Ask yourself: Why not bots? Why do organizations want their employees to do the things they hate most and bring little value?
Robots and automation get a bad rep because people fear they’ll take away jobs. Headlines often grab on to large estimates of job loss – not mentioning the upskilling and transitioning that can happen with those potentially displaced workers.
When done right, however, robotic process automation (RPA) and the use of bots is a single piece of a company’s digital transformation strategy. RPA enables greater productivity and removes mundane tasks so employees can collaborate, innovate and interact with customers. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually.
When we talk about RPA, we’re not talking about robots like C-3PO and R2D2 coming in and taking over the workplace – that’s more likely in manufacturing or an Amazon warehouse where actual robots can perform certain tasks, but that’s also been going on for years. We’re talking about software that can emulate human actions with digital systems. Software robots can understand what’s on a screen, navigate systems, capture and extract data and complete a wide range of predefined actions. They do these repetitive low-value tasks in a fraction of the time it takes a person, so they can focus on the things they do best and enjoy the most.
We talked to Blueprint Technologies RPA expert Chris Reid to explain what’s up with bots and how they can help companies be more productive.
What exactly is RPA?
Whether you call it RPA, workflow automation or intelligent automation, RPA is the act of using software to carry out business processes previously done by people, especially repetitive, low-value tasks, such as logging into applications, entering data or filling out forms. Human resources, finance, payroll, accounts payable and compliance all have classic manual systems that are ripe for RPA. Think of a role that requires data be entered or copied and pasted into multiple systems; that is the perfect scenario for RPA. That’s exactly what our partner The New York Foundling did. We worked with the Foundling on digitizing records and setting up a modern workplace that allows them to reach more people in their community. Afterward, they connected with UiPath bots to remove a lot of repetitive data entry, saving them 100,000 hours annually.
What is another example?
RPA has AI and machine learning capabilities to help organizations also process documents. Look at a common business process like accounts payable. The process of paying invoices is very manual and time-consuming. There is a lot of information on an invoice that needs to be matched up to a purchase order that has to be entered into a financial system. It is a very manual process with a lot of low-value data entry. Good RPA companies – like UiPath and Microsoft – include capabilities that can read invoice images, extract information and enter the information wherever it needs to be entered — without a person having to do anything. This allows the finance department to be more strategic.
What if a company doesn’t know what they need or want?
That is what Blueprint does best! Reimagining and digitizing business processes can be daunting, but Blueprint guides the process, even when a company has no idea of where to start. I believe companies need an outside perspective to gain insight, because it is difficult when you live and breathe the workday in and day out, or if you were the one that created the system or process.
Blueprint engages with our clients to first conduct assessments because we need to understand the current business processes, pain points and customer interactions to better understand how they can be addressed. Until you understand what pain points a company is facing you can’t identify the ways to address them, and RPA is just one toolset we have to work with. We help clients reach their desired outcomes, so we might say that RPA can play a role in the modern workplace, but so can tools in Azure and the Power Platform. Blueprint brings together all the tools and partners with the right companies, to build the right solution with a tech-agnostic approach. Blueprint works quickly to recognize immediate ROI and pivots when and where it is needed.
When people talk about RPA, are they only talking about bots?
RPA is a software technology that makes it easy to build, deploy and manage digital robots that emulate human behaviors that are mundane and predictable. But to be successful and maximize their investment in RPA, organizations need to discover opportunities, build automations quickly, manage the automations at scale, run the robots autonomously, have your employees engage with the robots and then measure the return on investment. RPA can provide all of that, not just the bots. A scalable enterprise RPA platform provides the necessary tools to accomplish this. Whether it be task/process mining tools to discover opportunities, no- or low- code tools to quickly automate, an administrative console to manage the platform or a method/tool to measure the ROI, RPA is so much more than just bots. It’s a way of doing business and doing it efficiently.
Why bots when people could do it?
Why not bots? Why do organizations want their employees to do the things they hate most and bring little value?
Being tied to tedious, remedial work shouldn’t be a part of being an employee. RPA can reduce or eliminate basic low-level tasks so employees can collaborate, innovate and interact with customers.
But there are other reasons as well. Companies that invest in RPA accelerate growth, improve productivity, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction by incorporating bots into their processes. In addition to all the financial reasons, organizations that utilize bots also have happier employees, which makes organizations able to attract better talent. Providing all employees with a personal assistant for mundane and repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on strategy – that’s a recruiting tool right there. The goal isn’t to eliminate employees, but to make their time more valuable; to allow them to do more strategic and rewarding work. Getting away from painful, time-consuming tasks and spending that time doing more value-added activities helps drive better business decisions, more business and makes an employee’s experience working at an organization more enjoyable.
What makes good Robotic Process Automation?
Good RPA can be measured in several ways, From the employee perspective: Am I able to get out of the mundane low-value tasks and instead focus on strategy for my organization? From an organizational perspective: Does it allow my operations to run more efficiently? Can I create/innovate more quickly? Is it scalable and easy to maintain? Does it provide a quick ROI? People often think they need to go out and buy a new CRM or ERP tool to accomplish their tasks because that’s the traditional knee-jerk reaction, but those projects can take years. With RPA you can make the existing investment in your infrastructure work more efficiently in weeks or months. Good RPA of course also cuts costs, so it is important to be able to measure against a baseline to compare existing processes’ cost before you implemented RPA and then compare it with what it looks like once RPA is implemented.
What’s the biggest challenge to incorporating RPA into an organization?
The fear of the unknown and getting stakeholder buy-in from those who would utilize the tool are often the biggest obstacles. Some of the fear comes from the threat of losing your job or eliminating jobs. The reality is that RPA can eliminate time spent doing mundane tasks and allows those employees to focus on more strategic priorities. Change Management is something Blueprint excels at, though. We bring in all the stakeholders from the very beginning and keep everyone involved in the development of the future solution because the more we involve business process owners and the people who are going to utilize the tech, the more ownership they have of it in the go-forward strategy.
What’s the biggest challenge to incorporating RPA into an organization?
Organizations that don’t change and adapt to the need for digital transformation end up losing customers, market share and shareholder value – and eventually face closing the doors as new competitors disrupt the industry. I know that’s harsh, but they can’t attract the best workforce due to aging processes and systems and they can’t keep their customers because they don’t engage with them in ways they like. If a company isn’t brave enough to tackle the fear of change, then they’re destined to fail. They’ll be slower to market, slower to innovate and slower to serve the clients.
Forward-thinking RPA can be a major business differentiator. Blueprint Technologies is here to develop and implement the perfect strategy and solutions for your organization.