Getting started with robotic process automation

You first need to envision how it will change the way you do business.

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Automation is much more than the future of business. It’s also the current reality. By one recent estimate, 85% of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) plan to adopt robotic process automation (RPA) in the next few years. Why are so many enterprises embracing this type of automation? With RPA, software robots emulate human interactions with digital systems. RPA robots can read screens, extract data, and fill in forms. That means they take over the repetitive aspects of digital work and free people to focus on tasks that require innovative thinking and creative problem solving. They can even work with humans side by side and ask for their help when they need their expertise or judgment.

Understanding how RPA can transform your business

To make a smart start with RPA, you first need to envision how it will change the way you do business. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits that C-suite leaders can expect from RPA:

  • It lowers operating costs - By completing tasks more efficiently and with greater accuracy, software robots bring down operating costs and accelerate time to value. It’s not uncommon for businesses to cut the time needed for tasks such as revenue reconciliation from days to hours.
  • It simplifies compliance - Regulatory mandates such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the U.S.’ Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can add significantly to an enterprise’s administrative overhead. RPA robots can help businesses stay in compliance by processing sensitive customer information securely and adhering to local, regional, and federal regulations.
  • It enriches the customer experience - By automating rules-based processes, organizations can redirect their customer service teams to more complex customer issues.
  • It improves the employee experience - RPA robots can take over the boring, repetitive tasks that take up so much of each workday. That means employees have more time for the high-value tasks that make work interesting and rewarding. One study even found that implementing RPA improved employee engagement and happiness by 57%.
  • It takes digital transformation from concept to reality - Many business processes rely on multiple systems that weren’t designed to work together and share data. RPA robots can help connect these silos and automate the cross-system processes that are key to digital transformation.

Best practice suggestions for deploying RPA

Because of these and other benefits, RPA adoption is gaining momentum. Every day, more businesses are putting RPA to work to automate the processes that used to slow them down. So how can you get started with this transformative technology?

The good news is that RPA implementation doesn’t require a huge team of experts. You also don’t need to “rip-and-replace” existing systems. And once you’re up and running, your process and industry experts can even create their own automations to solve their needs. But remember that automation changes the nature of the work. It directly affects what people do every day. That’s why you may want to start with a proof-of-concept project that shows the impact automation can have. With that first success, you can turn skeptics into advocates. People begin to see the possibilities, and their enthusiasm will grow as a result.

For your wider RPA rollout, you’ll want to build a cross-functional team that includes business and IT experts. Together, the team will audit your existing processes to identify the best candidates for automation. They will zero in on areas where employees spend the most time on manual and repetitive tasks. Or they can target where automation will deliver the best ROI. The cross-functional team will also look at processes that cause the most frustration for customers. It depends on your business needs.

The importance of executive buy-in

One of the critical success factors in any RPA rollout is C-suite leadership. Your project needs an executive champion—someone who can sell the vision, recruit allies, and inspire teams. Most importantly, though, your C-level executive will help lock in the budget needed for a wider rollout of RPA. Budgets reflect priorities. Your RPA deployment will require you to reassess where you want to invest for future innovation. That’s why an executive sponsor who has the respect of her fellow executives is so critical to your project.

Thriving in the ‘automation first’ era

We’re now in the automation first era—where automation is essential to meeting the competitive challenges you face. RPA is helping businesses all over the world achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and innovation, while creating a richer and more rewarding work environment for employees. Need some inspiration to kick off your own journey? You can start with some of these automation success stories.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.