RPA explained. Necessary steps for introducing automation into your organization.
If you want to be up-to-date, use your employees’ full potential, save some time and money, make room for creativity and development or simply improve the speed and quality of your processes, it might be a good idea to have a closer look at automation. It may even be a better idea if your employees work overtime and your company is still behind everything.
Here is what you need to know at the beginning. From this article, you will learn:
- what Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is,
- what benefits it offers,
- how to decide what processes can be automated,
- how we do it here at Mindbox.
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and why it is not as black as it is sometimes painted?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is not directly related to industrial or mechanical robots (so forget about the Terminator in this context). It neither applies for everything (in some cases simple digitization does the trick) nor can guess your thoughts. It is not a programming language, either.
By definition, RPA simply refers to a piece of software (sometimes called a “bot”), which imitates the actions of an operator. It can operate at the UI (User Interface) level and use, for example, APIs or databases. Google Assistant is one of its most common examples. There is also a difference between RPA and IPA (Intelligent Process Automation), the latter referring to robots with cognitive features, using more complex algorithms (for example, intelligent Optical Character Recognition, Artificial Intelligence, or machine learning).
Why is all of that relevant?
Well, even though the fourth industrial revolution is a fact, and it has started a new chapter in human and business development, enabled by extraordinary advances, some still believe that too much technology can not only ruin the atmosphere in an office but even deprive people of employment.
Robotization is not reserved for geeks and can improve the process while saving much time. In our experience, with proper cultural adaptation and cooperation between stakeholders and IT departments, employees were more than happy to get rid of dull, repetitive tasks and let their creativity flow.
OK, so RPA frees up time for creativity and development. Is that it?
Not in the slightest! There are many other benefits, including:
- reducing process costs,
- increasing the quality of processes and human error prevention,
- accelerating processes,
- scaling processes.
The last point is especially worth mentioning, as, from a robot’s perspective, it does not matter whether it processes 100 or 1000 transactions. A “regular” employee would mind that!
A piece of software can also easily access specific data upon request. For instance, if you run an insurance company, your bots can prepare reports based on information and pictures of car accidents sent by customers. It is that simple.
All right, let’s say I am not a geek. How do I decide if a process is a right candidate for automation?
Theoretically, processes that can be automated in each company include HR services, finance and accounting, supply chain, and IT services. In practice, each process requires a careful assessment in terms of robotization. It is best to start with a variety of options for further selection or elimination. On this step, you can use a catalog of business process automation projects to search for solutions by industry, field, or complexity. At Mindbox, we will be more than happy to assist you with that, so do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions concerning RPA. However, here is a little guide:
- check for repetitiveness – you want to choose highly frequent, manual processes,
- check for clear processing instructions – you need standardized and predictive rules (the more you know the process, the better),
- check for high transaction volume (this goes for frequency as well),
- check for maturity and stability (look out for well-documented and predictable processes),
- avoid exceptions (choose activities with a low number of variations).
It is also a good idea to use this order while implementing automation:
- firstly, robotize the processes which offer high benefits and have a low level of complexity (the so-called quick wins),
- secondly, robotize the processes which offer low benefits and have a low level of complexity at the same time (the so-called low hanging fruits),
- thirdly, robotize the processes which provide high gains, but have a high level of complexity (the so-called must-do improvements),
- finally, robotize the processes which provide low benefits compared with the level of complexity (the so-called long-term enhancements).
In a nutshell, the entire process of choosing candidates for automation should include these steps:
- analyze your processes,
- focus on the processes which are repetitive, well-parameterized and can be described as rules,
- focus on the processes which can be accelerated or improved (also in terms of quality) thanks to automation,
- specify how many transactions you complete in a day, a week or a month,
- think about other IT systems you use which are not integrated,
- optimize the process if necessary,
We have also developed a free questionnaire, including recommendations or advice against robotization based on your answers. Let us know if you need it.
Remember that a successful robotization starts with preparing your enterprise for automation. Only then can a pilot (or the so-called Proof of Concept) be developed and introduced. What is more, you should not even think about the next steps (strategy preparation and implementation) without assessing the benefits first. Mindbox can walk you through the entire process to make sure all goes as planned, and nothing fails.
It is all very interesting, but I want details and numbers.
Sure thing. We have a lot of happy stories to share. Let us use our adventure with Scania Polska as a case study. Our virtual accountant project which was implemented in the company included:
- processing, structuring and verifying data (using ABBYY® FlexiCapture® software),
- data interpretation (using Applica.AI software),
- invoice accounting (using UiPath software).
As for the benefits achieved,
the return on an investment after 11 months was 4000 invoices per month,
the full process from receipt of the invoice to sending it to final acceptance now takes from 2 to 5 hours (the average time before implementation was five days (!),
the XML file preparation takes 90 seconds,
the preparation of posting lines takes 45 seconds.
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