At my last company, while optimizing the business processes, I had a ringside view of robotic process automation (RPA) in action. We used to work closely with the RPA team and identify process steps that are good RPA candidates and help build a business case for the automation.

In my current role, I’ve jumped into the ring and now delivering RPA solutions to our customers. I’ve started this blog to document and share my experiences around robotic process automation.

I’m both excited by the promise of what RPA can do, as well as feel let down by the infancy and immaturity of both the vendors and the practitioners. In the upcoming posts, I’ll highlight the key issues and suggest possible solutions to derive the benefits RPA has to offer.

Before I get to the dark underbelly of RPA, let me first present the rosy front.

Robotic Process Automation – The IT duct tape

RPA is like a versatile duct tape that can stick together applications that need to exchange data, but needed a human to do it. Just like a duct tape is a temporary fix that can last a long time with proper maintenance, similarly RPA solutions can be tactical solutions that are quick and cheap to implement, while the strategic IT initiative might take time or might never get prioritized.

RPA tools aid in extraction, manipulation, validation and exchange of data. They work with the current IT landscape without needing to change the underlying systems. At the simplest, they can mimic a user by controlling the keyboard and mouse. However most RPA vendors come with a lot of advanced ways for automating application interaction.

The promise of Robotic Process Automation

RPA tools can deliver great value by automating the long tail of automation needs. This results in the following benefits.

Accuracy and compliance
Robots ensure that the process steps are always followed and data entry errors due to complacency, fatigue or oversight are avoided. In addition, compliance can be increased at a reduced cost, by treating the robot as the ‘maker’ and the process executive can be the ‘checker’.
Speed and Productivity
Robots are typically 2-3 times faster than humans. Even when the process speed is constrained by the system slowness, Robots are still faster, since they can work without a break 24×7.
Cost reduction
Typical RPA implementations reduce the costs anywhere between 50-80%.
Agility and Scale
Robotic workforce can scale on demand, making it easy to tide over seasonal fluctuations or changes in business volumes.
Rapid delivery
RPA projects are run in short sprints constantly delivering value.
Removes NVA
Removes mundane work thus freeing the workforce to work on important high value work.
Increases availability
Robots working 24×7 result in predictable and faster turnaround times.

These benefits add up to transform the organization by delivering value to all the key stake holders.

  • Improved customer experience and satisfaction through faster, consistent and error free processes.
  • Improved employee satisfaction by removing mundane and NVA work and freeing them to work on complex and challenging work.
  • Happier stock holders with improved business competitiveness and reduced costs.
  • Better run business with improved process visibility and scale. One of the side effects of RPA are well documented business processes and unearthing of opportunities for process improvements.

In my next post, I’d talk about the hype, unrealistic expectation and the myths around RPA.

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