There have always been mundane tasks in business, that are repetitive and time consuming. How many times have you had to sit through cleaning up email, sorting through lists, or downloading extensive files? The tasks become somewhat mind-numbing, causing one to lose focus on important items. The result is a compounded loss of efficiency, as well as errors that occur from being on “autopilot”.
Originally, the solution to this problem was to create scripts to repeatedly complete tasks via software. However, this approach showed limitations as scripts are rules-based and have limited adaptability. In recent years, scripting has advanced significantly to pave the way for Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA adds capability through logic and additional structured inputs to mimic more complicated human tasks.
The advanced features of RPA benefit an enterprise by reducing routine tasks and allowing for employees to focus on more complex business problems. This, in turn, enables significant cost savings throughout the organization, reducing the need for manual workflows. Additional indirect benefits may be gained by having the workforce become more engaged with the business rather than spending a large amount of time with basic tasks. Additionally, removing the human element from remedial tasks takes away the element of human error, enabling more consistency. In a world of increasing regulation and dependency on data accuracy, reducing operational risk can be a key factor towards success.
One special feature about RPA is the simplicity and ease of application. RPA is designed for business users and can be implemented to improve operational efficiency within a relatively short time period. Most RPA software is process-focused and designed with the business user in mind. This reduces the burden on the business user to grasp the technical details, enabling the maintenance of bots on their own. The simplicity of the application increases the likelihood of adoption and success when implemented correctly.
Due to the natural focus of RPA, there are certain processes and application focus areas that are obvious beneficiaries, a few of which include:
- Auditing & Reconciliation – Automated checks and matching with various formats are ideal for software bots, which can ensure consistency and accuracy. The added features of optical character recognition (OCR) increase the capabilities of RPA, allowing for various types of documents to be compared.
- Data Extraction – Manual data extraction in systems not linked to larger data tools, is very repetitive and mundane. Data extraction and manual data entry are great for bots with basic pattern recognition, creating immediate cost savings.
- Payroll Management – Payroll is a tedious process that must completed on a regularly scheduled basis. Payroll software can help with most tasks, but RPA can go a step further and integrate with other systems and help with more complicated processes like employee onboarding.
- Customer Service – Customer service functions are a good example of a man-machine systems. Simple service tasks such as creating customer profiles, billing data updates, and profile updates can be automated with RPA. This allows for the care representatives to focus on more human specific skills helping create value for their clients, while reducing wait times.
RPA is not just limited to just helping with mundane tasks. In fact, thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), experts predict that software will be able to handle much more significant processes in the coming years and disrupt many industries. There has been a lot of media attention around advanced software such as AI, but it has not yet been applied to many business functions. RPA is capable of integrating many disparate systems, and combined with its relative simplicity and ease of implementation, can help transition to more advanced levels of business automation as part of a comprehensive solution. It is important to understand where your business is along its automation journey to correctly identify the right solution for the best chance of success.
As more and more businesses are beginning to rely on software to enhance their productivity, the way we approach tasks will change. While it is unlikely that software will entirely replace the human touch, as technology grows more sophisticated, employees will spend less time on mundane and repetitive tasks and will be able to put their efforts toward helping businesses grow. As a result, professionals will evolve, with humans spending more time on higher-level functions while letting software handle tasks that can be automated.