Two years ago I wrote an article about how robotics would help humans to focus on what is really important, for them and for the organisations they work for. Today the adoption of robotics is hot topic, and I expect it to turn the world as we know it upside down. Robotic process automation (RPA) is increasingly becoming an integral part of the digital transformation. The role of humans will shift more towards lucrative activities, like analysis, assessments and decision-making, while virtual robots will take over the boring repetitive tasks. Future business success starts by embracing this change of roles.
Social innovation will keep job market in balance
Robotics enable employees to maintain a sharp focus on core tasks and to help the company to distinguish itself. Running a business will become easier and will demand less working hours from humans. On the one hand RPA will reduce available mid-skilled jobs. On the other hand, how people spend their time will change in the future, which opens up lots of opportunities in social sectors, like health, education and leisure. People will have more time for lifelong learning and the leisure industry will grow. Aspects like pollution, running out of raw materials, the rise in ageing population and its need for more volunteer aid are just a few examples of environmental and healthcare issues societies could work on. Issues that could be addressed easier when people have more time on their hands. RPA paves the way for social innovation, thus new jobs. So, before we can become more successful in changing the way we behave, we need to embrace the ‘scary’ robots that will partially run our businesses and free up our time.
A higher level of accuracy and customer satisfaction
RPA is about configuring a software (robot) solution in a way it gathers and interpret data from a variety of systems. Based on this data the robot can modify the data or take care of transactions.
Let’s say you are a call centre dealing with an impressive amount of calls on a daily basis. That means addressing the customers, managing information in different systems, allocating work and decision- making. Many call centres are equipped with interactive voice responders (IVR) to route calls to the appropriate department. But before they do that they have to collect the necessary information from different systems first. That’s something that will cause waiting times to run up.
With RPA a robot ensures that the customer service employee receives information from different systems, so that the employee can then perform the correct actions, and maybe even carry out these processes. This collecting process normally starts when a conversation begins. A robot could do the preparation in advance and make sure every customer is routed to the right employee. You can image how that would speed up the process and make conversations much more effective!
Freeing up time for employees to be the helpful consultant is what makes a difference. Added value of an employee is mostly derived from advice and expertise, administrative tasks can perfectly be done by a robot.
Another example is healthcare. Healthcare professionals spend much time on administrative tasks. RPA can relieve these people from a lot of such duties. In the Netherlands a lot of health care institutions have to administer every resource they use for instance, from syringes to cotton balls. If a robot could administer that for them after the indication of a certain treatment, that would give healthcare professionals more time to spend in areas where they are actually needed: taking care of patients.
Of course we could question ourselves whether expecting maximum performance continuously is realistic. People sometimes need time to unwind and recharge, a dull task like administration could actually do that. So it is important to think about how that balance should best be restored.
Five dependencies in a successful RPA implementation
Not the answer to everything: putting RPA into perspective
It’s important to be aware of the fact that with RPA there’s no single solution that fits all and suits all. What processes you will automate should be aligned with a well-considered RPA strategy. But in general it could be useful to implement robotic process automation if the following prerequisites are met:
- Repetitive actions that follow a pattern that is known beforehand;
- Processes that don’t change frequently;
- High level of digitalised data;
- Stable systems and applications.
Which processes to automate: being picky
RPA can only be effective when it is an integral part of the company. Automating just a specific task won’t work, neither does automating everything. Setting realistic expectations require companies to have a strategic vision of how robotic process automation should transform the entire organisation.
Internal communication: getting buy in from employees
People are afraid of change, especially when it looks like they will be out of a job. And of course, some will lose their current job. But robotic process automation also creates jobs; like more efficiency in administration could mean more capacity for advisory roles. Also, there is still a need for human intervention to manage exceptions, which would probably requires to re-train people to adapt to a new situation. Employees need to become aware on how it will create opportunities and how they can grasp them. It will enable them to truly make difference and add value for customers. So, evangelise the RPA strategy and celebrate successes.
Integrating process automation with IT: engaging an executive sponsor
RPA software is mostly very intuitive and does not require ripping or replacing existing systems. But it still needs to fit seamlessly into the IT infrastructure. Therefore you need someone who understands what the implications are and who can put a plan in place for ongoing monitoring of the RPA software. What happens when something causes the process automation to stop? Being able to predict what the outcomes of disruptions are – whether brief of for a longer period of time- is very crucial to a successful RPA strategy.
Costs go beyond RPA software
To get RPA up-and-running will not only mean an investment in the software. Changing business processes will have an effect on the whole operational model. The investment will spread throughout the whole line of change, from infrastructure adjustments, additional consultancy hours to relocating and training employees. To evaluate the needs and prioritise expenditures it is important to first build a business case for robotics process automation.
The key of success is in the design
“We should embrace robotics and look at how we can change the way we integrate robots and humans into a powerful workforce.” – source
RPA is not purely about cost effectiveness. It is about making a difference. It is crucial that the implementation of robotic process automation is designed wisely. It’s the level of design thinking that will truly define your RPA success! At Conclusion we understand people and processes. That empowers us to help our clients to define where the added value hides. Whether it’s about cost, accuracy, compliance or customer experience you want RPA to work in your line of business. By taking the social innovation and customer satisfaction opportunities as well as the five dependencies into account you will get a nice head start.