RPA “takes the robot out of the human” by handling repetitive, routine and uninteresting tasks. It can do repetitive tasks more quickly and accurately, allowing humans to focus on things that require more emotional intelligence, reasoning and judgment.
Much like robots and IoT are increasing production and quality in manufacturing, RPA can improve processes, IT, workflow, infrastructure and back-office operations. Through the cloud, SaaS systems are making it easier and more cost-effective than ever to automate.
In more than a dozen case studies undertaken by the London School of Economics, Professor Leslie Willcocks said the major benefit they found was a high return of investment, from 30% to 200% in the first year. Longer-term benefits included better customer service, increased employee satisfaction and better workflow. In one example, an insurer that used to take two days to handle 500 premium advice notices cut that time down to 30 minutes through automation. She said that while not everything can be fully automated, organizations can still find room for automation within processes then turn over decisions to humans.
“Gradually, you educate and configure the RPA to do more and more work. Eventually it can do 90% to 95% of the work, and very few exceptions have to be dealt with by a human,” said Willcocks.
RPA can especially benefit mid-market companies, because it can enable growth. CEOs that automate processes at an early stage of their development can be well positioned to absorb growth without adding to the headcount, said Gary Simon, CEO of FSN & Leader of the Modern Finance Forum for CFOs. He said that automation is a “potent force” for keeping a lid on costs and that mid-market companies can now enjoy the same benefits of a CPM that was once only available to large organizations.
“Smart CFOs in the mid-market know they are no longer competitively the underdog…they can take advantage of automated processes to drive performance that large businesses can only dream of,” said Simon.
Meanwhile, many companies are using RPA to drive back-office efficiencies. Once the infrastructure is in place, it can typically take 2-4 weeks to automate a process, offering a short payback period in comparison with other technology implementations.
Willcocks said organizations need to use RPA not only tactically for cost-savings, but as a broader strategic stool. He said it’s also essential to have the C-suite involved and to designate an RPA leader who can identify ripe processes. There also will need to be an organization-wide effort to adopt automation and manage the RPA to ensure it functions with humans.
“[RPA] will be disruptive, but organizations should be able to absorb that level of change. The relationship between technology and people has to change in the future for the better, and I think RPA is one of the great tools to enable [that],” said Willcocks.