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Getting Started with Robotic Process Automation

When the steam engine was invented, followed by the laying of railway tracks, there was both excitement and panic among people. New technology has always caused growing pains and fear in society but each industrial revolution has helped us progress both in terms of efficiency and creativity. Today, we stand at the beginning of what looks like the fourth industrial revolution, powered by automation and advanced computing.

Robotic process automation or RPA as it is popularly called, are robots or software agents that automate repetitive tasks. On an average, they make processes about 15 times more efficient. Also owing to their software nature, unlike humans they do not need breaks. In the simplest form, RPA can be thought of as recording a macro in an Excel sheet, while in its most sophisticated form, it could be deployed by vendors like Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism or UiPath, with an added layer of intelligence on them.

What processes are suitable for RPA?

Primary candidates for RPA are the typical middle and back office processes in most businesses including banks. Examples include invoice reconciliation between systems, follow-ups with debtors, creating sales orders by reviewing purchase orders and so on. In short, RPA can be used to automate processes that are repetitive, rules driven, error prone, digital and perhaps time critical.

What are the benefits?

While most of the businesses are resorting to RPA technologies because of the promised cost benefits the technology offers, the real benefits of RPA go far beyond this. Some of the other direct and indirect benefits of RPA include:

  • Improved accuracy and error reduction
  • Easy scalability
  • Enhanced data capture and consistency
  • Improved employee satisfaction by releasing human workforce from mundane jobs
  • Enhanced innovation and customer satisfaction

How do you start your RPA journey as a business?

A lot of businesses have burnt money on RPA with little results. The trick is to start small and have a strategy for the digitisation of your business processes. This might mean going back to the drawing board and challenging and streamlining some of the processes that exist instead of trying to automate all existing processes. It is also a good idea to identify the parts of the workflow that have the biggest impacts on efficiency of a process and reduce bottlenecks by using RPA technologies. So, it is always a good idea to start with a strategic partner and let them work alongside the implementation developers.

What should be on your checklist while commission work to your RPA vendor?

We advise clients to have the following checklist before commissioning any work to vendors:

  • What is their largest deployment in terms of robots and time? What was the cost vs ROI?
  • Ask for a demonstration of a robot running alongside a human to process the same thing to assess efficiency gains
  • How do you ensure security?
  • Do you have any in-built reporting?
  • Can your console work both on premise and on Cloud?
  • Is the software scalable?
  • How do you automate hidden controls in Windows applications?
  • Customer support
  • User training

The last question is particularly important to us because RPA is generally always a journey to bigger transformation projects. If a vendor advises you to keep using the same processes and only talks about software updates, that’s a tell-tale sign of lack of foresight. Whether you have a strategy in place or not, a competent vendor knows the value of strategy and will not shy away from providing you with honest advice, even if they are not the ones who might be the best placed to provide you with strategic direction.

At Pioneer Labs, we specialise in providing you with the best advice for your digitisation journey. Whether you need an Enterprise Architect or a RPA software developer, our team will help you with the most suitable professionals for your project.