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Data entry can be a tedious, mundane task, requiring the re-entry of the same information over and over again, or the constant copying and pasting of data from one application to another. Robotic process automation (RPA) is revolutionising the way we interact with our business systems through the use of software robots that can automate many of these repetitive tasks.

As implemented today, RPA robots can mimic many human user actions, such as moving digital files and folders, copying and pasting data, and filling out digital forms. In large organisations that formerly required the manual completion of high-volume, rules-driven tasks, RPA robots can play an important role in saving time, improving accuracy, and increasing productivity.

Attended vs. unattended RPA robots

There are two types of RPA robots: attended and unattended.

Attended robots are those that must be triggered by a human in order to perform their task. Once triggered, they are then able to complete tasks up to a certain stage before human intervention is needed.

As an example of an attended robot at work, imagine a call centre. While the operator is busy ascertaining the customers’ problem, the attended robot could assist by locating the customer’s data in another application and displaying it on the operator’s screen during the live call.
Unattended bots, on the other hand, are designed to carry out predictable, repetitive tasks which require no human intervention and which can be fully automated from end-to-end at preset times (including overnight). Like attended robots, unattended robots are able to carry out checks on data using predetermined business rules to support an organisation’s quality control and compliance.

For an example of an unattended bot in a live setting, consider a records management environment. When new batches of customer details are received, data from the spreadsheets may need to be entered into a number of other applications. An unattended bot can be programmed to transfer this information, without the need for human involvement.
The most successful RPA integrations think of both attended and unattended robots as their own digital workforce; as virtual ‘people’ within the organisation. RPA robots may have their own logins, and may even report to people within the company. Allowing human workers and RPA robots to work together as teammates produces the best outcomes for RPA adopters. 

The business benefits of RPA

Certainly, one of the biggest benefits associated with RPA is the potential for productivity improvements, as well as related cost reductions. When you consider that an attended RPA robot can save a human user up to 20% of their time - and then multiply that across hundreds, if not thousands, of users in large organisations - the efficiency gains become easy to appreciate, as robots never get tired, never get bored, never get sick, and can work continuously 24/7. Robots also will never make errors or have a typo, this in turn reduces risk to the organisation by minimising the potential for human error and ensuring better compliance.
Further, the improvement in conditions for human workers that robotic process automation facilitates should not be underestimated. Because RPA makes their jobs easier, workers are able to recoup lost administrative time in order to concentrate on more rewarding, customer-focused tasks. This has the potential to result in greater employee and customer satisfaction levels for the organisation overall.

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How to ensure a successful RPA integration

If you’re planning to introduce RPA into your organisation, the following tips will help ensure you achieve maximum ROI, in the shortest possible amount of time:
  • Optimise first. Review your business processes and assess what you stand to gain by automating. Are there duplicate or redundant steps? If so, it may make more sense to redesign the process than to automate. Can a robot perform the task in a way that is different or more efficient than a human worker? If your users are copying data from one system to another by switching back and forth between multiple screens, for instance, a robot may be able to capture all required data at once, eliminating time lost flicking between screens.
  • Plan for transition management. Anticipate as many possible issues as you can, and work with your RPA partner to create contingency plans for any situations that may arise. A good RPA solution should play a role in this proactive problem solving. If yours takes a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach rather than ‘ready, aim, fire,’ they may contribute to avoidable challenges with your RPA implementation.
  • Start small. Rather than trying to optimise complex, mission-critical processes at first, start with tasks with low criticality, but high user frustration. Not only will this produce quick wins that justify your RPA investment, it will help you to win employee support for further RPA integrations.
  • Educate your team. Make sure those who will work with RPA are fully informed about the changes being made, as well as the benefits RPA can bring. In addition, encourage team members to think about what else they can do to benefit the business, as transitioning to roles that involve managing RPA robots and any exceptions they encounter should leave them with time that can be allocated elsewhere.

RPA solutions for efficiency and accuracy

Robotic process automation allows your team to capture and configure key back office processes so that they can be performed more efficiently and accurately by attended or unattended robots.

That said, implementing RPA is not as complicated as it may sound. Today’s RPA integrations take advantage of user-friendly drag-and-drop methodology that can be implemented across systems, with no additional software required.
If you are interested in RPA, but are not sure how to proceed, look to a trusted partner like Canon Business Services. Our ‘Robots as a Service’ (RaaS) model allows organisations to start with a small automation experiment, assess the opportunity, and scale up gradually without the risk and investment required for a large rollout.

Canon Business Services partners with technology partner UiPath who are the Leader in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation. Reach out to the team at Canon Business Services today to see how this innovative technology can cut costs, improve employee morale, and boost overall business efficiency.

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