Voice & Facial Regs., Personal Trackers, Robo-boss and the list is practically endless in terms of the innovation that’s been happening in this space. Also keeping the engines revving are organizations that are garnering the potential of Automation& AI, to improve the overall operational efficiency by minimizing costs and speeding up the tasks at hand.
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RPA is being lauded as one of the most exciting developments in recent history. Industry experts believe Robotic Process Automation may be even more transformational than cloud computing.
Artificial intelligence, simply put is a field of computer science that mimics the natural learning process of the human brain by creating artificial neural networks that formulates its own algorithms and uses feedback to refine results. The last two years have seen a landmark evolution of artificial intelligence – Virtual personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Android’s Iris and Amazon’s Alexa, all point towards a future where AI becomes an integral part of our existence.
So, what does this mean for businesses? If the idea of AI taking over your workplace conjures up an episode of the Jetsons, you are not too far off. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is slated as the next big thing, poised to take over – nestled within your systems, traversing through various applications inputting, checking, updating and processing faster than any human could.
RPA is suited to any organization that deals with mundane, repetitive high-volume tasks and because it’s built to imbibe changes easily, RPA is also highly suited to processes that regularly change and adapt, especially those that are too costly or complex to re-engineer the traditional way. Unlike most workflow-building applications, RPA software can be shared with other departments as it is highly customizable for different needs. Owing to its flexibility, RPA software can lead to an immediate increase in process efficiency, accuracy, compliance and speed of completion – all while removing manual errors and increasing customer satisfaction.
RPA has now developed maturity in both technology as well as the business processes it is applied to. This widespread adoption of robotic automation could radically reshape the way we think about work. Apart from the availability and emerging value of RPA technology, these are some strong business drivers for adoption –
In order to achieve an efficient back-office cost, companies over the last couple of decades have turned to outsourcing their work. However, these tried and tested options are proving to be arbitrary as they require constant overseeing and a strong legal oversight. This additional overhead is borne by the client and rarely factored into the true cost of an outsourcing deal. As the socio-political arena changes, we have begun to hear whispers of ‘back-shoring’ used more often – and the only solution to this conundrum is RPA. Robots cost around a third of an offshore worker and can work around the clock, even tasks that have been relatively cheaply outsourced can be brought back under control again, for a fraction of the cost.
IT departments often find themselves struggling to deliver long term programs and new, cutting-edge innovation all while honoring minor change requests from the business. These change requests, although critical, are simply not cost efficient. This means the business can’t respond to market change or customer demands fast enough to remain competitive. As RPA is essentially a tactical non-IT solution, that can be built and deployed quickly for immediate benefits it focuses on the business process and leaves the existing IT systems alone.
Ease of use
RPA technology is built by developers through point-and-click functionality which works on top of existing IT architecture. Therefore, it is extremely easy to implement even if there is no specific knowledge of software programming language. People who are process oriented and are analytically bent can be trained within a few weeks to automate processes using an RPA tool.
The benefits of RPA are plentiful and may tempt companies to jump straight into an RPA pilot without an overarching strategy. However, doing so could leave you with potentially broken or substandard processes. In order to truly get the best out of robotics, it is essential to establish guidelines and strategies for your RPA model – one that covers the breadth of organizational, process and technology components needed to establish RPA as a sustainable capability within your organization.
A good way to onboard RPA is to start small – Choose a process to automate that will directly affect your ROI. Picking the right pilot projects to automate is of utmost importance and will aid the organization to see potential benefits quickly and come up with newer processes to automate next. If this is not done at the get go, the result may show a reduced interest in RPA initiatives and subsequent lost opportunities for more efficient, resilient and faster processes.Develop an efficient digital-partnering strategy where robots perform the repetitive tasks while humans manage exceptions and orchestrate the robots to interact with each other. Spend time conducting technology proof-of-concepts on a few different processes, so you’ll understand the nature of processes that are most suitable for RPA.
Once you’re convinced of the technology and its benefits, start developing an enterprise-wide strategy to use robotics throughout your operations. To provide a seamless transition, it is important to brief your team about the security aspects and reliability of RPA.
There is no doubt that the onset of RPA will vastly affect jobs, more so as enterprises become more automated and intelligent. When it comes to productivity, AI could very easily eliminate hours of collecting and processing data. This capability to think exponentially simply means that the potential applications for these technologies are limitless. For businesses, understanding cognitive systems, big data analytics, and AI coupled with this expertise will be critical for survival, giving organizations faster access to sophisticated insights and empowering them to make better decisions and act with agility to outpace their competitors.
The concept of “fads” and “trends” are often most closely associated with the fashion world. Fads are short-lived: they tend to gain popularity quickly, affect smaller groups of people, and may disappear just as quickly as they arrived. Trends, on the other hand, can have a longer-term influence on the market. They tend to be more powerful because they are addressing a nascent need, solving a critical problem, or may even be changing the way we live. A fad might include a game like Pokemon GO, which became a hot topic very quickly, but eventually died down as users became more familiar and began to get bored–the game did not necessarily provide users a way to stay involved and entertained. Social media, on the other hand, began a trend in social networking. What many people once decried as a “fad” has proven its ability to stick around and engage users, and has changed the way people interact and the way business is done.
In the IT services landscape, we have seen our share of both fads and trends. In the past few years, we have seen trends in development toward SMAC: social, mobile, analytics and cloud. All of these trends have collectively disrupted traditional business models, and continue to do so. One well-known buzz phrase in technology circles today is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). But is it a trend or a fad?
RPA is an emerging technology movement based on the concept of software robots that can be programmed to perform routine clerical tasks that are mundane, complex and highly repetitive. The robots, or bots, are built using RPA tools, and can access IT systems exactly as a human being would: via the user interfaces of applications. Such bots are becoming what the industry has deemed “digital labor.” Being able to assign manual tasks to a machine means that businesses can significantly reduce the need for human involvement in more menial work. The shift from human to machine has a direct impact on everything from performance and efficiency, to staffing and overall costs. With all the hype about the advance of RPA, people have naturally begun surmising that robots are on the verge of making humans “redundant” at work.
So is RPA a fad or a trend? Here are three questions we can ask to determine where it falls:
- Does RPA address a nascent need in business today?
- Does RPA solve a critical business problem?
- Is there multi-year data that shows RPA has delivered results?
In today’s digital world, technology silos have been created out of necessity. Additionally, SMAC has created greater complexity in the IT ecosystem within an organization. There is a problem of data synchronization across technology silos, which leads to redundant manual work. RPA does address the burgeoning business need to integrate across technology silos. Enterprise-level businesses are always investigating new ways to improve operational efficiency, and automation has been bandied about for many years as a vehicle that can maximize said efficiency. Until RPA entered the ecosystem, automation remained mostly a theoretical concept in many of these businesses. RPA is solving a critical business issue that has been at the top on the agenda for many organizations. The answer to all three aforementioned questions is a resounding “yes.”
While RPA seems to answer these questions positively, can it maintain standing as a trend? Ultimately, RPA may be a toddler who just learned to crawl. We need to see it walk, and then run, before calling it a mega-trend with significant and lasting impact. The big questions with RPA is not just about technology, but change management. Scaling RPA pilots into organizational-wide initiatives, and then governing them successfully, are the big challenges.
A key driver of RPA will not go away, however: operational efficiency. Today’s businesses are vying to maintain lean operations while delivering exceptional client experience at lowest possible cost. The relentless quest for operational efficiency is predicted to drive the growth of RPA. Once we learn to scale this to the enterprise level, and the question of automation is routinely asked inside of each development team, only then can RPA truly become a mega trend.