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What is Robotic Process Automation?

Automation AnywhereBusinesses

While the term Robotic Process Automation (RPA) might sound intimidating to an individual or team that hasn’t had the opportunity to apply it to their daily operations, it’s actually a very simple tool, with immeasurable value. Distilling it down to its basic nature, RPA involves software robots, referred to as bots, that have the ability to learn, mimic, and then tackle any sort of white-collar, administrative, or managerial business process or task that requires structure, repetition, and is rule-based.

RPA automation doesn’t exist in a vacuum, however. The automation process enables users to create bots by introducing AI and machine learning software to observe human digital actions. You just need to show the bots what you want them to do, then let them do the work. RPA software bots can interact and work with any repetitive application or system the same way a company’s employees can. The only difference in function is that your RPA bots can operate around the clock, at a faster pace, and produce results with 100% reliability and precision.

RPA is an often misunderstood technology. Given how rapidly it has evolved and been applied in finance, human resources, and insurance functions and industries to manage routine processes such as claims handling, onboarding, compliance, and most importantly, customer service (to name a few), it’s irreplaceable. Especially as companies are undergoing a digital transformation to continue your organization’s efficacy moving forward. One can wonder how the business world functioned before this technology was readily available.

Key Characteristics of RPA Robots

Listed below are the main characteristics of RPA:

  • In its original iteration, RPA relied on humans to do the process, another human would watch the process, document it, and write an algorithm that a bot would follow. 
  • Intelligent Software – Now, RPA serves as an intelligent software layer that relies on procedural programming to automatically watch an employee do a standardized and routine process, step-by-step, learn how to do it, then execute. In most cases, it can take as little as a month to implement.
  • High Volume Data Handling- Within the user interface and process interaction RPA robots can handle high volumes of data, from multiple sources. For example, they can transport and use data from internal or external storage making the task an efficient process.
  • User-Interface Interaction- RPA bots can have a similar digital skillset as an employee. Functioning as a digital workforce, the bot interacts with systems and applications and can: 
    • Copy and paste 
    • Scrape data from the web 
    • Conduct calculations 
    • Open and move files
    • Read and analyze emails
    • Extract unstructured data
    • Adapt to any interface or workflow
    • Function as a chatbot 
  • Learning Capability- Advanced RPA bots can integrate with Artificial Intelligence (AI) through the implementation of machine learning algorithms. Machine learning automatically allows the RPA bot to learn and enhance abilities from each unique experience. Then, as the name suggests, it can automatically implement a process or execute an action, once criteria are met. 

When to Use RPA

Thankfully, setting up RPA isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s as simple as pressing play on a video, and dragging and dropping files on your computer. You don’t actually need any IT help to get a bot working optimally. And if you want to create a new one, reprogram it, schedule it, or customize it, it only needs a click of a button

Given that, where you apply your bots is only limited by your imagination and requirements. To flesh this out, let’s use a practical and real-world application of the software – Finance. Here, there are a lot of separate processes, rules, steps, and repetitive actions – perfect for RPA. It’s also a climate that requires accuracy, compliance, and strict rules; where a mistake can be incredibly costly for all parties involved.

Using the intelligent automation that RPA provides, you can improve productivity and reduce your labour expenses by automating any manual tasks that require a lot of data processing. Since it’s now the software doing the heavy lifting, it helps to eliminate processing and human errors and reduce your operational risk, while also strengthening your compliance.

Finally, there’s the human aspect. RPA can increase your resource capacity, to augment your workforce during peak times, while also assisting your teams with the customer side of things. RPA has vital applications with customer service, assisting with real-time access to customer information, resolving customer requests, identifying additional product/service needs, and offering an intelligent chatbot that can answer the more common FAQ’s, and only escalating to a human if the need arises.  

Ultimately, if your business relies on a regimented list of repeated tasks, that require accuracy and speed, then RPA could very well be your best solution. 

Below are the best uses when determining best fit robotic process automation:

  • Sufficiently high task volume
  • A rule-based process
  • Defined inputs and outputs throughout the process
  • Regularly repeated process

Benefits of RPA

Companies that want to grow and offer cutting-edge customer experience need to implement multiple automation technologies to the business process. RPA can be the first step in achieving more significant business process automation (BPA). Robotic process automation is a new technology that helps companies strengthen the productivity and efficiency of their business. Benefits of RPA include improving business results, enhancing accuracy, and improving customer satisfaction. 

Improving Business Results

While it sounds like RPA can do it all, it doesn’t replace the need for a trained and dedicated base of employees. With the use of RPA, however, employees can focus on higher-value tasks to improve business metrics, while the bots take care of any time-consuming, lower value (but still incredibly important) tasks. For example, a bot can scan an online form to ensure all the fields are relevant and filled out, before sending it to a hiring manager or an IT technician. In the finance space, a bot can conduct a credit check for a loan based on the requester’s information. The software has the ability to keep track of basic filing and data manipulation functions faster than humans, which reduces the overall processing time by a significant amount. For example, world-renowned futurist and technology thought leader Bernard Marr offers an anecdote that American Fidelity Insurance, upon implementing RPA, found that every 1 hour they spend on RPA, changes them by 10 hours afterwards.

Enhance Accuracy

As much as we hate to admit it, humans are prone to make mistakes, especially with repetitive tasks. We essentially become automated, which can lead to errors. This is the prime example of why RPA is necessary for the future and a company’s digital transformation. The most significant feature of robotic process automation is its ability to eliminate processing errors. RPA requires testing, training, and governance. Once the business processes are adequately optimized and vetted accurately, there will be no more worries about errors. 

Improving Customer Satisfaction

There is a high demand now more than ever for customer satisfaction. RPA can help with the high customer demand by doing repetitive tedious tasks, so that employees can focus on better customer service. The highly skilled and proficient workers can concentrate fully on the customer pain points. Automatically generating reports from analytics can help employees understand the needs of the customer more effectively. 

How RPA Is Useful From A Business Perspective

Robotic Process Automation can be used throughout numerous industries, and the benefits it can offer to businesses are evolutionary. RPA can be used as a tool to help businesses gain the upper hand momentum in their industry and gain valuable opportunities for a more efficiently run business. Below are a few ways how RPA is helpful from a business perspective. 

Increase Productivity

The robots built from the RPA system are completely focused on specific tasks. For example, suppose an employee is tasked with creating a monthly report that may take multiple hours, however with an RPA bot that is fully dedicated to that report, it can be achieved in under an hour. The bot can calculate, click, and navigate through the screen in seconds. This is a huge time saver for the employee, and they can focus on a task that requires their experience and training. As the saying goes, time is money, and that is true in this case, workers will become more productive and that will help with future cost avoidance. Process automation will help the business achieve higher productivity work output. 

Increase Efficiency

In tandem with the previous point, RPA software never sleeps, doesn’t take breaks, doesn’t call in sick. RPA works 24/7, 365 days a year. In an environment where time can be of the essence, a bot can answer questions and run complex tasks in tandem with an employee, or in lieu of one, if there’s a time-zone difference in business hours. It can also offer support to your teams in high volume and utilization situations, as the bots can complete the same volume of work in less time or more volume of work at the same time.

Increase Security

Robotic process automation functions on a granular level and is contained within your office’s online infrastructure.  Since the bot has been programmed with certain tasks, restrictions, and duties, there is no worry of data leakage from one point to the other. Data access is controlled and documented with every step by the bot. One of the biggest security risks in an IT environment is human error. RPA is a tool that should be used to help employees, not take away their jobs. RPA implementation demands the employee who is in charge of the system to control the workforce of both humans and the bot

Enhance Scalability Opportunities

Robotic process automation offers the flexibility to adapt throughout the workplace. At any moment a task may change or more tasks may be in high demand, that is where RPA steps in to adapt to the responsibilities. All innovative businesses know that the markets are unpredictable and continuously evolving, but with the help of RPA, it’s easier to manage the unexpected. 

Learn More About RPA With K2 Partnering Solutions 

According to a Gartner report, over 85% of all companies will have RPA by 2022. This means, in today’s workforce, regardless of vertical, digital transformation is the name of the game, just to stay competitive and relevant. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the financial industry. One such way, as we’ve outlined above, is via RPA. Whether it’s building a simple chatbot or automating complex back-office processes, the need for accuracy and immediacy is paramount.   

At K2, we’ve partnered with industry leaders Automation Anywhere to offer training and education in RPA for Finance, via our K2 University. Our Automation 360 for Finance course offers courses on best practices, certificate guidance, web data management, and chatbot development. 

 Click here to learn how we can help you transform your financial business. 

Ottilie Wood

Ottilie has worked with K2 since 2019. Over that time she has specialized in content creation to engage our world-class clients and customers.

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