RPA and How It's Adding Value in the Workplace
While we have seen recently that hyperautomation is spreading rapidly in organizations that have already come to terms with automation, for the moment and until hyperautomation becomes more accessible, most companies are happy to master robotic process automation (RPA).
RPA is a form of business process automation technology based on metaphorical software robots (bots) or on artificial intelligence digital workers. It is sometimes referred to as software robotics.
RPA in Organizations
In traditional workflow automation tools, a software developer produces a list of actions to automate a task and interface to the back-end system using internal application programming interfaces (APIs) or dedicated scripting language. In contrast, RPA systems develop the action list by watching the user perform that task in the application's graphical user interface (GUI), and then perform the automation by repeating those tasks directly in the GUI. So, what does it bring to the digital workplace?
Rule-based automation (RBA) is a good entry point for non-technical founders and management. Finding and implementing a ready-made piece of software or commissioning a custom-built solution to one of your company's pain points, is not an easy feat, said Karl Hughes, founder of Chicago-based Draft.dev.
The biggest challenges are both fully integrating into daily standard operating procedures (SOP) and establishing an SOP for maintaining, updating, or re-evaluating the automation. Once these tasks are accomplished, companies and their employees will see the benefits of automation
Coupling RPA with artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and sub-roles can directly facilitate team members' growth potential. It is also important to note that many company leaders worry automation will intimidate their long-cultivated, loyal team. In truth, some employees worry about this as well.
In sum, RPA allows companies to shift human resources to higher-value tasks. Instead of fearing automation, employees should feel comfortable that hyperautomation's introduction to the workplace is an opportunity to upskill, which is in any employee's best career interests.
Introducing employees to the present and future of work, automation, can help them leap-frog promotion levels, or pivot into a new field entirely. For example, what if an employee could shift their focus from daily or weekly analysis of a spreadsheet, poring through hundreds to millions of rows of data, to instead developing 3-5 strategy pivot suggestions based on AI's analysis summary?
Related Article: Robotic Process Automation: Power to the People in 2021
RPA Is Not Enough
Peter Brodsky, CEO and co-founder of New York City- based Hyperscience, points out that while RPA is useful, it is also important to realize that having one bot performing the same task repeatedly without room for variation, is no longer enough. What is more, most companies utilizing RPA also still have processes that are heavily monitored and managed by humans, who are often spending extended periods of time and energy fixing errors from these legacy technologies — it is just not sustainable, efficient or easy to scale for the long-term.
By using intelligent automation, organizations can automate large, complex workflows typically handled by humans while adapting and asking for help when required — allowing for humans to spend more time on creative, strategic and engaging work. This is especially effective in the financial services industry, where organizations leverage automated document processing for opening account applications, processing loan requests and extracting data from a variety of document types. More accurate and streamlined results increase organizations' ROI, reduce cost and provide a better experience for the end-user.
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As we look to adopt more decision-centric intelligent automation across the enterprise, we must come to expect more from the technology. By doing this, we can tap the full potential of both our people and our technologies, enabling seamless collaboration, increased throughput and overall efficiency.
While automation is the use of advanced technologies to replace humans in low-value, repetitive, and tedious tasks with the goal of increasing profitability and lowering operating costs. It benefits businesses by allowing them more flexibility in how they operate and by increasing employee productivity by automating the most time-consuming and repetitive tasks so that employees can focus on more important tasks.
Related Article: BPA vs. RPA: How Are They Similar, How Are They Different?
In practice, the objective is to improve workflows and processes. Alex Kwiatkowski is principal industry consultant for financial services at UK-based SAS. He points out that banks are constantly seeking efficiency gains. Firms have long sought to remove time-consuming, and occasionally error-prone, manual tasks in favor of technology-infused, straight-through processing in the front, middle and back offices. More than just fanciful hyperbole, automation has proven an enabler to achieving such goals.
No matter the bank, there's always room for improvement. Keep in mind, too, that these advances need not be giant leaps forward but are often the aggregation of marginal gains, if you will. Small improvements across the enterprise can really add up. This is especially true in areas of the operation that are complex, sensitive and/or time critical. Here are some examples.
- Risk-related compliance and reporting: Automation can help firms ensure they meet their regulatory obligations more quickly and easily by ensuring all requested information is surfaced and shared automatically in real-time and not compiled manually on a “best efforts” basis.
- Improving customer experience: Banks can remove points of friction and frustration from the customer experience by injecting automation into as many client-facing processes as possible.
We are all familiar with the concept of automation. It has made our lives easier and one way or another, we have been better because of automation.
As a result, humans are going to have more time to focus on higher work functions and to do things that only people can really do, at least for now. While we have already seen that this is evolving into hyperautomation — a form of automation that pulls advanced technology together — at the heart of all this is RPA and the drive to make the digital workplace more productive.
About the Author
David is a full-time journalist based in Paris, who spends his time working between Ireland, the UK and France. A partisan of ‘green’ living and conservation, he is particularly interested in information management and how enterprise content management, analytics, big data and cloud computing impact on it.