To sum up the essence of robotic process automation (RPA) and the maximum benefit it ensures, at least from a purely "human" perspective, we may quote the definition provided by Professor Leslie Willcocks, one of the leading experts in this technology: "RPA takes the robot out of the human."
During an interview with McKinsey, Willcocks expanded on this concept, pointing out how employees engaged in typical back-office workflows face many repetitive and tedious routine tasks. Something that RPA software bots can perform faster and better, allowing humans to focus on much more motivating and satisfying activities involving emotional intelligence, critical thinking, decision-making, and social interactions.
In an ideal world, the well-being of workers would already be reason enough to promote RPA on a large scale. But obviously, this is not the case, and other merely economic factors must be taken into account too.
Fortunately, the benefits of RPA are numerous and consistent in financial terms. Let's discover the main advantages companies investing in this technology can reasonably expect to achieve, and some use cases in which such benefits can be maximized.
A new industrial revolution
RPA has been significantly impacting the service sector, which may be compared to industrial robots in the manufacturing system a century ago.
This new "industrial revolution" does not envisage the adoption of physical robots but of software robots capable of imitating the typical actions of employees in performing their duties.
Specifically, we're talking about many repetitive, time-consuming, high-volume tasks previously performed manually by human operators and now delegated to machines. In the long list of RPA use cases, we may include, for example:
Entering customer information in corporate databases
Moving data within and between applications
Enabling automated reporting
Sending emails and other notifications
What does RPA mean for companies?
The primary benefits ensured by automating business processes, according to Protiviti's Global RPA Survey, are the following three, regardless of the industry and the implementation stage:
Increased productivity (22%)
Better product quality (16%)
Strong competitive market position (15%)
However, differences can occur in the perceived importance of RPA's potential benefits based on the role of the professionals surveyed. For example, HR executives tend to consider customer satisfaction and employee engagement more critical due to their focus on people.
In this regard, It's also worth mentioning Pega's RPA and Digital Transformation study. According to their survey, the top three benefits of robotic process automation seem to be the greater efficiency, effectiveness, and accuracy of work (cited by 51% of respondents), the reduction in overall business costs (45%), and the improvement of employee experience (42%).
The same paper also highlighted that most respondents realized value from automating some of their business operations with bots. In addition, 66% of respondents said that RPA adoption ended up being more effective than they hoped, while only 7% felt bots failed to meet their expectations.
Top 5 RPA benefits
How to achieve these promising results? But first, let's delve more into the benefits unlocked by RPA adoption.
A significant increase in productivity is one of the main results experienced by companies investing in RPA. According to the ResearchAndMarkets report, a robotic process automation solution can replace 2 to 5 full-time employees and their workload, thereby increasing operations productivity.
For example, according to a UiPath case study highlighting the RPA in HR, a service provider from Germany automated the processing of sick leave certificates with an RPA solution capable of extracting data from transactions in SAP and feeding it into the customer's systems. This led to a 5% reduction in manual effort and an 80% decrease in processing time.
Moreover, if you want to make an app for your business, you can later integrate RPA bots into this app to handle repetitive tasks. This way, your employees will focus on higher-value activities that require creativity and human intervention.
2. Improved accuracy
Manually performing clerical activities on a large scale is repetitive and may cause frustration and subsequent human errors. Meanwhile, RPA bots never sleep and never get tired of doing the same task over and over again. Even if you run an online coaching business, you can take advantage of RPA bots. These bots can automate tasks, including data entry, freeing up time for coaches to focus on helping clients to achieve their goals.
In another UiPath case study involving one of the UK's largest betting and gambling companies, Ladbrokes Coral, RPA implementation resulted in 100% accuracy for e-wallet balance reporting and reconciliation.
3. Enhanced compliance
Bots' superior accuracy makes them effective solutions that can help handle regulatory and audit compliance, particularly in fiscal legislation and data management. This capability makes RPA one of the most valuable solutions in the banking, finance, and insurance sectors.
For example, UiPath created a robot that ensured enough physical money at a bank's branches and cash machines instead of its cash management team. The safe and compliant solution reduced the amount of idle cash, making no interest, reduced the number of employees required for this task, and reduced costs for cash transportation and guarding.
4. Cost savings
More efficient, accurate, and rapid management of corporate processes leads to cost-cutting. Based on the Protiviti study, the percentage of respondents who reported moderate, large, or very large cost decreases varied among different industries, from 54% in the tech-media-telecom macro group and 40% in the financial services to 17% in retail.
An example of relevant cost reduction ensured by RPA comes, once again, from UiPath's case studies. A major global insurance provider deployed robots to enhance data extraction from customers' letters or emails and match the data with the proper claims forms. By automating this task and other related processes, this company achieved savings of 18,000 working hours and £140,000 (about $170,000) within six months.
5. Customer satisfaction
Robotic process automation delegates repetitive tasks to bots, freeing employees time for high-value services, such as communicating and interacting with customers. As a result, employees can render timely support and elaborate personalized approaches to every customer, improving their experience and loyalty and increasing retention rates.
For example, according to McKinsey's findings, robots can speed up service desk ticket resolution by automating up to 40-80% of the entire customer support workflow.
Combining human and financial factors
One of the main strengths of RPA solutions is delivering substantial benefits both from a purely economic and a human point of view.
On the one hand, the greater productivity and accuracy achieved by integrating bots into business workflows also results in increased revenues. But on the other hand, automation is an essential tool to improve customer experience and make employees follow a more human and less "robotic" approach to work.
However, considering only the benefits of robotic process automation for the workforce might sound vaguely naive. Indeed, the opposite side of the coin, when it comes to implementing such technologies on a large scale, is a potential restructuring of the job market.
These reasonable concerns lead us to something that any manager should keep in mind when adopting RPA solutions: the importance of the human factor, especially in retraining. Expanding employees' skills allows them to complete all the tasks and duties that cannot be fully automated. Therefore, employees' enhanced qualification is essential for the seamless integration of RPA software into the corporate workflow.
Considering the global shortage of specialist skills affecting the job market, especially in IT, this choice could be a wise long-term investment.