July 19, 2017 | InBrief

Robotic process automation: Beyond the myth

Robotic process automation: Beyond the myth

The hype surrounding robotic process automation (RPA) continues to grow. It has many people imagining robots along an assembly line, packaging product to be delivered by drones in a matter of minutes. But the reality is that robotic process automation is the next technology automation tool designed to drive better operational efficiency, improve customer experience, and increase employee value.

West Monroe Tests RPA Internally to Bring Best Practices to Clients There's a new robot in town at West Monroe's human resources department, and it's expected to shave off hours of work.

The bot, programmed into an unassuming Lenovo Thinkpad, helps employees at the Chicago-based business and information technology consulting firm bring on new workers, entering data into a laundry list of systems. It's a job that takes an HR representative about 25 minutes. Rosie — named after the housemaid robot on "The Jetsons" — can do it in five.

Read more in the Chicago Tribune.

Assess your digital comfort level

Technology implementations are rarely successful without first establishing the right strategy, people, and processes. Robotic process automation is no different. Start by determining the work that needs to happen to operate a business, and analyze each of those functions to understand how employees are spending their time (for example, through a Manager Effectiveness Blueprint. Prioritize which processes need to be done by a human and which could be done by a digital employee. Draw a line where you are comfortable.

Your digital comfort level will vary based on your priorities – could customer experience be improved through chatbots and digital employees? Or would the change wreak havoc on customer loyalty? Are back-office operations forcing existing employees to spend too much time on manual processes, spreadsheets, and paper? Are routine, mundane processes prone to human error?

Using a bank as an example, analyze the activities that happen every day across retail branches, commercial banking, and online banking. Financial institutions have many functions, especially in the middle and back office, that are highly manual and time-intensive. This manual intervention results in processes that are inefficient, prone to human error, and performed by employees that are focused on repetitive, non-value add activities. By automating these processes using RPA, financial institutions can allow their employees to focus on innovation and customer experience enhancements while eliminating unnecessary costs through a program that does not include the expenses or timelines associated with large-scale IT transformations or custom integrations.

Think about RPA differently

As with any technology, there is such a thing as “over automation.” The purpose of robotic process automation is to free up time for your employees to focus on areas where they can drive value, not responding to emails or filing papers. In many ways, a more apt term for robotic process automation would be “human interaction enablement.” Your employees are critical to building relationships, loyalty, and trust among customers – and, when focused on those activities, they drive sales and growth. These activities are highly customized to cater to increasing customer demands – and cannot be replicated within robotic process automation. In short, RPA is really about freeing people from mundane or repetitive tasks so they can focus on things that only people can do.

Implement RPA thoughtfully

Rather than viewing robotic process automation as replacing employees, think of it as repurposing them. Implemented correctly, robotic process automation can increase the effectiveness of your employees in managing teams, driving sales, and improving customer loyalty by eliminating mundane and wasteful tasks. It’s the next evolution of combining productivity, automation, and customer experience to drive top- and bottom-line results. Your employees can focus on more interesting work, learn new skills, and enhance their reputation as innovators rather than spending time on “busy work.” 

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