The value of process in RPA
As with many disruptive technologies, theories about robotic process automation (RPA) abound. Some experts believe that by 2020, as much as 25 percent of workflows across all industries will be performed by RPA. Others state that ROI in RPA systems can range from 30 to 200 percent in the first 12 months alone.
It should come as no surprise, then, that businesses across the globe are excited about the potential RPA holds for increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
Organizations would do well to remember one key fact. No matter how powerful the technology is, it’s based on human design and programming — so it has limitations. And the only way to overcome these limitations is to first focus on Process Excellence.
A closer look at RPA
At its most basic, RPA uses automated systems that are governed by business logic to streamline processes. These systems are often referred to as ‘bots’, and they’re geared towards repeatable, rules-based tasks. From a business perspective, the interesting thing about RPA is that it’s faster and more accurate than any human. For example, research shows that a bot can complete a task that would take a human 15 minutes in a mere 60 seconds. Moreover, a bot isn’t susceptible to factors such as fatigue and loss of engagement — issues that are especially important when it comes to high-volume tasks.
The vital difference between RPA and AI
While RPA is often mentioned under the umbrella term of artificial intelligence (AI), it’s definitely a different beast. True AI utilizes powerful algorithms to process vast amounts of data in order to recognize patterns, perform high-level decision making and even learn from new input. In essence, it’s created to mimic human thought processes. For example, AI is increasingly being used in oncology to recognize patterns in large datasets or help scientists determine which patients are good candidates for clinical trials.
In contrast, RPA isn’t designed to think. It’s designed to perform specific tasks in a more efficient manner than humans can complete them. RPA bots can’t learn based on data input, nor can they make any decisions unless they’ve specifically been programmed to do so. Their correct functioning depends entirely on a well-structured environment. In other words, they are not suited to dynamic, evolving environments with highly variable input. For instance, more and more large financial and insurance institutions are using bots for back-office processes such as loans and claim processing.
The value of process in RPA
Knowing this difference, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the capabilities of RPA when introducing it into your organization. Clearly, since it can’t think or learn, the processes you want to automate with RPA need to be optimized before implementation.
If this isn’t the case, you might achieve cost-savings by eliminating some of the human input — but you won’t improve the process itself by simply automating it. And inefficient or ineffective processes can leave your company vulnerable to a whole host of problems even, or especially, when they’re automated. Issues can range from cost overrun due to waste, to mistakes that adversely impact your services or products.
The importance of good business process management
To establish effective RPA, your processes need to be well-defined. Here are three things you can focus on:
1. Clear, comprehensive end-to-end processes: Every process should be designed so it’s clear what it accomplishes, who performs each step and how every step fits into the overall process. All of this should be supported by easy-to-comprehend documentation.
2. Strong team engagement: Your team needs to be encouraged to take ownership of processes and contribute to their continuous improvement. This is crucial, as it will also reduce the fear of automation and make your people feel more empowered. In addition, it can be helpful to use dynamic BPM tools that enable employees to see their role in processes so they can pinpoint areas for improvement.
3. Executive buy-in: The top-down championing of process excellence is a cornerstone of effective business process management. When leadership believes in process improvement as a condition of efficiency and innovation, it will become embedded in the organization’s DNA. Executives also need to promote conversations about the role of automation in their process improvement efforts in order to reduce apprehension among employees and help them see the value.
Effective RPA hinges on good BPM
RPA holds a lot of potential for businesses, but it needs a foundation of good BPM to be effective. That’s why, before implementing RPA in your organization, it’s advisable to engage your teams in the inventory of your current processes. By doing so you can achieve the cost-savings and effectiveness you expected from your RPA investment.