With constant pressure to increase efficiencies and reduce costs, many organisations are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) as a solution. According to Gartner, spending on RPA technology will reach $2.4 billion by 2022. This automation takes over mundane, repetitive tasks to free the human workforce to focus on other higher-level activities.
What is robotic process automation (RPA)?
RPA is technology that can automate business processes that are rules-based, structured and repetitive. A company can use RPA tools to communicate with other digital systems, capture data, retrieve information, process a transaction and more. Consider RPA "robots" that are programmed to complete specific business processes. Financial firms were the first to adopt RPA, but there are now companies in many industries, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing and more who use RPA technology.
Robotic process automation reduces labour costs as well as prevents human error. In one example, a large consumer and commercial bank used 85 software bots to run 13 processes that handled 1.5 million requests in a year. This allowed the bank to add capacity that equalled 230 full-time employees at just about 30 per cent the cost of recruiting more staff.
While RPA has impressive results for many companies, there are many examples where RPA implementations have failed. Often, companies underestimate the cost and time involved in installing RPA solutions, and they discover it's more complex than first thought to scale RPA technology successfully.
The next phase of RPA technology will combine artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make it more powerful. Imagine RPA being the arms and legs of a bot and artificial intelligence is the brains. AI gets more intelligent over time by assessing the data that RPA can provide. Instead of just completing a programmed action, RPA, with the help of AI, would be able to determine what action to take based on the data.
10 Amazing Examples of Robotic Process Automation in practise
RPA helps companies from numerous industries complete a wide variety of tasks. When I work with businesses helping them with their digital transformation and to improve performance, I see hundreds of great RPA examples. Here are just 10 of them:
1. Call centre operations
Many of the customer requests received by call centres can be supported with RPA technology; common customer queries and solutions can be provided to agents via a dashboard. When an issue gets escalated to human customer service agents, RPA can help consolidate all the information about a customer on a single screen, so the agents have all the information they need from multiple systems to provide exemplary service.
2. Data migration/entry and forms processing
Employees are often required to pull relevant information from legacy systems in order to have the data available for newer systems. RPA can support this manual process and complete it without introducing human error. When paper forms need to be transferred to digital, an RPA solution can read the forms and then get the data into the system freeing up humans to do other things.
3. Claims administration
In healthcare and insurance, RPA is used to input and process claims. RPA tools can do this faster and with fewer errors than humans. The tech can also identify exceptions that don’t comply to ultimately save unnecessary payments.
4. Onboarding employees
RPA provides the perfect solution to ensure that every employee is onboarded according to the established process and that they receive all the information required to comply with company guidelines.
5. Help desk
As the first line to address user’s technical problems, RPA can help diminish the workload of the human help desk by taking care of straightforward, repetitive issues. These level-one tech support issues are simple but time-consuming. In addition, regular diagnostic tests of a company’s computer systems completed by bots will help the human IT staff stay ahead of issues.
6. Support the sales process
Any sales division would tell you, time that should be spent building relationships is instead used on administrative tasks such as updating the customer relationship management (CRM) system, setting up the client in the billing system, and inputting data into sales metrics and monitoring systems. Robotic process automation can be used to streamline each of these activities.
7. Scheduling systems
Online scheduling of patients for healthcare appointments can be enhanced with RPA technology. Bots can gather all patient details such as insurance information, appointment request, location preferences and more to make appointment scheduling more efficient.
8. Credit card applications
Today, bots are behind the scenes processing the majority of credit card applications. They can be programmed to easily handle all aspects of the process from gathering information and documents, doing credit and background cheques, and ultimately deciding if the applicant is worthy of receiving credit and issuing the actual card.
9. Expense management
Most companies require their employees to input details on expense reports such as business name, data and amounts that an RPA bot can automatically extract from submitted receipts.
10. Pulling data from multiple websites to find the best deal
Whether you're looking to travel or purchase a vehicle, you want to get the best deal, and RPA tech can help make it happen by scraping data off websites, comparing it and showing you the best deal.
These ten examples will hopefully give you a flavour of how RPA is used in practise today and hopefully shows the enormous potential of this technology for any business.
Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.