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Robotic process automation (RPA) is a game-changing strategy that leverages intelligent process automation to supercharge your business. It enhances efficiency, capacity, and accuracy while significantly reducing costs. Discover how businesses, regardless of their size, can harness the transformative power of RPA.

As we approach 2024, strategic planning and budgeting come into sharp focus. To stay ahead and maintain a competitive edge, consider integrating Business Process Management and RPA software into your core strategies. In the paragraphs below, we delve into why this is critical for your 2024 planning and how you can kickstart this digital transformation.

In the daily grind, how much of your precious workday gets consumed by mundane tasks? Whether it's filling out forms, shuffling files, or mindlessly copying data from one place to another, these monotonous chores eat up valuable time. The same holds true for your teams and colleagues.

At most organisations, these repetitive and brain-numbing tasks claim substantial portions of the workday. But what if we could liberate this time for more meaningful endeavors? Imagine a world where forms fill themselves, data flows seamlessly from one field to another, and files autonomously find their way to their destination—no human intervention required. This is the magic of Robotic Process Automation, or RPA.

RPA, fueled by natural language processing and intelligent automation, stands as a formidable technology capable of revolutionising everyday business processes. While it may sound cutting-edge and out of reach, the truth is that RPA is accessible and achievable.

RPA implementations seamlessly integrate with existing systems, even those running on legacy systems. With RPA software tools and automation software at your disposal, you can navigate complex tasks effortlessly. These automation tools empower your organization to embark on a journey of digital transformation, freeing you from the shackles of manual labor and unleashing newfound efficiency and accuracy.

RPA and intelligent automation are not mere buzzwords; they are your tickets to a more streamlined and efficient future. Embrace RPA and automation tools to unlock your business's true potential in 2024 and beyond, leaving behind the tedium of repetitive tasks and embracing the digital transformation wave.

What Is Robotic Process Automation and how does it work?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology process that uses software to complete repetitive, predictable computer-based tasks so humans don’t have to. RPA mimics or repeats the steps that humans could take, like copying and pasting, moving information around, typing commands, and so forth—but at a speed and accuracy level that far exceeds what human team members can accomplish.

How RPA works

Despite an ominous-sounding name, RPA isn’t all that complicated a technology. RPA works by taking a set of predefined commands and then executing them. These may be customised commands and workflows that you develop, or they could be prebuilt, “off-the-shelf” RPA solutions that require little to no development.

Let’s look at it another way. Just like you can train an employee to scan a form, find the right data points, and input them into another system, you can train a “bot” (a software instance or script running on a computer or a virtual machine) to do the same thing.

As long as the information is consistent and predictable, the bot will happily crunch away at that data nonstop. It never gets tired, doesn’t transpose letters or digits, and doesn’t complain about how mind-numbing the work is.

There are two types or categories of RPA robots: attended and unattended. The former must be triggered by a human, while the latter can run automatically without a human pulling the trigger. For more on this point, read RPA attended vs unattended robots.

What are some pitfalls of RPA?

While we at Canon Business Services love to see organisations flourish as they implement RPA, there are some common pitfalls you should consider.

Resistance from organisational culture

The first pitfall is connected to the A in RPA: automation. When team members hear the term, they immediately envision layoffs — potentially of their own positions — and may oppose or sabotage the initiative in a misguided sense of self-preservation.

While it’s certainly true that RPA eliminates most or all of certain repetitive tasks and processes, it’s usually a mistake to assume this means massive cuts to headcount. By eliminating or reducing time-consuming manual processes, organisations can free team members to innovate and create (though they may need reskilling to get there).

Difficulty scaling

RPA can be impressively powerful in each individual instance. But large organisations may struggle to scale an RPA initiative well or quickly. Every RPA bot is susceptible to broader system or network changes, which can throw a bot offline until a relevant update is implemented. This isn’t so hard to track down when you’re operating 4 or 5 RPA bot instances. It gets much harder when you’re running 100 or more.

Don’t let these pitfalls discourage you from leveraging the power of RPA, though: CBS has overcome key pitfalls with many of our successful clients by identifying their unique challenges early in their automation journey and engineering solutions to those challenges.

Our automation accelerator workshop is key to helping develop a clear path forward that overcomes these common hurdles.

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Examples of RPA in effect

RPA can be used across a wide range of industries and business functions, including financial services, IT, human resources, telecom, insurance, retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and more.

Many businesses are turning to RPA to improve their customer service, using attended bots to retrieve and capture customer data so human agents can focus on solving customer problems.

In healthcare, RPA can automate medical record data management, claims processing, ERP processes, and more. It also can help ensure regulatory compliance (since fewer human eyeballs see sensitive medical data).

Our own parent company, Canon, transformed banking operations using RPA, reaching an impressive level where 98% of business processes succeeded without manual intervention. Check out Canon’s financial services RPA case study to go deeper.

What are the business benefits of RPA?

Businesses that successfully implement RPA reap a range of benefits, including these.

Complete tasks faster

RPA bots aren’t limited by the speed of human typing or thought, so they can complete many repetitive tasks faster than humans.

No fatigue or time off

Along the same lines, RPA bots don’t get tired and start making mistakes. They don’t go home at 5pm, and they don’t go on vacation.

Improved accuracy

When humans get tired or bored — like when they’re doing the same boring task over and over — they make mistakes. RPA bots don’t make those types of mistakes.

Scale your capacity

RPA gives you the power to take on more: more clients, more contracts, more whatever you need processed. Your human team or hiring challenges no longer bottleneck your processes.

Increase morale and workplace fulfilment

The kinds of tasks that RPA can remove from your employees’ workloads are repetitive, boring tasks that no one enjoys doing for hours a day. Most employees view these tasks as a burden, so removing that burden improves morale. Giving employees more strategic and valuable work to do tends to grow pride and fulfilment in their work.

RPA Software vs. RPA as a Service

There are three main approaches to implementing RPA. The first is scripting RPA bots yourself, but we’ll assume since you’re here that this isn’t the right option for you.

Second is using RPA software. There are numerous software solutions and RPA tools that can implement pre-existing RPA scripts. This off-the-shelf approach works if 1) your RPA needs are fairly limited or 2) you have the in-house skills to modify and adapt off-the-shelf solutions to your needs.

Last is managed RPA, where your business partners with an IT managed services company that is skilled in designing and implementing RPA solutions. If your needs are more complex or your in-house capabilities a little thin, managed RPA is the optimal solution.

Difference between RPA and AI

Simple RPA systems don’t use artificial intelligence (AI); they simply follow a series of steps or commands and do what they’re told. AI tools can do more than that, analysing complex or unstructured data and making judgment calls and predictions. There is a range of complexity here, though: as a company matures in its digital transformation, RPA processes can grow significantly more complex, even approaching or blurring the line between RPA and its more advanced cousin, business process automation (BPA).

It’s an oversimplification to say that RPA will never use AI, but you’ll certainly see more uses of AI and machine learning in the more complex world of BPA. Where many RPA tools can be implemented with little or no development, most BPA solutions are custom-tailored to both an organisation’s needs and its current technological estate.

RPA does serve an important AI-related purpose, though: it serves as a foundation or a readiness factor for organisations that want to begin using or expand their use of AI technologies. The work required to map, optimise, and automate processes using RPA will create better organisation and develop new ways of thinking about processes and data. All of this is the necessary groundwork for AI-based complex decision making.

Is my business a good match for Robotic Process Automation?

Want to learn more about what RPA can accomplish for your business? Get our RPA blueprint ebook to continue the learning process, or reach out to our team directly.

Frequently asked questions

What is the fundamental principle behind robotic process automation (RPA), and how does it streamline business processes?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is driven by software robots, or RPA bots, designed to automate repetitive tasks. These bots mimic human actions within digital systems, navigating through enterprise applications, orchestrating workflows, and executing predefined tasks. RPA technologies enhance process automation by eliminating human intervention, reducing errors, and accelerating task completion across various domains like supply chain management and human resources.

Can you explain the key components and technologies that enable RPA to automate tasks effectively?

RPA relies on a combination of software robotics, workflow automation, and process mining. RPA bots utilise automation technology to capture and perform tasks by following predefined rules and sequences. They navigate through enterprise applications, extracting and processing data with precision, making RPA a versatile solution in a wide range of applications across industries.

What are some practical examples of how RPA is implemented in various industries to improve efficiency and accuracy?

In supply chain management, RPA bots can automate order processing, inventory management, and logistics tracking. In human resources, RPA is used for onboarding, payroll processing, and employee data management. These robotic processes ensure efficiency, accuracy, and timely execution, freeing up human resources for more strategic roles.

How does RPA differ from traditional automation, and what advantages does it offer in terms of flexibility and adaptability?

RPA distinguishes itself from traditional automation by its flexibility and adaptability. Unlike traditional automation that often requires costly IT interventions to reconfigure processes, RPA bots can be quickly trained and deployed without disrupting existing systems. This agility makes RPA ideal for rapidly changing environments and evolving enterprise applications orchestration, enabling organisations to stay competitive and responsive to market demands.

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