RPA – Tale of the Tape
The term automation’s coinage can be attributed to Delmar S. Harder in 1948. Delmar was the Vice President of the Ford Motor Company when he coined the term, and he summarized his organization’s objective to defeat the competitors with the phrase “what we need is more automation.” The concept of automation, however, can be traced all the way back to antiquity, the eight century BC to be exact. Homer put forth the tale of Hephaestus in his epic poem The Illiad. Hephaestus was a Greek deity of fire and metalworks who was given the task of producing weaponry for the gods of Olympus. He produced the automatons to help him in his workspace. These automatons were self-operational machines, or robots, constructed from metal.
Automatons were lost to time, and it wasn’t until a couple of thousand years and a few centuries that industrial automation witnessed its ascent and begin to expand at a speedy pace. From simplistic mechanization, which can be termed as the displacement of physical labour, to more complicated automation, which is the displacement of psychological labour, to the more recent Robotic Process Automation. The adopting of automation was already expanding at a significant pace prior to our encounter with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The world has drastically changed since, which includes the speed of automation adoption. A majority of organizations, regardless of their domain, are rushing to leverage some format of automation to reduce expenditure and do more with less or be ready to perish.
Robotic Process Automation, known as RPA is an emergent technology that leverages software to emulate human behaviour and finish monotonous activities. To be more particular, Robotic Process Automation is the application of technologies that enable staff members in an organization to configure computer software or a “robot” to go about capturing and interpreting current applications for process of a transaction, manipulation of information, triggering responses, and interacting with other digital systems. Robotic Process Automation isn’t a substitute to other systems such as CRM or ERP. Rather, it utilizes these systems by connecting them via software (scripts, software robots, etc.) to execute activities that are manually carried out by end-users. The non-intrusive disposition of RPA and its leveraging of low-code visual drag-and-drop mechanism in the pursuit of automation of workflows of procedures, makes them more desired over more complicated and disruptive end-to-end IT solutions.
The different variants
Robotic process automation encompasses three differing variants:
- Unattended RPA – These are fully autonomous software that work in the background to execute activities with no need for human intervention, unless, obviously, there are exceptions to be managed. For instance, they would look at an incoming email, get the invoice from the attached file, and input data into the ERP system, automatically. An exception may occur when an attachment cannot be read or has wrong data formatting. The script will persist after the error has been rectified by a human agent.
- Attended RPA – Also referred to as RDA or Robotic Desktop Automation, these are the scripts that help people to enhance or augment their efficiency. For instance, chat bots that furnish data to call centre employees to provide responses to client questions, therefore saving them from time intensive search.
- Hybrid RPA – As the name indicates, this is the combination of both the previously discussed forms of RPA.
Recently, RPA solutions have begun to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like machine learning to enhance the experience of staff members and clients. These solutions are called Cognitive RPA. As an instance, conventional RPA assists automation leveraging structured data whereas Cognitive RPA facilitates enterprises to automate processes that consist of data of unstructured origin, therefore enabling these enterprises to go about automating more complicated and less rule-based tasks.
Capgemini has made the claim that RPA utilities are approximately 65% less costly than offshore-based fulltime employee (FTE) and that back-office staff members allocate approximately 80% of their time on tedious manual activities thereby reducing their performance and degree of motivation. Automation of these monotonous tasks will enable them to focus on more value-adding tasks, making their jobs more attractive and value-creating for the organization at large. A similar survey carried out illustrates that approximately 7/10ths of staff members see the biggest avenue of automation in minimizing time used on repetitive tasks that consists of data gathering, approvals, and status updates. Approximately 6/10ths estimate they could save in excess of six hours in a workweek with the help of automation.
A research carried out by Computer Economic Technology which included approximately 250 enterprises spread out across many domains and with revenues ranging from $20 million to over $1 billion came to the conclusion that nearly 50% of enterprises reported a positive return within 1 and a half years of deploying. This holds much more promise as an outcome in contrast to enterprise software that takes a lot longer to implement and is nearly always challenging in gaining adoption.
The ROI (Return on Investment) with regards to Robotic Process Automation surpasses mere cost savings into the spheres that consist of:
- Client satisfaction
- Insights and analytics
- Legacy systems
- 24/7 operations
- Expenditure reductions
- Enhanced efficiency
- Valuable work
- Internal control and traceability
There are some of the spheres where RPA can provide high levels of returns.
- Inputting, altering, and tracking of HR documentation, contracts, and staff information
- Identifying issues with client service and taking actions to find solutions to issues
- Process of insurance claims
- Transmitting invoices
- Issuing of refunds to clients
- Reconciling financial records
- Transfer of information from one system to another
- Furnishing standardized responses to clients
Spheres that will not reap advantages from RPA are the processes the necessitate independent, human judgment, or if they are subjected to constant changes.
RPA and Covid 19
Over one third of the planet’s population is experiencing some format of lockdown at the current time and RPA is playing a critical part in maintaining the functionality of systems and processes. Going by one of the latest polls carried out by Pulse, 50% of approximately fifty enterprises in this network are leveraging some variant of automation to assist employees in coping with the pandemic. Fedscoop has made the claim that the Department of Homeland Security of the US developed an automation of approximately 500 bots in one and a half days to execute coronavirus-associated data analysis.
Two successful implementations of Robotic Process Automation have been quoted recently. First instance is of Mater Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, that is leveraging RPA tools to process COVID-19 testing kits, facilitating them to obtain results in minutes and saving three hours each day as an average. Second instance is of Maccabi Health Services and Kryon Systems that together put out a process, from the ground up, in two days to interpret data from Excel sheets into Maccabi’s system. Robotic Process Automation implementations are much quicker than conventional enterprise software implementations.
Several more implementations are in progress across the world, particularly in Government and Healthcare domains.
Going by Forrester Wave, the following ten solutions are the leading performers in the RPA market.
- Automation Everywhere
- Blue Prism
- NICE Systems