Your guide to Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

19 January 2021, 02:17 GMT
By Adam Flynn

See a recording of our webinar

‘Automate manual processes in your business with RPA’

Thurs 28th January, 10am


Although the concept of robots helping to run aspects of your business may sound like science fiction, it is in fact quite simple.

Forget the images of Terminator or the Matrix, when we talk about robots here, we’re simply referring to software robots that run on a physical or virtual machine. So, what exactly is RPA? And how can this benefit your business processes? Let’s take a look….

What is Robotic Process Automation?­

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is ultimately about automating the mundane and repetitive computer-based processes in a business, that until now, would have required human input. This could be any number of jobs, from copy and pasting data to moving files from one location to another. RPA replaces human interaction by instructing a machine to learn and execute these time-consuming tasks by mimicking human actions to provide a large number of error free tasks, at high volume and speed.

How does RPA work?

When it comes to day-to-day tasks, RPA ‘bots’ can perform any number of functions; logging into applications, entering data, calculating and completing tasks, and signing out when the job is done.

Currently RPA is divided into 3 broad categories, which include;

  1. Probots – that follow simple, repeatable rules to process data
  2. Knowbots – that search the internet to gather and store specific information
  3. Chatbots (virtual agents)- that respond to online queries in real time

RPA software is not part of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, and instead sits on top of it. Its initial appeal lies in being able to implement the technology quickly and efficiently without having to make changes to the existing infrastructure or systems, as well as running for a relatively low monthly cost. Unlike traditional IT automation, once RPA software has been trained and instructed to capture and replicate the actions of a specific process, it can then trigger responses, initiate new actions and communicate with other systems autonomously.

Benefits of RPA:

Accuracy – eliminating human error prevents the mistakes that lead to incorrect data, false analytics or poor decision making, helping business introduce precision in their operations.

Cost savings – Aside from eliminating the human cost to employ someone to perform manual tasks, RPA saves on hours of avoidable rework caused by human error.

Productivity – RPA replaces human interaction and instead frees employees to perform tasks that are worthy of their time and effort.

Insights & analytics – RPA helps companies get a clear picture of their data with actionable and verified insights with minimal error. Its broad scope of data collection makes it perfect for adhering to regulation and compliance rules.

Customer service – Providing better customer service by quickening processes, and autonomously actioning tasks such as verifying information for rejections or approvals 

RPA in industry:

For some industries RPA is far from new, with a number of businesses already utilising RPA capabilities to perform day-to-day tasks. RPA proves particularly useful for organisations that have a large number of complicated systems that need to interact with each other.

Some of the top industries currently utilising RPA are;

Banking & Financial Services – As one of the first industries to adopt RPA, Banking and financial businesses have firmly integrated automation into their everyday processes, and can be used from anything from account openings and closings, processing insurance claims, customer inquiries to report generation, budgeting and general accounting.

Healthcare – helping with the accuracy and compliance of internal processes, healthcare organisations use RPA for processing patient records, customer support, insurance claims and prescription management.

Human Resources – Human resources traditionally comes with a lot of ‘paperwork’ and data that is repeatedly being updated, processed and managed. RPA can be used for onboarding and off-boarding, updating basic personnel information and time sheet submissions.

Procurement & Supply chain – A main concern in this area is often due to the time spent on administrative tasks. RPA can be used for inventory management, invoice processing, order management and purchasing requests.

Planning for RPA:

If you’re planning on introducing RPA into your business’s functions, its important you get this right. RPA should make your internal processes easier, not harder, and with careful planning and thought can be transitioned smoothly into your existing functions.

Your fist steps should include a detailed look at your existing manual processes, identifying the areas where potentially skilled staff are spending a lot of time manually collating, moving or inserting data that could otherwise be performed by RPA. It is also worth addressing the limitations of human function, such as tasks being restricted to office hours or being put on hold during absence.

If the demand for RPA is met, the next steps should involve a breakdown of existing processes and how these can be pieced back together using RPA. It is not advisable to replicate your manual processes exactly, as there are always opportunities to streamline the steps involved. Before any development starts, it is crucial that the end-to-end process is reviewed and documented ensuring all steps, logic and paths have been thoroughly analysed to deliver a usable and testable product.

For more information on EBC Group’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions contact us here, or talk to one of our team on 0121 585 4400.

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