Is Robotic Process Automation just about cost savings?
Robotic Process Automation (“RPA” or Software robots) have seen a huge adoption across the globe. According to Gartner, RPA software revenue grew 63.1% in 2018 to $846 million and expected to reach $1.3 billion in 2019. The global robotic process automation (RPA) market size is expected to reach USD 3.97 billion by 2025, according to a new study by Grand View Research, Inc.
In the RPA market, we often see captions like “Minimize Cost, Maximize Productive Output With RPA”, “Cut your processing costs significantly with RPA”, “Embrace RPA To Save Time and Costs”. This is hardly surprising the sales pitch is around cost savings as cost has a direct impact on pricing which is a top competition factor in global markets for any business.
Although cost savings is certainly a key consideration to get started on RPA, to say that it is the only benefit would be underrating the RPA’s potential. RPA has evolved from its early days of rule-based desktop task automation into an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) enabler delivering more human-like features like computer vision, incorporating machine learning algorithms and sophisticated intelligent optical character recognition features.
To further harness the full potential of RPA, businesses have to look beyond just cost savings. We have summarized top 5 key benefits of RPA that would be helpful to build the RPA business case.
1. Driving process standardization
It is not uncommon to see non standardized ways of processing the same business information across functions which results in inconsistent output and varying turnaround time. RPA presents an opportunity for business to relook at their current processes. Most often we could derive a 10-15% improvement just by standardizing processes before RPA. Consistent processing also help enhance customer satisfaction with predictable service level and output.
2. Enhancing governance and compliance
Most established businesses have a governance framework and review process (i.e. audit, self-assessments etc.) to help drive compliance.
Compliance is driven off policies, record keeping and IT systems controls. Various audits are conducted to ensure compliance. However, a lot of controls are still have weak linkages like using “techniques” like “eye-balling” for key verifications. Degree of controls varies depending on the human working on it. There is also no reliable audit trail to ascertain that there are real checks being done. Sometimes, two or more resources are required for the purpose of “segregation of duties”.
With RPA, governance can be enhanced with clear audit trial for every task and the concept of “segregation of duties” can be build into the design of the process so as there is no need for “more robots” to achieve “segregation of duties”. The controls can be improved with lower running costs and also the ease of audit with readily available information.
3. Building a highly scalable and agile business platform
In today’s volatile market, it is imperative that businesses have to be agile to increase/reduce their capacity in response to market demands. This would help them keep afloat in difficult times without having to resort to retrenchment exercise which is both expensive and hurtful for corporate image.
With RPA, businesses can retain core human workforce and leverage on RPA robots to do the heavy business processing work. The robots can increase/decrease in numbers easily to adapt to the new market demands. Hence, building a highly scalable and reliable workforce. Th core group of human work-force can focus on driving product, innovations and sales.
4. Knowledge Management
We live in a knowledge world. Forbes conducted a study back in 2004, revealing that “Fortune 500 companies lose roughly $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge”. Hence, businesses who can more efficiently and effectively share and retain knowledge would be able to harness on the knowledge it possess.
With RPA, the is a need to clearly define the process steps, storage of data, archiving etc. This helps the business retain precious knowledge on processes, data and documents. It removes the operational risk of someone leaving the company and taking the knowledge with him/her. It also reduces the risk of important data stored on local drives making future reference difficult.
5. Moving towards an A.I. roadmap
With the prominence of A.I. driving the world in everything from business to politics and society, it is inevitable that business looking to stay in top form into the future would need to start embracing A.I.
It is often said that ruled-based RPA is the first step towards an A.I. roadmap. Rule-based RPA has an easy to understand concept like process steps that can help businesses understand and apply the RPA technology. With the understanding of rule-based RPA, businesses would then have the confidence and understanding to move towards other more complex aspects of A.I. in the form of machine learning etc.
I hope the above discussion on the broader benefits of RPA would help businesses visualize the potential of RPA. Many of these benefits are also indirectly impacting costs and customer experience.
The A.I. roadmap is a long term strategy and starting on the right footing on a broader mindset ais key to the success in future.