by Alex Y. Chang

Today's Environment

Doing more with less is becoming table stakes for organizations, regardless of their industry or geography.  Cost pressures, shareholder value and the hyper-growth of emerging technologies are all influencing how organizations invest capital, and where they look to reduce expenses.

Using robotics and, more specifically, robotic process automation (RPA) to replace or complement high- volume, low value-added tasks is one way organizations are optimizing their business processes to be more efficient and cost-effective. 

Organizations see the value in RPA's ability to create scale, enhance productivity and decrease risks. RPA also improves the quality of output by reducing, or even eliminating, rework and errors. Add the fact that RPA frees up your staff to focus on higher-value work, and you can see why its ability to automate redundancy is being embraced so quickly in the marketplace.  

While broader education and understanding is still taking place, many organizations have already implemented robotics into their operations and become early adopters of its benefits. 

Point B's Perspective

RPA stands to benefit many types of organizations in numerous ways. The first and most obvious benefits are in error reduction and faster cycle times. As RPA takes a foothold and expands, organizations benefit from standardization, scalability and, ultimately, reduced costs.

While reducing headcount may be one way to quantify the return on investment of RPA, organizations are also seeing value by taking a forward-looking approach. Rather than reducing staff, these organizations see RPA as a way to support their growth projections without having to add more names to the organization chart. In fact, RPA is a great way to redeploy resources to more valuable tasks and scale your operation in a different way. 

Other emerging technologies will grow along with the adoption of RPA and bring further value. Some basic forms of artificial intelligence (AI) can be incorporated into RPA. As the AI learns, the automated processes improve; they become more and more efficient as the frequency of running the processes continues to increase.   

Reaping the benefits

Adopting RPA in your organization requires some planning and investment. That said, with the right preparation, nearly any business can achieve the significant positive results it makes possible.

Here are a few tips for getting off to the right start with RPA:

  • Identify processes that are viable for RPA. What activities are performed most often by dedicated staff? Are they highly repeatable and/or rules-based? Where are multiple systems or data sources involved in a process? Analyzing the data set and understanding where opportunities exist is a crucial step in this effort. Keep in mind that automating to do the wrong things more efficiently won't benefit anyone. And automating processes that are antiquated, or are going to be replaced, without contemplating the overall strategy of the work could negatively affect the financial outcomes you’re expecting. 
  • Establish a Center of Excellence (COE)Incorporating RPA into your business is one thing; maintaining it on an ongoing basis is another. Consider establishing a group whose sole purpose is to run and maintain the robots charged with delivering on the desired outcomes of an RPA implementation. Building the team, skills and internal muscle is important to achieving sustained success. It ensures a consistent approach across the organization, helping to decrease the risks of duplicative processes that diminish the opportunity to scale. In highly regulated industries, a COE also provides the internal oversight to ensure adherence to mandated rules or statutes.  
  • Review and select an RPA technology partner. Selecting the RPA tool best equipped to support your business is both a challenge and an opportunity. Just two of the factors you'll want to consider in selecting a vendor: the functionality you need, together with the type of services the vendor provides. For example, does the vendor have an implementation team that can help you deploy RPA?
  • Calculate an ROI. Consider the many ways in which RPA can benefit your organization. Will you save on FTE expense? Does your organizational risk decrease due to a reduction in errors? What is the ongoing maintenance cost of RPA for your firm? Will processing times be reduced—and if so, by how much? These are just some of the many benefits, both financial and non-financial, that you'll want to assess when moving forward with a RPA strategy.

The Bottom Line

Flexibility, scalability and fiscal responsibility are all good reasons to adopt a mindset focused on using robotics and automation in your business. By being prudent in both approach and execution, you can transform your organization into one that is leveraging emerging technologies, not chasing them.