By Manuela Burki, IMS Marketing Director & Strategy Analyst
Companies are increasingly recognizing that the old ways of tackling high-volume, repetitive tasks are obsolete. By freeing up their teams from manual, predictable tasks, they are also enabling re-allocation of human resources to processes that would benefit from human skills, such as reasoning or cognitive judgment.
Over the next two years, the portion of large global structures using RPA-solutions will have jumped from 10% to 40%. The potential ROI of business automation can reach 200% within twelve months of implementation. Across different industries and a variety of structures, organisations are recognizing the many potential use cases that could benefit from automation: from general business practices (accounting, invoicing) to specialized workflows (compliance, report generation).
RPA-tools are software that are layered on top of existing IT systems or other automation applications. Especially when compared with other solutions, automation can provide significant returns in cost savings and time. It is also possible to integrate RPA solutions with existing ERP and CRM systems to provide comprehensive solutions aimed at radically improving business activity.
Due to its flexibility and scalability, and the fact that it does not require heavyweight IT assistance, RPA can be surprisingly rapid to implement and can provide fast results.
One of the main drivers for companies adopting RPA is the exponential increase in data availability, and rising awareness of the benefits that understanding this data can bring. Another reason for growth in regulated industries is the rise in compliance rules, and companies welcoming automated document generation to appease reporting requirements.
The benefits of RPA are numerous. Software can run 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and doesn’t need any holidays. The repetitive, time-consuming tasks that characterize most processes suited to automation are also those most prone to human error: RPA not only reduces cost and produces significantly higher ROI, but it also minimizes mistakes. As a consequence, employees can be given more rewarding, value-added tasks and focus efforts on delivering consistent standards of customer support and care.
Organisations that get the most benefit from RPA are those who spend time refining and improving their processes so that they are well-defined, understood and consistently applied across teams, and well-managed. Automation is not in itself a cure for poorly designed processes. Companies looking to identify processes can apply the ECRS model to ensure optimal return on implementation
RPA will provide greater ROI depending on the underlying processes, For example, in instances where processes are executed in batch mode, already include elements of automation and don’t require human decision-making, organisations can see costs reduced by over 80%. Identifying and selecting the right processes is crucial to help reach target ROI within the 3-6 month time period.
A common misconception about RPA implementation is that it is an IT-led project. While IT teams do play a vital role in supporting and monitoring the process, it’s crucial to consider automation as a strategic move for the company. Management should identify which processes have the potential to deliver the most interesting ROI, determine optimal resource re-allocation, achieve an ideal balance between too little/too much RPA, and consider whether their framework would be best supported by a Centre of Excellence.
It can also be counterproductive to attempt to target RPA in the wrong areas, or to force it across an entire workflow, resulting in significant automation costs. Depending on the opportunity, it may be necessary to retain human input at certain stages throughout the flow. A commonly suggested target is to enable 70% of the workflow by automation, and leave the remaining high-value stages to humans.