Robotic Process Automation
Robotic Process Automation is a big topic right now. It is a central part of all advanced efforts in digital transformation. No wonder, as it promises companies to get rid of repetitive tasks and tedious paperwork for the sake of engaging in more value-creating work. But how does RPA work? Whom is it for? And what could be robotic process automation use cases for your smaller business? Find the answers in this blog post.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic process automation is the robot-based automation of business processes previously performed by employees in operating systems and software. The robots (RPA bots) in RPA are software snippets that can carry out a predefined set of tasks.
About RPA and AI: RPA is different from Artificial Intelligence as RPA bots follow a predefined set of tasks, whereas AI tools can recognize patterns, find solutions to problems by observing and can digitize highly variable real-world events and conditions. RPA tools make use of AI-based technologies such as OCR (optical character recognition).
What Use Cases are there for my small business?
First of all, the large RPA software companies like UiPath or Automation Anywhere offer free community editions. The technology cost for implementing RPA is close to zero. But, what use-cases make sense from a benefits/cost perspective?
Generally speaking, you want to look at three metrics:
- How often do you execute a process? It is highly beneficial to automate something you do multiple times a day. On the same note, it’s instead not too useful to automate a process that you only execute once a month.
- How long does each process execution take your staff? The more time-consuming a process is, the more attractive a candidate it is for automation.
- What’s the effort and cost of automating the process? Look at three types of cost: Technology, RPA implementation cost and maintenance.
1 and 2 will give you an idea of automation’s benefits, 3 will tell you the cost involved. When picking a process to automate, aim for the most favourable ratio between these things.
A benefit of RPA as compared to other automation frameworks is that it will work with legacy systems. You can continue to use your software stack and build the automation on top of it.
Additionally, the most used RPA tools usually require little to no coding and can be deployed faster than automation solutions developed from scratch.
DATA SCRAPING AND DATA ENTRY
Someone in your team looks up data in one place (such as a website, software or a document) and enters it into another place. With today’s OCR (optical character recognition), the data source could even be scanned documents. Processes like this are great candidates for automation. Here are some examples:
- Entering information about a new employee into your human resources systems
- Entering information into your accounting system, e.g. invoice processing
- Entering customer data into your CRM system
- Inputting time worked from your time-tracking software into your payroll software to take work off your HR department.
AUTOMATED REPORT GENERATION
Someone in your team collects data to compile a report. The structure of the report is stable over time, and the sources remain the same? Software robots could do this data extraction and compilation.
Here are some examples:
- Compiling a report about your marketing efforts out of data from Facebook, Google Analytics and Email-Software
- Setting up a business intelligence dashboard that collects financial performance data from different tools (accounting, controlling, bank-account)
- Gathering insights about your manufacturing processes, which consists of data from your ERP system, your production system and your inventory software.
DOCUMENT PROCESSING OR SUBMISSION
Do you and your team save, move or upload documents repeatedly? If so, this could be a great candidate for automation. Here are some inspirations:
- Uploading invoices into your accounting system to increase the efficiency of bookkeeping
- Saving incoming documents in drive folders for documentation purposes
- Saving freight documents with your order information (logistics & supply chain management)
SOCIAL MEDIA AUTOMATION
Not all social media platforms offer possibilities to schedule posts or activities. RPA can help here. Here’s what it can do:
- Publish pre-written posts at a defined date and time
- Like or reply to comments on posts
- Send our pre-written private messages to contacts in your contact list
There’s an endless list of processes that require comparing two datasets about the same subject but from different sources. RPA can help with reconciliation. Examples include:
- Travel expenses processing to take work off your hr employees’ plate
- Comparing transaction and receipt data for your accounting with high accuracy
- Claims processing in healthcare or insurance companies
- Processing warranty or return/refund claims in customer service/retail industry
If you have questions about how RPA can benefit your business, get in touch!