RPA: The technology transforming the way businesses operate

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a rapidly growing technology, transforming the way businesses operate by automating repetitive and manual tasks

All over the world, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is quickly becoming a revolutionary technology, helping organisations to improve upon and transform their business operations. The reason why is because RPA helps to make the boring less boring, by automating the repetitive, manual tasks and streamlining processes, which results in employees not only having more free time to focus on other tasks but also greatly increases their job satisfaction. 

For many years, document processing was a manual task, handled by staff members who would read data from invoices, orders, remittances, and various other documents and enter it into computer systems. This approach was once feasible when paperwork was limited, but as businesses have scaled and data volumes have significantly increased, manual document processing is no longer practical. 

In today's data-driven and fast-paced world, what would have been considered a “helping hand” a few years back is now a necessity, with businesses requiring automated solutions to process the sheer amount of documents and data efficiently and accurately. Nowadays, there are a number of tools that can automate the entire process, from scanning and extracting data to routing and archiving documents, which allows staff members to focus on more strategic tasks, while also improving the accuracy and time taken in document processing. 

Steve Morgan, Global Banking Industry Lead at Pegasystems, highlights: “The primary appeal for businesses using RPA boils down to its service and cost efficiencies. It not only accelerates customer service and enhances its accuracy but also eliminates the need for employees to perform repetitive and mundane tasks, such as data entry across multiple systems. As a result, it provides a dual benefit of efficiency to customers and relief to employees.”

Modern businesses and RPA implementation

Manual data processing is a slow and tedious task, and given the impracticalities surrounding staff members being expected to work at a constant rate throughout the day without any kind of fluctuation, increases the risk of human error as well as delays in the turnaround time. Financial institutions in particular are prioritising digitisation because of the way in which it can help to drastically improve business efficiency and accuracy. 

RPA is a rapidly growing market, one which is predicted to be valued at US$18.69bn by 2030, according to research by ReportLinker. Because of the many benefits that RPA can bring to businesses, a report by McKinsey found that 60% of jobs could save around 30% of their time by utilising business process automation. Automation software company UiPath, explains that RPA lets software robots take away the boring and repetitive tasks from key business processes. Mundane work becomes fast, error-free and automated.

Frances Sneddon, Chief Technology Officer at Simul8, expresses: “RPA is about minimising the burden of mundane, clerical work for employees. For example, a bank could utilise RPA robots to manage a credit card application process. Robots could collate documents from applicants, extract the form data, undertake background and credit checks, and make the final decision of whether the applicant is eligible. If approved, they can issue the card and close the case on the system. Thus, freeing up staff to spend more face-to-face time with customers.”

Another major benefit of RPA is that it can integrate with different software systems, combining APIs and user interface (UI) interactions together, and automating the tasks that would otherwise have to be done manually. In relation to the finance industry, Morgan explains how RPA can be used in a variety of areas including data entry to order, customer service activity completion, accounting and finance, HR, and IT support. 

Financial teams rely heavily on accurate and reliable data and record keeping, which is why RPA tools are ideal for helping industry professionals achieve this by automating repetitive tasks such as bookkeeping, data management, financial calculations, payment validation, and much more. Morgan goes on to say that it can also be applied to some of the more labour-intensive areas of financial services such as lending, payment processing, customer service, and operational support for sales and customers.

Automation doesn’t automatically solve challenges

RPA is a powerful tool that is in high demand, but as with a lot of these new technologies, there is a shortage of skilled workers who can implement and maintain it. This can make it difficult to find and hire the right people for new projects, with experienced professionals often commanding higher salaries, which may not be affordable for all companies. 

“Some of the main challenges are that for RPA or automation to work really well, it needs to be integrated into the entire process flow, including front and back-end systems and data flows,” says Morgan. “This means RPA by itself can reach limits and it cannot go beyond typically point-to-point automated implementations. This is where an intelligent workflow automation solution comes to the fore that integrates the benefits of automation alongside the ability to manage workflow routing, integration and incorporate machine learning to constantly improve and update.”

Other issues which may occur because of RPA include a lack of flexibility, as RPA bots are typically programmed to perform tasks in a specific way. If the process changes, the bot will need to be manually updated, which is time-consuming and costly. Security risks also pose a potential problem, as RPA bots have access to a great deal of sensitive data and systems, so it is crucial to implement the most robust security measures to safeguard this information. However, as RPA is still a relatively new technology, there are some security risks associated with it.

Sneddon believes that to maximise the benefits of RPA, robots need to be deployed in the right place at the right time. However, as with most businesses, there is a long, complex process, meaning they struggle to find the sweet spot for RPA implementation.

The widespread and future adoption of RPA 

The advancements in RPA are reshaping the way in which businesses operate, as well as enhancing the capabilities of the technology itself. The integration of AI and machine learning (ML) means that RPA is no longer only about automating tasks, but rather it is being used to improve decision-making, drive innovation, customer service, and error reduction. In other words, RPA is moving beyond process automation to become a strategic part of organisational operations.

Sneddon concludes: “The use of RPA will become more widespread in the next 12-24 months. We’re already seeing an increase in the number of companies turning to simulation software to help make the business case for RPA and ensure maximum return on investment. Simulation is a powerful tool as it enables you to model processes and mimic the introduction of robots in a digital, risk-free environment.”

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