RPA: Where it works, where it doesn't and when you shouldn't

ASG Group

By Emily Bone
Tuesday, 01 September, 2020

RPA: Where it works, where it doesn't and when you shouldn't

RPA is a solution to improve inefficiencies or remove errors in processing by automating at a task level where it makes sense.

In Martin Ford’s 2015 book, The Rise of the Robots, intelligent algorithms, automation and artificial intelligence were described as having terrifying societal implications. As it turns out, in 2020, a far bigger threat to unemployment rates and society unravelled.

As we navigate our way out, cutting costs and finding better ways to operate is non-negotiable.

In this race, robotic process automation (RPA) is being met with new optimism, as the application of intelligent automation (IA) and artificial intelligence (AI) prove they can contribute significantly to cost-saving objectives.

With use cases applicable in human resources, procurement, finance and many front office operations, any job that is on some level routine could be automated.

However, that doesn’t mean it should.

Not every business process is a good fit for automation. Some are best handled by humans — such as many customer-facing processes — and some, you might find, should be removed entirely.

A common approach we see organisations take when looking to capitalise on automation is treating RPA as a standalone technology solution and leading the solution with the question of ‘what processes should we automate’.

The issue with this is that they haven’t paused to reflect on parts of the process that may not be needed, or which don’t contribute to the outputs of the process. Effectively, you risk automating the process waste.

Another consideration is long-term ROI. Many companies start by choosing ‘low hanging fruit’, identifying areas where staff hours can be saved and thus benefits realised relatively quickly.

However, unless these investment areas are well integrated into business workflows and can achieve cost, revenue building, safety or other business goals, they run the risk of being categorised as technical debt when revisited two or three years later.

Optimise, then automate

When building your business case for RPA, you should consider that getting the most value long-term out of your investment relies on the improved outputs and quality, which in turn leads to lower costs and efficient processes.

To achieve this, RPA must be part of a broader business process analysis and optimisation to:

  • simplify the process and remove wastage, duplication and over processing;
  • re-examine business rules to ensure they are up to date and consistent;
  • identify at a task level the best candidates for automation and allow staff to be re-focused on high value;
  • implement supporting solutions like centralising data to streamline the amount and frequency of switching between systems.

RPA is a solution to improve inefficiencies or remove errors in processing by automating at a task level where it makes sense.

By identifying the areas that have the most potential for optimisation, and considering automation as one of the potential options, you can identify and implement the most effective strategies to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

Emily Bone is National Capability Manager for ASG Group.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Tierney

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