Robotic Process Automation: 4 Indispensable Types of Robots (and How to Use Them)
Meet your robot team.
This group of hard-working bots is your next key hire, jumpstarting productivity in your department and making you shine as a rockstar orchestrator of efficient processes.
If you know anything about robotic process automation, you know that software “robots” can take over repetitive human activities and get them done faster, smarter, better. But rather than making their human counterparts look bad for not shining at these tasks, robots free humans to do what they do best, like applying their skills, experience and judgement to creating good customer experiences, mitigating risk, and driving innovations.
Here are four robot types that will transform the way your team works:
Data Entry Robots
Data entry is often the final frontier of process automation—it involves what we call “swivel chair automation,” or copying and pasting information from one application to another. These processes are slow, error-prone and expensive when humans do them, but if integration is expensive or requires complex logic paths, IT may decline to help.
Data entry robots automate swivel chair automation, taking existing electronic data and automatically feeding it from one system to another. Because they perform the work essentially like a human would, logging into and out of systems and copying and pasting information, they don’t require expensive or complex integrations.
Union Bank uses data entry robots to:
- Inventory loan documents that are scanned to a repository by a contractor
- Gather data and metadata from those documents
- Clean and transform the data according to pre-established business rules
- Transfer the information into its main ECM system
Employees used to have to move between the two systems (the dreaded swivel chair automation) to find all the documents related to a loan, but now they can get the information they need in one system within seconds.
Validation and Verification Robots
From licensing to customer due diligence to authenticating financial transactions to staying on top of the latest regulatory updates, it’s likely you spend an enormous amount of time validating and verifying information provided by customers, vendors, suppliers and employees.
What’s more, these manual verification procedures tend to be covered in risk. No two employees do them the same way, so there’s no reliable process. Accuracy rel="noopener noreferrer" can be an issue (the Institute for Robotic Process Automation notes that humans make a mistake in ten out of every one hundred manual tasks performed). And the audit trail is sketchy, opening up your organization for a compliance nightmare.
Validation robots make real-time calls to internal and third-party systems to verify the accuracy or authenticity of information. They turn a reactive and unreliable process into a proactive, well-oiled automation machine. And when there is a verification issue, the robot escalates the problem to its human co-worker, rel="noopener noreferrer" who is best equipped to handle it.
One European bank used robots to automate time-consuming and error-prone Customer Due Diligence and Know Your Customer investigations. Robots trawl internal systems and databases as well as external sources to verify a customer’s identity and determine if they’re a risk for the bank. Not only were investigations cut from 15 minutes to 90 seconds, but robots can improve the breadth and quality of investigations, conducting more comprehensive searches with a full audit trail for every investigation.
System Integration Robots
While disruptive businesses tend to be built on agile new technology platforms, the reality is that most businesses are built on legacy systems that have been heavily customized over the years.
When companies merge or are acquired, core systems from each business continue to operate in silos, creating a lot of manual work and a frustrating customer experience. Vendor and supplier systems don’t speak to your ERP. Customer-facing systems give back-office systems the silent treatment and vice versa.
System integration robots are used to “patch” a connection between systems that don’t speak to rel="noopener noreferrer" each other, but are too complex or labor-intensive to integrate.
Arrow Electronics faced this challenge in providing special order quotes to customers. The idea of creating automated workflows to request and process quotes and invoices, regardless of format or location, seemed like pie in the sky when considering the difficulty of integrating with Arrow’s and its vendors’ existing B2B infrastructure. Unlike standard integration tools, software robots can interface perfectly with Arrow’s systems without special coding or assistance from IT.
Personal finance advisor Dave Ramsey has a long-standing joke on his daily radio show. He urges people to save ahead for periods of big spending like holiday gifts. “Remember, Christmas is in December this year!” he reminds listeners.
Of course we know this; Christmas is in December every year. Loved ones’ birthdays and anniversaries come around annually. The car oil needs to be changed at regular intervals. At the office, routine maintenance on machinery should be scheduled in advance. Licences and credentials must be renewed within a timeframe. Certain processes kick off tasks, like the start of monthly or yearly financial close.
Scheduled or triggered robots take on tasks that are simple in nature, but cannot be executed until a certain event takes place, whether that’s a date on the calendar, a rolling date, or a predecessor task. As Dave Ramsey has noted, we humans have these things in the back of our minds, but not necessarily at the front of them. Robots don’t miss deadlines. They’re literally programmed to do the work exactly when it’s supposed to be rel="noopener noreferrer" done, so you’re never scrambling last-minute to deal with a backlog of urgent issues.
Davies Turner, an international freight-forwarding company, uses a variety of scheduled or trigger robots to power complex logistics and supply chain processes. For example, when an order leaves the warehouse, a robot emails the client with order details and a shipment tracking link. Robots also track stock levels in the warehouse and automatically notify customers if one of their inventory lines goes out of stock so they can take prompt action.
Putting It All Together
You’ve probably figured out by now that a “robot team” is rather fluid, and rel="noopener noreferrer" that some or all four robot types can be used to automate repetitive human activities within a single process. For example, in insurance claims automation, a robot team can:
- Pull data points from multiple claims documents and aggregate them into a single document (data entry)
- Search third-party websites to get additional information related to the claim (verification)
- Validate the amount to be paid (validation)
- Populate the data into a contract management system (system integration)
- Move the claim to a payment status (trigger task)
Your robot team is standing by. Learn how to:
- Identify which manual tasks to automate
- Evaluate and select the right RPA vendor
- Build rel="noopener noreferrer" executive and IT consensus
- Determine your full-scale roll-out
in this 6-step starter kit for RPA.