Getting Started with Robotic Process Automation

MaryBeth Folger News

Getting started with robotic process automation

RPA, or Robotic Process Automation, utilizes robots to replicate the steps FTEs take to perform repetitive, rules-based tasks within business applications. Businesses select workflows to reassign to software robots who are programmed to complete a set of specific steps created by a subject matter expert. The robots use the same applications that employees would to complete the workflows, and they do so with increased timeliness and accuracy.

Using RPA robots to automate mundane, repetitive, and data-driven tasks can benefit a business by freeing employees to take on more creative and challenging work. Leaving repetitive tasks like mortgage application approval to software robots can dramatically reduce cycle time and improve the user experience.

Which processes are right for RPA?

Processes that work best with RPA are stable (don’t change often), data-driven, and repetitive. Many businesses are interested in RPA for its potential to drive down operating costs, reduce processing times, and assist staff with spikes in the workload.

RPA software robots are scalable, which means they have the ability to scale up or down instantly to accommodate for a changing workload. With a human workforce, managers would have to hire additional staff for spikes in the workload. However, RPA robots can handle fluctuations immediately and with ease. The error rate is low, so data accuracy and overall compliance are increased.

Additional RPA benefits include increased quality, increased business flexibility, reduced penalties, greater compliance and better insight into the customer experience.

Automation has the potential to benefit nearly any industry. Currently, many clients in healthcare, mortgage, finance and accounting, and insurance are using RPA to automate business processes and to maximize the potential of their human workforce. These industries benefit from robotic automation because they routinely process large quantities of data, like insurance claims and loan applications. Other business processes that are ideal for automation include:

  • Reconciliation
  • Claims adjustments
  • Resolving mismatched data
  • Report generation
  • Syncing reports from multiple sources
  • Record verification
  • Payment posting
  • Data entry
  • Manual journals
  • Forms processing

Maximizing RPA ROI

While RPA is broadly beneficial for many companies and industries, it’s not a perfect fit for every workflow. There are a few key factors to keep in mind when considering RPA for your processes:

  • Human bandwidth: What business processes take up a large portion of time for your human workforce? Which tasks require additional staff when the workload spikes? What is the percent of human error within these tasks?
  • Complexity of tasks: How many steps are in the business process? Do decisions need to be made by humans anywhere in the process? What is the complexity scope required? (RPA does best with low-to-moderate complexity work.)
  • Stability of processes: Do processes change? If so, how much, and what is the lead time for change?

Optimal processes for robotic automation are repetitive, data-driven, and time-consuming. RPA does best with tasks that are not overly complex and do not require many human decisions within the process. Automated processes shouldn’t change much or very often. Robots will complete tasks exactly the way they’re instructed to, so steps should be easily definable.

Three keys to success

  • Maintaining the right mindset about RPA can determine the scope of your outcome. RPA is not a quick fix or a Band-Aid for broken business processes. It cannot fix fragmented processes, but it can optimize those that are already working well and support business development. Many businesses think in the short term about RPA, but automation has the potential to make a lasting impact on a business.
  • Implementing a CoE can help keep your automation and business goals on track. A CoE, or a center of excellence, is an in-house resource dedicated to monitoring and overseeing RPA robots and their daily work. This team should help manage the automation plan and keep long-term goals in mind. Having employees who are dedicated to working full time with software robots can keep progress in check and help the business adjust when the company decides to automate more processes.
  • RPA robots don’t always aim to eliminate human jobs, but rather help liberate employees from mundane, repetitive work. A common fear for employees or SMEs is that they’re training a robot to take their job. This isn’t always the case: RPA robots can complete rote, mundane tasks very rapidly and with incredible accuracy. Many employees enjoy feeling supported by the automation as they take on more creative work, perhaps even moving into a new challenging position.