In modern business, it’s worthwhile to keep ahead of technology trends. One such trend is Robotic Process Automation or RPA.
Some companies feel like RPA solves all their workflow problems, while experts recommend that you’re aware of its limitations. Gartner went as far as issuing a warning about RPA hype, saying it promotes unrealistic expectations about potential uses and benefits. Gartner went on to say that organizations who don’t see through the hype may be at risk of adopting RPA without instead considering more practical alternatives. The result could be RPA that costs more money than an organization saves.
So what exactly is RPA, and what might the implications be in your business?
The Basics of RPA
The premise behind RPA is that it’s automation software to cut down on repetitive tasks and bring you closer to your goals of digital transformation.
Robotic process automation is software that makes it easier to build and manage software robots to replicate human actions interacting with digital systems.
Companies are relying on RPA to eliminate tedious tasks, allowing employees to focus on high-value work.
RPA uses a combination of structured inputs and business logic to automate processes. You could configure software with these tools to create a robot that interprets applications for various tasks, like communicating with other systems or triggering responses.
The bots created by software can learn, replicate and execute rules-based processes. RPA automation allows you to create bots through the observation of human-based digital action. Basically, the idea is that you show bots what to do, and they work.
The interaction between software bots and other systems and applications is similar to how people interact, but they’re reliable, precise, and can work nonstop.
Advantages of Robotic Process Automation
There are undoubtedly benefits of RPA, especially right now when businesses face challenges because of the labor market and the pandemic.
For example, RPA offers the ability to cut down on both human capital costs and human error.
Bots tend to be easy to implement and inexpensive, and they don’t require custom software.
Companies can make a shift toward automated low-value tasks, which is a key strategic priority right now.
Some companies are also boosting their automation by adding cognitive technology like natural language processing into their RPA initiatives.
Examples of RPA In Action
The following are real-world applications of RPA:
- Invoice processing: In accounts payable, invoice processing is one of the more time-consuming tasks. Invoices come in from different places, have to be matched to POs ad then often have to go through multiple rounds of approval. Using RPA could allow sending invoices for automatic approvals.
- Human resources: RPA specifically can be used for hiring and onboarding purposes in human resources. It’s a way to onboard, and bots can also screen resumes and candidates automatically without bias.
- Inventory management: Using RPA solutions in retail could help with optimizing inventory, reducing inventory errors, and you could automate your systems to alert you about low inventory automatically.
- Payroll: The payroll processes are repetitive, mundane and generally time-consuming, plus they’re prone to human errors and inaccuracy. An RPA bot can do the verification of employee information and data across different systems and validate timesheets. RPA can also be used to administer reimbursements and taxable benefits.
- Customer support: Customer support automation is a big focus right now because consumers increasingly expect support to be available anywhere and at any time, so RPA can help with this. A chatbot can be used for example if your customer comes to your website looking for help. It can then reduce the wait times for people who do need to speak to a human.
What Are the Downsides?
While there are upsides to RPA, there are downsides to be aware of as well.
Some of the big complaints people often have are that it’s high-maintenance and may end up being more expensive than you plan for. Your IT team becomes responsible for any needed fixes or updates, and it’s not a permanent solution.
The recommendation, if you’re dealing with workflow problems, might be to assess all available options rather than assuming RPA is a cure-all. For example, your better choice, depending on your workflow needs, might be to find your solutions in the form of SaaS software instead of an internal RPA option. When you have quality SaaS vendors, you get automatic updates, and you don’t have to allocate internal IT resources to maintaining these solutions.