The Science of Removing the Robots in Humans

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers a range of promises. According to EY’s Get Ready for robots, it can lower costs, raise operational efficiency and improve quality. More importantly, firms no longer have to assign thankless, repetitive and high-volume tasks to staff and risk human errors.

“Why [RPA] is becoming popular is because it is now system agnostic, offers analytics for workforce management, and gives a real-time view of what the bots are doing,” Sneha Kapoor Mishra, IDC’s Tech Analyst and Consultant for Financial Services said at the Asian Financial Services Congress 2018, held in Singapore early last month.

RPA is also evolving. Today, it goes beyond replacing humans for low-level tasks. "It can also highlight any bottleneck that needs to be solved. This information was not available in real time earlier, but now it is," Mishra said.

While RPA sounds like a dream come true for reducing manpower shortage, managing high volume tasks more efficiently, and streamlining operational costs, it is not simple to deploy.

First, business needs to start communicating with IT. “A lot of business teams tend to think that RPA is easy, but it is not,” Mishra said. 

No matter how you begin your RPA deployment, you will need the IT team “to be there to support.” “Vendors may market it as something that businesses can do themselves, but it is not simple; you need some training, which is why IT needs to come in,” she added. 

Selecting which process to automate is also essential. Mishra noted that RPA, in its current form, cannot automate "anything and everything."

“There are only a few processes that can be automated in the present state. A lot of processes need to be redesigned to be suitable for automation,” she said, adding that many business units tend to overlook this issue.

Mishra suggested that firms should take baby steps and look for “low hanging fruits.” “You may have seven steps to automate, but do not do it all at once. Focus on those areas where you can get maximum benefit,” Mishra said.

Equally important is accuracy. "Accuracy is important because RPA is used for compliance reporting, which we see a lot of investment going to. If you commit a mistake in compliance reporting, you have to pay hefty fines," Mishra said.

Automating high-volume tasks should be the primary target for RPA projects. Mishra noted that automating such processes would give the most benefits. Those that involve frequent human intervention or judgment would not.

While the above issues may sound daunting, Mishra noted that it is critical for firms to begin deploying RPA now. It will allow the business teams to understand the real value behind it.

Often, many in business units see RPA as an additional burden. But once deployed, she observed a change in mindset.

"It is a cultural and mindset issue. But [once deployed] the conversation changes to how RPA can help them to take on bigger loads and allow their staff to do more meaningful work such as customer engagement and exception processing," she said.

The rewards are enormous. When done right, Mishra estimated that RPA could help firms to reduce turnaround times by 50-90%-- a significant benefit when competing in a dynamic, connected and 24x7 market environment.