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Robotic Process Automation: Maximizing Human Effort While Improving Efficiency, Accuracy and Speed

>>Robotic Process Automation: Maximizing Human Effort While Improving Efficiency, Accuracy and Speed

Executive Summary

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) isn’t a passing fad or the hottest technology to come and fade away. Intelligent automation, and in particular RPA, includes methods that enable organizations to maximize human resources and deliver more of what they create to more people.

Increased competition in every industry, the need for faster and better customer experiences, and the drive for new ways to improve hidden inefficiencies, make RPA a suitable technology to address these needs.

RPA can carry out indispensable, high-volume and laborious tasks faster and with more accuracy, leading to faster service, less error correction, and less overall waste.

According to RPA technology vendor, UiPath, “RPA robots are capable of mimicking many–if not most–human user actions.”

  • log into any application
  • connect to system APIs
  • copy and paste data
  • move files and folders
  • extra and process structured and unstructured content from documents, PDFs, emails and forms
  • read and write to databases
  • open emails and attachments
  • scrape data from the web
  • make calculations

The reason that RPA offers so much potential is that RPA can transform and streamline an organization’s workflow. It can create superior scalability and flexibility within an enterprise, providing fast, tailored response to specific requirements.

98% of executives surveyed by the Everest Group (n=72) said that they have already invested in RPA, many in multiple geographies, and ranging across organizational sizes.

Their research shows where organizations surveyed have put the most attention across RPA implementation. The report revealed that around 60 percent of respondents had gone past the piloting phase.

Maturity of RPA Initatives

Figure 1 The Forrest Group Survey – SOURCE

Some call RPA bots their “digital workforce,” providing support that can maximize or even free up human resources to focus on creating value in ways that only humans can.

RPA Defined

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of software bots at an enterprise scale to automate transaction processing, data manipulation and cross-platform communication to improve process execution, quality and auditability.

RPA tools perform “if, then, else” statements on structured data, typically using a combination of user interface (UI) interactions, or by connecting to APIs to drive client servers, mainframes or HTML code. An RPA tool operates by mapping a process in the RPA tool language for the software “robot” to follow, with runtime allocated to execute the script by a control dashboard.[1]

Essentially, anywhere that there is repeatable, high-volume processing driven by timeliness and accuracy pressures, RPA should be seriously considered.

Enterprise RPA includes:

  • Software robots automating manual, repetitive activities
  • Automation of activities for multiple functions, business units
  • Integration of data from multiple systems reducing need for single, enterprise wide systems

There are two main types of RPA – assisted and unassisted.

Unassisted: Bots are deployed on a centralized server, allowing manual control. This type of RPA solution can automate end-to-end tasks and workflow scheduling from a central point of control.

Assisted: Bots are deployed on an individual desktop and the human worker carries out certain aspects of the task and relies on the bot to do other, more cumbersome or technically complex parts of the process.

Most RPA projects are requested by departments or business units who need to automate transactional and rules-based processes, however, more complex or security-sensitive processes may require attended mode where the RPA bot carries out parts of the tasks and a human must complete others.

There are two other types of RPA – autonomous and cognitive:

Autonomous: As an advanced version of unassisted RPA, autonomous manages more complicated rules-based processes, using decision-making support in a live environment. This might include more dynamic styles of task management or cloud-based deployments.

Cognitive: This type integrates various AI technologies like machine learning or natural language processing, enabling the bots to better handle unstructured data and advanced data identification and processing capabilities.

[1] “Market Guide for Robotic Process Automation Software.” Gartner. December 5, 2017 ID: G00319864 Analyst(s): Cathy Tornbohm, Rob Dunie

The RPA Market

There are varying estimates on projected market growth:

According to Forrester, the enterprise RPA market is growing at a CAGR of 65 percent, from nascent in 2016 to $3B in 2021. By 2021, they estimate that there will be more than 4 million robots doing office and administrative work, as well as sales and related tasks.[i]

Gartner predicts the industry will grow rapidly from $443M in 2017 to $8.75B in 2024[ii]

According to a 2017 report by the Everest Group, RPA is on the cusp of experiencing “explosive” growth. Their report indicated that the market was expected to grow by 64 percent in 2016 and another 70 to 90 percent by 2018. [source]

Beyond market estimates, market research organizations, like Gartner, have been testing the waters on usage.

Gartner’s 2018 CIO survey showed that 84 percent of 3,138 respondents have already deployed AI technologies – like RPA — or are currently gathering intelligence, investigating technologies or developing their AI strategy. They estimate that by 2020, 85 percent of all IT leaders will be piloting AI initiatives. [source??]

The financial and operational benefits they look to achieve through RPA include:

  • Cost reduction
  • Error reduction
  • Increased return on the RPA investment
  • Cycle time reduction
  • Enhanced employee experience
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • High scalability
  • 24/7 workforce

RPA benefits focuses on cutting costs by eliminating tasks like rekeying data, removing rekeying errors in structured data, improving process quality and output with the greatest value of enhancing customer satisfaction – internally and externally.

[i] “The RPA Market Will Reach $2.9 Billion By 2021.” Forrester. February 13, 2017.

[ii] “Forecast Snapshot: Robotic Process Automation, Worldwide.” Gartner. December 2017.

Figure 2 Core Benefits to Deploying RPA

RPA Use Cases

In any organization, those critical areas that affect business profitability, efficiency and compliance, that, also, require a high degree of manual effort, accuracy, and speed make a good use case for RPA technology.

Depending on the department, business unit and industry, the specific areas of value vary, but the benefits remain high, including back-office and front-office operations, centralized processes (like shared services), outsourced processes (like business process … BPO), and distributed, global processes.

Back-office operations examples include accounts receivable, payable, general ledger, payroll, hiring, candidate management and onboarding tasks like benefits. Procurement processes including invoice processing, requisition-to-purchase order. Front-office operations like customer service, call center operations, database management, grievance and remediation, transaction management and reporting.

Examples of RPA use case by industry include:

Healthcare

  • Claims Processing
  • Patient Eligibility
  • Physician Reporting
  • Record Storage

Technology/Software

  • App Integration (API)
  • Hardware Testing
  • Software Testing

Retail

  • Form Population
  • Process Verification
  • Legacy Integration
  • Loyalty Analytics

Manufacturing

  • Automating ERP
  • Logistics Data
  • Data Monitoring
  • Pricing Comparisons

Financial & Banking

  • Data Validations
  • Data Migrations
  • Report Creations

Telecommunication

  • Data Consolidation
  • Data Extraction
  • Call Routing

44% of survey respondents who had a steady-state implementation of their RPA project were very satisfied with the returns achieved”

Source: Everest Group (2018)

Gartner suggests starting an RPA journey with rule-based, standardized processes that cross multiple systems that need a nonintrusive approach to automation. Their recommendation is to evaluate RPA opportunities in those areas where you have staff acting as “swivel chair integration.” Tasks like rekeying data between systems, or anywhere that work is being performed that involves structured, digitalized data processed by predefined rules. “This analysis forms the basis for your enterprise automation roadmap.” [i]

These diagrams show specific steps in a workflow where RPA can replace multiple steps in a rote, but high-value process of customer database maintenance.

[i] “Robotic Process Automation: 8 Guidelines for Effective Results.” Gartner. Published: 27 June 2018 ID: G00355496 Analyst(s): Cathy Tornbohm

Measuring the performance of a potential area where RPA could add value will give a means for tracking metrics and enhancements in performance. One example from a real-world RPA project, below, shows the types of metrics captured and the level of improvement with quantifiable return on RPA investment.

Start the RPA Journey

Gartner’s research and reporting suggests to start an RPA journey, “Identify and quantify the opportunities to use RPA for revenue-generating activities in addition to cost-saving or compliance activities. Do not just focus RPA on reducing labor costs. Carefully set expectations of what the tools can do and how your organization can use them to support digital transformation as part of an automation strategy.” [i]

One way to start is with a model that prescribes clear steps and addresses all of the major decision points in the process. The figure, below, represents SDLC Partners’ RPA discovery model, including five steps to launching an RPA project.

[i] “Robotic Process Automation: 8 Guidelines for Effective Results.” Gartner. Published: 27 June 2018 ID: G00355496 Analyst(s): Cathy Tornbohm

Here, is another way of looking at the RPA journey, including the steps to build an RPA “center of excellence” in any organization. It provides a repeatable method for identifying, building, deploying and scaling successful RPA projects.

The figure, below, looks at the overall RPA project as it moves through phases of impact of change – improvement – and the types of value that can be expected from cost avoidance to cost savings.

As highlighted in these various figures, preparation is key to ramping up RPA pilots, deploying successfully and demonstrating value. One way to prepare adequately is to inventory potential RPA candidates and assess their performance, as well as the potential value of improvement.

Next Steps in the Journey

RPA is an exciting technology that has demonstrated how organizations can focus their resources on outcomes that require human effort and ingenuity as opposed to repetitive, transactional – yet high-value – tasks.

Whether a first RPA candidate includes a back-end or front-end process, the technology provides a demonstrable and scalable pathway to maximizing human resources and delivering higher-value operations at lower cost and effort across any organization.

The keys to success, outlined here, show that a thoughtful approach, careful candidate selection and a measured approach to deployment and performance, can amplify the return on an RPA investment across industries and areas of operation.

Performance Enabled.

Contributors:
Matt Creegan, Senior Manager

© 2018 SDLC Partners LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Resources

“Market Guide for Robotic Process Automation Software.” Gartner. December 5, 2017 ID: G00319864 Analyst(s): Cathy Tornbohm, Rob Dunie

“Robotic Process Automation: 8 Guidelines for Effective Results.” Gartner.
Published: 27 June 2018 ID: G00355496 Analyst(s): Cathy Tornbohm

“Defining Enterprise RPA.” Everest Group for distribution by UiPath. 2018. Authors: Sarah Burnett, Vice President Manu Aggarwal, Practice Director Amardeep Modi, Practice Director Somya Bhadola, Senior Analyst

RPA Infographic & Prep Worksheet

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[i] “The RPA Market Will Reach $2.9 Billion By 2021.” Forrester. February 13, 2017.

[ii] “Forecast Snapshot: Robotic Process Automation, Worldwide.” Gartner. December 2017.

[iii] “Robotic Process Automation: 8 Guidelines for Effective Results.” Gartner. Published: 27 June 2018 ID: G00355496 Analyst(s): Cathy Tornbohm

[iv] “Robotic Process Automation: 8 Guidelines for Effective Results.” Gartner. Published: 27 June 2018 ID: G00355496 Analyst(s): Cathy Tornbohm

Matt Creegan

Whitepaper Contributor

Matt Creegan,
Director of Services