Robotic Process Automation - Avoid the Risks While Gaining the Rewards
RPA will reduce your costs and increase efficiency, did you know it can also improve your employee experience?
What is Robotic Process Automation?
To put it simply, Robotic Process Automation (or RPA), is the automating of business processes with the use of robots - software bots rather than mechanical robots.
Increasingly companies are using robots to pull together processes which cross multiple systems, perform repetitive data focused tasks and collate information. These solutions work at a high level with minimal development, providing speed, efficiency and a reduction in risk; example uses are creating customer profiles, processing employee payroll or simply organising email management.
Many forward-thinking organisations have been investigating RPA solutions for a few years, however the changes shaped by Covid-19 have pulled far more businesses to explore such automation with companies needing to reduce costs more effectively in a difficult financial environment. But is RPA the right solution for your organisation?
How can Robotic Process Automation provide the benefits you need while avoiding potential downfalls?
Clearly, improving efficiency and accuracy are key drivers helping many businesses reduce costs. Decreasing human interaction with processes can be another as it minimises errors and failures. But, Robotic Process Automation should not be attempted across the board without consideration of your other business priorities, in fact here we’ll identify those questions which should be asked before you start your RPA development.
1) How does RPA fit into your overall business strategy?
Developing new technologies for quick fixes or to follow trends is sometimes necessary, but any such development needs to be considered within the scope of your wider vision.
How will this development add the right value, or move your organisation in the direction which you have chosen? Sometimes small, high level, pieces of work - which are seen as cheaper and less intrusive than more traditional developments - aren’t given the same rigorous consideration before progressing. But there are still risks involved, particularly in the use of data or employee usability considerations.
Whatever the priorities are which guide your business, they should also guide your use of Robotic Process Automation.
2) Are you clear on your expectations?
Many RPA solutions are initiated because they promise to be a quick (and potentially inexpensive) fix. However, once development starts, it becomes clear the scope has been underestimated or results misunderstood.
As with any development, unless you are clear about what you hope to achieve - and the scale of the work, you won’t get the right result. Again, it is essential you know what success will look like and, going back to our first question, this is aligned to your business goals. Wrong decisions here will result in an unsuccessful project however they conclude.
The design of your development is paramount here. As well as ensuring your final solution aligns with company goals, it is essential to provide a system which will enhance your employee or customer experience. Badly designed solutions may appear to provide the information you are searching for, but will require the end user to access additional systems or navigate away from expected paths, for example.
Only with clear requirements will the right solution be designed.
3) Do you have control?
These bots may seem superficial, sitting as they do on the surface of established systems, but this can lead to an underestimating of risks. As with any technology development, established controls and compliance must be maintained.
4) Will these robots rise up?
One of the most fundamental concerns when any question of automation is raised, is the risk to those employees who are currently performing the tasks for which the RPA is designed. As we’ve already mentioned, the most cited reasons for developing these solutions are for process efficiency and cost cutting - so does this necessarily mean job losses?
While there will be organisations who develop automation in order to reduce the size of their workforce, this is unlikely to be the norm. Businesses with a clear strategy to provide better service more cost effectively, will be looking to build better processes to support those employees who are maintaining those service levels.
While it is true that a chatbot is answering questions which were once going through to the call centre. The actual impact is to take away those callers looking for easy answers who were previously having to queue, therefore reducing the time waiting for those customers who still need to speak to an advisor, both parties now have a much better experience.
RPA developments don’t need to be initiated with the aim of reducing headcount, they should be designed to support a better customer - or employee - experience. Keeping a clear focus on the aims of the business will determine if RPA is the appropriate solution.
While focusing on efficiencies and costs is always important, times of recession and uncertainty bring them to the forefront. Yes, the right RPA solution will provide your business with clear financial benefits, but only if it is developed with the right considerations.
It’s important not to let a single viewpoint prompt an incomplete solution, a better development will not only save money but improve service, bringing you more business too.
Hopefully these questions will help you recognise the right approach.
About the Author
I'm Terry Chana. I am an innovation strategist that connects customer, employee and brand experiences. My passion lies in building ecosystems to solve business problems by combining creativity and technology.