What is RPA?
At its core, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the practice of enlisting robots to do the long and boring jobs in your organisation. For example, the kind of mind numbing data entry that’s putting your intern Dave to sleep at his desk. If you work in the Insurance sector, you already know that it is absolutely filled with this sort of paperwork. Capturing client data, moving clients into underwriting systems, through a CRM and so much more. Snore.
Previous attempts have been made to automate these processes, but RPA takes this idea beyond. It is automation 2.0. What was previously being done by simple machines, is now performed by advanced AI.
The concept of RPA isn’t necessarily new. It evolved from a technology known as ‘data scraping’, which has been around for a long time. However, data scraping doesn’t have a good reputation. It involves machines rigidly completing tasks and processes that are usually intended for human beings. Data scraping is often used as a last-ditch effort to replace human resources or force legacy systems to communicate. It is simple, inefficient and likely to break when faced with changes in process structure.
Why should I care?
The difference between RPA and ‘traditional’ automation is astronomical. This new breed of AI are not just programmed to complete processes, they are programmed to mimic human employees – able to perform far more advanced functions across a variety of platforms. New technology often requires a fundamental change in the infrastructure of a business, but RPA bots can adapt to the current environment by mimicking human behaviours. This enables them to work around multiple or legacy systems instead of requiring lengthy integration.
As it turns out, our robotic friends are also very hard workers. While Dave is struggling to keep his eyes open, slogging through data entry, an AI could be completing the same work at twice the speed. What’s more, the bot doesn’t suffer from human error, poor judgement or Tuesday morning hangovers.
They also work overtime, 24/7 overtime.
I’m feeling inferior…
Now if this is starting to sound to you like the ‘bots are taking over’, we urge you to relax. There’s no risk of these AI stealing your jobs, in fact they are designed to make employees’ lives easier.
For example, with bots doing all the copy and pasting for Dave, his time is freed up to do the challenging technical jobs that he enjoys – jobs that a bot couldn’t possibly do. Working alongside bots allows Dave to up his productivity and makes him a more valuable resource.
The kicker is this; we aren’t just automating parts of Dave’s job. We are talking about automating processes across the entire business. If Dave can save 10 hours a week with RPA and there are 20 people in his department, the business gains 200 hours of valuable employee time. This guarantees an unmatched increase in business efficiency.
Great! So how do I get started?
RPA is flexible. But it remains a bad idea to simply shoehorn it into your business. As with all things, careful planning and preparation are key. We recommend comprehensively mapping your processes before undertaking RPA. The result of this will be clearer visibility of how the business works, and it will allow you to identify which processes are candidates for automation.
Process optimisation is often the next step. If you can trim off some unnecessary steps, creating ‘lean’ processes, the robots will be more efficient when they are installed. Carefully review process maps and make improvements wherever possible before adding bots into the mix.
To take full advantage of the operational efficiency granted by RPA, certain preparations need to be made. But once you are ready, the setup and design of these bots is a relatively quick, one-time process with huge potential benefits.