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Robotic Process Automation

by | Jun 21, 2019 | BLOG

In the business world, the words productivity, speed, and efficiency are very common. These are some characteristics required by the market in relation to organizations, regardless of size or industry. However, achieving the desired productivity and efficiency can be difficult when internal processes require many tasks and operations to be performed at the same time.

These business activities today can be repetitive for many employees, such as exchanging e-mails with pre-programmed messages, inserting pre-established information into the system, executing continuous commands, and other actions that may be often mechanical and are performed with others that require more interactivity of the employee, and that may  cause a series of operational errors.

Robotic Process Automation – or simply RPA – is a technology that is meant to perform routine tasks and activities in the same way a regular employee would do. Even with the term “robot” linked to the technology, RPA is not a human-looking machine, but software that interacts with the system by performing tasks, structuring data, and many other common and repetitive activities.

These “robots” can be responsible for procedures and events programmed to be executed daily. A responsibility that was previously added to an employee who had to dedicate time from their duties to perform the system’s activities can now be forwarded to an RPA, while the employee has more time to devote to activities that (yet) cannot be performed by these robots, as tasks linked to creativity. It is worth remembering that, by performing repetitive tasks automatically, the use of RPA is only interesting for organizations that have good maturity in their business processes.

Robot software can be built to execute and solve specific problems, and countless types of organizations can take advantage of including RPA in their business processes. Financial institutions, industries, and IT companies are some examples of sectors that can benefit from RPA to perform tasks, accelerating procedures that can consequently streamline the delivery of answers that employees need for decision-making, making the whole process more efficient and faster.

Process modeling through RPA allows the performance of tasks faster and more efficiently than a person does. However, RPA does not replace humans because the technology lacks the ability to perform activities that require decision-making to be completed. Because they are robots, it can be easy to associate them with Artificial Intelligence, or AI. However, these are different technologies. AI makes decisions and learns from everything it performs, while the robot software does not have the ability to learn anything from its tasks, it only performs what it was programmed to do. In addition, the robots in RPA are programmed to operate by using the applications and services available in the system.

Some manufacturers of these software robots already think of inserting modules that can understand and structure data, solve problems and learn from them. Although these features are not yet found in most of the RPAs available in the market, in the future they can become common features.

Some of the benefits of using RPA in an organization’s processes are:

  • Reduction of costs: It is cheaper to use a robot than to hire a person to perform simple and repetitive activities;
  • Productivity: a robot can work 24 hours a day, with no need for interruptions;
  • Employee Satisfaction: Employees who once performed repetitive and monotonous tasks can engage in more challenging and more important activities;
  • Risk mitigation: software performs exactly what it has been programmed for, and this reduces the chance of errors in the tasks performed;
  • Process improvements: processes will be performed more quickly;
  • Auditing: Software keeps logs of all activities performed, contributing with evidence to an audit.  
  • Consistency: As the robot is programmed to perform tasks in the same way, then all executions will always have the same result.  

The robot can be developed internally, but it is also possible to outsource this activity, hiring a third-party tool and configuring it to meet the needs of the client that acquires it.  As much as it is an IT tool, it must be under the supervision of the department that will have its processes automated. One of the reasons for this approach is that the IT department may not be able to understand if the robot is actually doing the data inclusion correctly in an HR spreadsheet, since this knowledge is unique to that department. Developing the robot internally or not, the area that will use the software should participate in the planning of the process of inserting it into the system.  

Before adopting the technology, the following aspects must be considered:

  1. Aligning what will be expected of the software: define what activities of the process the robot will perform, at what frequency and what the expected results of its executions are;
  2. Choosing the best process to automate: Using RPA to automate all processes and activities can cause more problems than resolving existing ones. The department and IT staff should take the time to learn and adapt to the new technology before it is implemented in the appropriate processes, reminding them that they are only routine and do not require human intervention;
  3. Understanding the Investment: Adopting an RPA will reduce costs, but firstly, in order to acquire or build the software internally, it will result in an initial investment that may or may not be feasible at the time;
  4. Do not choose problematic processes: if any process needs to be reassessed or redone, the RPA will not be able to be adherent to this process. In this case, it is up to the organization to adjust these processes before inserting a robot to perform the related activities;
  5. Preparing employees: The addition of new technology can scare old employees and make them fear for their jobs. A good practice would be to help them understand the benefits of implementing the software for both their company and their professional development;
  6. Evaluating the best platform: There are many manufacturers of RPA solutions in the market, and one must analyze which of these actually meets the needs of the business and has the desired functionalities.  
  7. Testing: Create a test environment before the deployment itself. For that matter, the goal is to know, before the purchase of the software and the consequential change in the processes that the solution will bring, if the organization has enough maturity to suit the technology, so that there is no waste of money and time with a tool to which the organization is not yet ready to deal with.

Every technology brings changes, but often great benefits. Because of this, it is of the utmost importance that the management makes sure that it truly wants to embrace this technology with all the advantages and transformations it can provide.  

Improving processes is a common goal of organizations. In this context, an RPA tool accomplishes this by taking routine operations out of human hands and transferring them to virtual robots to perform tasks more efficiently and quickly.  RPA is an automation tool that, when implemented, can bring productivity, efficiency, and speed to a company, benefiting everyone without replacing the importance of human work.

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