RPA what is it, how do we go about seeing if it’s right for us and deploying it

What is RPA? (Robotic Process Automation)
Quite simply, it is software. This software is often referred to as robotic because it mimics the keystrokes of people on a computer. It (in simple terms) will use a keyboard and mouse to go about its business. Just like its human counterpart, it can open Outlook, read emails, take information from that email, log in using an id to a separate system to validate data and action according to the needs of the business. This could be to open another database and insert this data into the correct fields or create an Excel spreadsheet or go online and action there. It’s so versatile (as it navigates as we do through a PC) that it can touch/action multiple systems quickly and easily.

Why is it so useful?
Any workflow from 10 – 150 steps can be automated in most departments and all industries
Quick to deploy and unlike fixed API’s easy to tweak
Provides full audits
If you can remove 60-70% of your teams’ day to day work that consists of repetitive tasks like (AP, reporting, online searches, HR, Legal, Compliance) you will have the capacity to add value in other parts of the business. We just don’t need people to perform the same long-winded workflows anymore. We no longer stuff envelopes, stamp or hole punch and file in the same way people did 20 years ago and now we don’t need to update spreadsheets, reconcile bank statements, read and screen emails or invoices, move data through multiple systems manually anymore. The use cases are endless depending on how your business works and what it needs.

Once implemented it is said that a software robot can devour over three times the work an employee does at a fraction of the cost, 24 hours a day 365 days a year. They are relentless.

We’re interested, what now?
This is a good point, on the one hand, you need to work out what is automatable and then if doing this will add value to the business. Often people only think in terms of ROI – “ it cost x to pay 5 people to do this- are the bots cheaper?”. Whilst this has a place its also about where you can improve your business using automation, what other things can your staff do now they have more time. By getting data processed quicker and error free what will this impact? Making customers and clients happier, how do you put a figure on that? Like your marketing budget, you have to think laterally when qualifying the reward and the same can be said in some cases for automation. We know it will be more efficient and cost-effective to automate most business, this is taken for granted but as the technology concept is still fairly new how do we quantify and where do you start?

Stage 1 use an RPA consultancy to tell you what can be automated – then decide which vendor is best fit
Stage 2 produce a business case based on ROI and/or what value this will add
Stage 3 scope – improve and standardise workflows
Stage 4 implement and UAT
Stage 5 redeploy employees elsewhere