has quickly become clear is that RPA has the power to modernise how businesses operate. Deploying a virtual workforce can enable organisations to drive a whole host of workforce advancements, with robots taking over many of the more mundane, rules-based processes. For example, RPA robots can complete tasks such as processing transactions or filling out forms faster, meaning employees will no longer have to make repetitive, transactional decisions.
The real power of RPA comes from supporting employees in their daily jobs. It’s easy to focus on the threat to human jobs when it comes to automation but that’s often because employee minutes saved is the easiest thing to measure. However, we need to take a broader look at the new economy that automation will create, as well as how it will transform the way we live and work. There are also much bigger benefits, especially with the way it can transform the employee experience, freeing them from monotonous tasks to undertake more exciting and rewarding tasks.
With the average employee spending an average of 80 per cent of their day on mundane, routine work that doesn’t necessarily need human input, a significant amount of potential often goes unrealised. Automated processes mean better employee experience and loyalty, with employees feeling that they are able to focus on the tasks they truly love and free to take on tasks that truly add value.
Not only does it make the lives of employees easier, RPA also has the potential to create new opportunities. According to Forrester, the use of RPA can lead to the creation of higher-skilled positions as employees can focus on building relationships and spend their time on activities that have a wider impact on business growth. A new breed of intelligent Virtual Assistant robots can even help them with these complex tasks but that’s a story for another day…
Although RPA may appear to be a silver bullet to the multiple challenges facing businesses today, the truth is that around 40% of RPA projects fail. That’s why it’s vital that companies put a clear strategy in place before implementing an RPA-driven transformation.
Planning for success
With so many potential benefits on offer, many businesses fall into the trap of jumping headfirst into RPA. They try to automate something quickly just ‘to get going’, forgetting that RPA requires proper design, planning and governance if it's to bolster the business.
This starts by identifying the business processes that are most in need of automation. These are often identified as the processes that are the most procedural, or the most easily automated. These often sit in back-office areas, such as Finance or HR. Whilst there is certainly value in automation for those areas, these types of processes are not always the right initial candidates to help grow momentum in a business. There can be other areas, such as customer services where customer experience could be directly improved as a result of robotic automation. Fortunately, there are now tools available that can help with the identification of candidates for automation based on applying AI and machine learning to data captured in the operations.
However, once candidate processes have been identified and agreed upon, businesses can then gradually roll out RPA and become familiar with the technology before scaling up their investment and moving on to more complex processes. It’s vitally important that people from across the organisation are bought into the transformation, understand the changes that will occur and can see the benefits both to themselves and the organisation as a whole.
It is also vital that businesses establish an RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE) in order to help them maximise the potential of automation, as well as scale and maintain it on an ongoing basis. A CoE offers many benefits, such as enabling businesses to leverage best practices, tools and implementation methods, providing a common knowledge repository and aligning with change management processes.
This all helps to ensure an effective and stable RPA deployment that can grow over time by providing a framework for long-term success and actively engaging multiple stakeholders across the organisation.
Ultimately, there can be no arguing the fact that RPA is fast becoming a necessity rather than a nice-to-have for businesses, with the potential to reduce workload and improve the employee experience.
But, in order to reap the rewards, businesses must understand how to effectively manage an RPA transition. Simply picking an easy-to-use tool and building a quick automation isn’t enough. It starts by putting a clear plan in place and taking things step by step. This might seem like a lot of effort but with the transformative results at stake, putting in that effort will be more than worth it.