What is Robotic Process Automation (and Where Can You Apply It in Your Business)?

Radhika Madhavan

Director of Marketing

Table of Contents


AI and automation technologies are significantly reducing the need for manually performing repetitive and everyday tasks, especially in the business world

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one such technology that configures computer software or artificial intelligence, especially a software “robot” to imitate the actions of a human interacting with digital systems.

If you are wondering how RPA reduces manual labor, here are some simple use cases you could refer to:

  • Logging into applications,
  • Copying and pasting data,
  • Moving files and folders,
  • Extracting required data from documents,
  • Reading and writing databases,
  • Opening emails and attachments, and much more.

RPA makes for an effective technology in that it significantly reduces time, cost, and resources overhead. Before we delve into the details of how RPA may benefit your business, let’s take a cursory glance at the technology’s evolution.


Evolution of RPA

RPA evolved from three main technologies:

Screen Scraping

This is the process by which one computer program extracts data from another computer program’s output. The main use of screen scraping is to capture data from a computer program and extract it so that it can be appropriately interpreted.

Workflow Automation

This software eliminates the need for manual data entry, thereby increasing speed, efficiency, and productivity. Some of the processes that can be automated by RPA include organizing documents, generating invoices, generating leads, creating specific tasks, and more.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is key to empowering RPA. The purpose of AI here is to imitate and integrate a human response into their workflow. This means that the AI will have to integrate cognitive capabilities including Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Learning (ML), speech recognition, and more.

In the age of digitization, companies are always looking to step up and employ new and better technologies to improve the overall efficiency of the organization’s work and functioning. RPA can digitally transform an organization’s business processes.

Let’s now take a deeper dive into where RPA could be successfully applied in your business:


Where can you apply RPA in your business?

Customer Service

RPA is useful to enhance the customer experience because it can process and provide useful information faster and is less error-prone. Processes like sentiment analysis which are used to gauge customer satisfaction can also be automated through RPA.

For instance, an RPA bot can store automated custom responses that can immediately solve customer queries. Similarly, it can reduce the manual interpretation of emails and feedback responses on websites.

Furthermore, it can carry out problem categorization and prioritize the feedback as needed. With this data available, the company can then perform sentiment analysis to understand how customers feel about them and it can be used to achieve better customer service.

Insurance

Insurance companies deal with large amounts of data in their daily workflow. Most of these functions are carried out by their employees and can be tedious and time- consuming.

One of the major areas in the insurance industry where RPA can be useful is claims processing and registration. It requires collecting of data from multiple sources and can be extensive.

Let’s consider registration and processing of claims as a process. It contains a large volume of data that is gathered from different sources. The manual processing of this data would be a lengthy process. So, employing an RPA in such a case would not only increase the speed of the process but also reduce the possibility of errors.

Banking

The banking sector entails enormous amounts of back-office work and documentation that require hours of manual processing. The implementation of RPA in the banking sector is still gaining traction but global banks, such as Deutsche Bank and Danske Bank have deployed RPA in their workflow. Some areas in banking where RPA can be employed are account maintenance, commercial banking operations, card services, loan servicing, fraud and risk review, lockbox operations, escrow etc.

For instance, consider loan processing done manually. A bank employee would have to process the loan application, which involves tasks such as running credit checks, creating credit reports and validating all documents provided by the customer. And this has to be done each time for each customer who requests a loan from the bank. By employing an RPA to carry out the same tasks, the data is automatically processed, credit checks and validation of documents are automatically done by the RPA bot.

Human Resources

RPA is effectively able to automate significant HR processes like performance management, onboarding, data management, mergers and acquisitions, performance reviews and payroll administration.

Major areas where RPA has benefitted the companies that have opted for are résumé screening and candidate shortlisting, induction and training, monthly payroll, employee data management, and time and attendance management. For instance, HR professionals are required to maintain the data of previous employees, current employees, new hires and the payroll. For the most part, such tasks may require manual data entry and updation across multiple databases. RPA can be implemented to create, update and maintain employee data throughout.

Furthermore, recruiting and onboarding of employees constitutes a large amount of paperwork. RPA helps by filling in and processing forms faster and with minimal error.

Employee Healthcare

Organizations are increasingly making efforts to ensure employee healthcare and safety in the workplace. Certain aspects of the job such as sitting at a desk for long periods of time, screen lighting etc., can affect employee health. To deal with these issues, organizations are automating processes that are high volume and repetitive in nature and can be done using RPA.

For instance, certain RPA software are designed to identify high-risk individuals with the help of behavioral biometrics and posture recognition software. They can analyze the employee’s posture and inform them of risks, if any. The system then prompts the employee to shift his posture or get up and walk around for a while before resuming work on the system.

Heat maps are also used to track eye movements to identify what the user is focusing on and record their behavior. Based on this, the system gives suggestions to the user asking them to look away or roll their eyes. The software can also inform users of risky behaviors or activities that could lead to injuries so that they can self-correct and avoid such issues.

IT Operations

In the IT industry, RPA can be employed in IT operations. Operations focused on customer support or help desk operations is one area of IT that can be automated. With the help of RPA using chatbots to interact with customers, their queries can be solved in lesser time.

Other areas of IT operations include running diagnostics, installing software in the systems and performing automated testing on applications. Such tasks can be automated by RPA to increase efficiency and minimize error. For instance, in the testing stage of an application, the same steps are to be executed for every build of the application to ensure that new bugs aren’t introduced in the code. This process is lengthy and time-consuming when done manually. But it can be fully automated by RPA.

Similarly, running regular diagnostics is a function that is carried out by the technical support team. By having automated bots to run these diagnostics regularly, not only does the issue get resolved but it can prevent any possible failures beforehand.

Supply Chain Management

With regards to SCM, the role of RPA is mainly to oversee all the tasks and operations that are a part of the chain right from the manufacturer to the end consumer.

This includes procurement, automating orders and processing, automating payments, monitoring shipments and keeping a track of the inventory as well.


Conclusion

While it is true that RPA has existed for over a decade, companies are only recently taking into consideration the importance of integrating this software into their business processes.

Although some may argue that such an introduction may eliminate jobs and threaten livelihoods, the benefits of RPA overrule the pitfalls. Automation and digitization are no more resources accessible by only multi-million dollar enterprises. Small and medium-sized enterprises are increasingly taking an interest in adopting RPA.

Companies like Walmart, AT&T, Ernst & Young are among the many organizations that are integrating RPA into their work process. With the introduction and implementation of such a technology, employees can now focus on more meaningful and intellectual portions of the workload rather than performing mundane, repetitive tasks.

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