Spotlight Series: Katie Lam
There’s been loads of hype and speculation about the impact of process robotics on jobs and on offshoring and outsourcing. But is real progress being made for organisations? Is return on investment (ROI) being achieved by the early adopters?
Process robotics or RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is in fact well underway across many industry sectors, whether in financial services, capital markets, utilities or government.
Take-up of RPA is accelerating, with many of the outcomes living up to the hype. The promise of robotics is basically to deliver a business solution that rapidly automates manual back office and customer-facing processes, making them faster, significantly more cost effective, and improving consistency and regulatory compliance, all with a typical ROI of less than a year. Indeed many real world examples are already achieving ROI on a quarterly basis.
Such software ‘robots’ are best thought of as a complementary workforce, working hand-in-hand with people to help them improve their performance and focus their time on other, higher priority tasks, strategy and innovation. The robots can enable people to work better, smarter and more creatively, expanding the ‘art of the possible’.
Also known as software robotics, RPA is the use of a new class of software to automate business processes at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions, without the need to change current IT systems. It’s a form of business process automation technology that:
RPA can be distinguished from other software initiatives by the following 5 features:
It’s the combination of all these above features of RPA into a single, mature package that works with existing systems that also, in many cases, creates a compelling alternative to core-platform integration or replacement. And not only can RPA reduce manual operations costs by 25% to 40% or more, it does this while improving service and compliance, and typically can provide a remarkable return on investment in less than a year.
Because the RPA software replicates human activity, it can be thought of as a set of software “robots,” forming a virtual workforce available 24 hours per day, with full audit and 100% accuracy. So in a banking workplace, for example, RPA has the potential for multiple benefits including reducing the number of operational errors, increasing efficiency as robots can operate 24*7, reducing costs as all the people involved in the manual processes can be replaced by a single programmed bot, adding scalability, as the number of bots can be increased or decreased based on operational volume needs, increasing customer satisfaction due to a faster turnaround and finally, improving accountability as the audit logs of robot operations would be constantly available.
Does this really mean that in the future all humans will be replaced by machines and that robots will eventually try to take over the world in the style of the Terminator movies?
In reality, the answer is no.
The intention behind RPA implementation is to ensure organisations are able to better utilise their employees in areas that add value to a firm’s operations and delegate the repetitive tasks to automated machines. The ‘bots’ need to be programmed to replicate the human actions required in the process, while humans are also required to provide support and supervision to ensure any issues which may impact the process, such as network failure, a ‘bot’ crash due to error, or exceptions in the operations, can be dealt with.
In a recent TEDx talk at UCL in London, entrepreneur David Moss explained that digital labour in the form of RPA is not only likely to revolutionise the cost model of the services industry by driving the price of products and services down, but that it is likely to drive up service levels, quality of outcomes and create increased opportunity for the personalisation of services.
It sounds like real progress to us!
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