Despite all of the technology at our disposal, many companies still rely on manual steps for repetitive, routine business tasks and activities, such as collecting, reviewing, and inputting information between systems, websites and portals – internal and external. A recent report from the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work states: “Even though many processes are technology-rich, they’re still people-intensive and require staff to toggle between multiple systems and screens to achieve “last-mile” integration of data checking, inputting, searching or collating to drive an outcome.”
The Cognizant report goes on to say: “Think about the “long tail” of process steps that haven’t been automated by core systems. These are usually process workarounds that entail manual inputs to get systems “ready to get ready” for processing knowledge work (i.e., claims processing, audit preparation, logging customer contacts, verifications, etc.) With further process automation, those incremental steps are likely to be handled by robots, and the collective, cumulative impact of the “long tail” — in terms of cost — is likely to be significant.”
Using Robots to Automate Your Business Process Activities
Did you say robots? Yes, as Frank Casale, CEO of the Institute for Robotic Process Automation explains: “Robotic process automation “robots” are revolutionizing the way we think about and administer business processes, IT support processes, remote infrastructure and back office work.”
Robotic process automation (RPA) complements other process automation technologies to quickly solve manual inefficiencies in your business processes. Think of RPA as a digital workforce assistant to your employees. RPA does not rely on complex integration and process re-engineering, rather RPA uses intelligent software robots to mimic actions that a human would take. These software robots can do all the manual and mundane tasks that are now major time-sinks for your valuable employees and knowledge workers.
So, how can you determine if robotic process automation is right for your organization? Here are eight questions you can ask:
Which areas are underperforming?
Examine your business and try to pinpoint the areas that consistently deliver lower results than others. For example, if you are in banking, talk with your mortgage lending group and find out how they spend their day. Also, consider whether some areas fail to deliver when it comes to innovation or productivity improvements. Some operations may be slowed by employee absences as they rely on manual processing rather than automated workflows. By identifying these areas that require human action, your business can effectively determine where automation could streamline workflows and boost productivity.
Where are rigid applications or information siloes creating bottlenecks?
Take a hard look at your business and see if you are struggling to collaborate and share information between different business areas and departments. Are older legacy systems failing to evolve or need to be replaced entirely, impacting the efficiency and growth of your business? A mix of existing systems, duplicate systems or migrated systems from M&As could be adding big bottlenecks to your processes, and likely operate disconnected from other areas where operations have been transformed by modern applications and customer-centric process automation.
Do you have processes that can’t be scaled unless you hire more people?
As your business continues to grow, your processes need to grow with it. You need to be able to keep up with demand, without being hindered by the number of people on your team. If you need to hire more staff just to keep these manual tasks or outdated processes running, then that’s a sure sign that process improvement is needed.
Are your employees performing repetitive, manual tasks?
If your staff is performing repetitive, rules-driven tasks to acquire, analyze and act on information or process a high volume of incoming information, these activities are ripe for automation. A rules-driven workflow only works if it’s standardized and performed consistently. When humans are performing the work, the chances of errors and exceptions increase significantly. Having your staff manually collect and input data, especially if it’s on a frequent, daily basis, is also a waste of their valuable time and your company’s money.
Are your employees constantly copying and pasting information between internal systems and business portals?
If your employees are constantly copying and pasting data between portals, websites, applications, spreadsheets or email, that signals a significant process improvement opportunity. If you are relying on manual data entry to ensure your information is accurate and that multiple systems are all up to date, chances are the work is not being completed on-time and the key services you provide to your customers is being impacted.
Do you have highly paid knowledge workers dedicated to time-consuming administrative tasks?
Your knowledge and process workers shouldn’t be overwhelmed with mundane, routine or low-level administrative work. Not only is this a waste of their talent, it also keeps them from focusing on more value-added activities. If critical customer oriented projects are being put on the back burner because your resources are tied up with manual, low-level tasks then that’s a clear productivity loss for your company. Being busy is not the same as being productive, and you want your employees to focus their talents beyond time-consuming manual tasks.
Are human data-entry errors creating frequent rework or exception handling?
Manual data entry always leads to costly errors and constant rework. If work is being rerouted to an exception handling queue for manual review and correction, or productivity levels are suffering in other departments due to work errors and delays for corrections, then those are warning signs that things need to change.
Is your company considering outsourcing processes that you would prefer to keep in-house?
While many companies see outsourcing as an inexpensive and quick solution for manual work, rising costs, wage inflation, foreign currency exposure and quality concerns have dramatically eroded the benefits of offshoring. Outsourcing also creates challenges for compliance with a lack of process visibility, reporting and audit trails to ensure you are adhering to regulations and requirements.
If your company is considering outsourcing processes, this might be the time to explore a more creative and cost-effective solution such as RPA, rather than shipping unwanted processes overseas.
Deploying RPA in a Matter of Weeks
Now that you’ve identified the tasks or activities that you want to automate, you’ll want to execute the transformation in the easiest, quickest way possible. The advantages in using RPA for process automation are many.
Deployment is fast and projects can be completed in a few weeks, rather than months, without the need to write custom code to connect systems and data sources to your core operations. RPA also works well with your existing systems, including those legacy applications that have never caught up to your modern applications and processes, minimizes disruption to operations and is a relatively low-cost solution.
To learn more on how your teams can benefit from the strategic use of RPA, get a free preview of this ePaper: Digitally transform the way you work‒How to deliver big results in six small steps with process transformation. Or, download the complete ePaper here today.