Robotic Process Automation Is No Longer Sci-Fi
By: Todd Smekens
BLOG – When you hear terms like robotic process automation, a personal assistant device Alexa and supercomputer Watson may come to mind. Indeed, those cognitive computing innovations represent the highest level of artificial intelligence under development today.
But where this technology may be difficult to implement at an enterprise level, companies that adopt RPA solutions will quickly realize their inherent benefits. Furthermore, the strategies mean a win-win for all company stakeholders. Yes, even you, the employee. Here’s a little 4-1-1 on RPA and some ideas about how you can implement some of these solutions.
What is RPA?
In essence, using robotic process automation in business allows specially-tailored software to mimic the activity of a human being to carry out various repetitive and routine tasks. Now, this doesn’t sound particularly revolutionary, as we have been automating functions for decades and have moved on to more sophisticated uses of AI.
But one key differentiator of RPA vs. other AI is that this technology is run by a business owner or virtually any other employee — not just your everyday programmer. And these solutions are beginning to be rolled out at an enterprise level with tremendous success.
RPA vs. Cognitive Intelligence
Today, while RPA is a less advanced technology compared to AI that powers smart robots, it’s just as powerful. Developed by programmers, AI is run from software programs that function as the robot’s brain. In particular, some of the latest innovations allow AI to learn new skills or comprehend human language, reasoning, and judgment.
Furthermore, because RPA doesn’t require coding or technical maintenance, these solutions are more likely to be utilized by everyday professionals who are looking to automate tedious business tasks that don’t often need a lot of in-depth knowledge or understanding.
For example, one insurer studied by academics at the London School of Economics used RPA to account for and process upward of 500 insurance policies. The result? Processing time decreased from two days to a lightning-fast 30 minutes. No, that’s not a typo.
The Power of RPA
But the efforts didn’t just stop there. McKinsey detailed how the London School of Economics completed another 15 case studies using RPA to analyze the insurance provider’s ROI and the technology’s effect on employees and the overall business. The result? The insurer’s ROI for each of the studies varied between a respectable 30 percent to an astonishing 200 percent.
Of course, the impact of RPA can be felt throughout a slew of other industries, too. In particular, software provider Aspect has dove into RPA with its Activity Automation solution to make employees’ lives easier within a cloud contact center. In essence, this integrated software has been able to capture and write data across multiple business applications, allowing customer service agents to focus on support duties and oversight, as opposed to data entry.
Additionally, Swiss Post Solutions implemented an RPA solution for its client, who previously had to manually process a detailed list of unpaid customer credit card bills. The complexity and irritation around this manual-entry process resulted in overdue and delayed payments.
But through the deployment of a real-time automated solution, the stockpile of delinquent and delayed customer payments decreased exponentially. Nearly 100 percent of all cases were more efficiently processed compared to 40 percent before deploying RPA. And while efficiency improved, employees also had more time to focus on priorities instead of tedious tasks.
The Future of RPA
Where advancements in cognitive AI may eventually displace employees and make factories completely autonomous, RPA stands to empower employees continuously. While cognitive AI is sophisticated, it can also create a host of ethical issues with unintended consequences.
Meantime, turnkey RPA solutions can be rolled out without companies having to lay off employees or provide much in the way of training. And because RPA requires human oversight, employees ultimately have control over what should be automated and how. Finally, this opens the door and provides more opportunity for employees to engage in more creative and desirable work — thereby improving productivity and morale.
Looking to integrate RPA solutions into your company but aren’t sure how to go about it? Some of the more seamless applications include the following:
- Finance and Banking: Creating new and verifying existing customer account information; processing financial claims and loans
- Telecommunications: Collecting and consolidating customer data from client phone systems; backing up information from various client systems, and transferring customer data between applications
- Healthcare: Administering patient data migration and reporting; processing patient bills, and providing more efficient patient record storage
- Retail: Automatically updating online inventory and product information; importing website orders and email sales into back-end systems
- Government: Verifying existing processes; populating forms and assigning subcontractors to jobs, and integrating legacy systems with newer systems
- HR: Providing employee on-boarding; better managing leave of absence requests; more efficiently populating employee data into multiple systems, and offering performance appraisal management
- IT: Creating new accounts; installing software and updates more seamlessly, and setting up printers and workstations