Robotic Process Automation: An overview


Measuring ROI and making the best use of robots

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools can help businesses improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations faster and at a lower cost than other automation approaches.

Automation has become part of our daily life. There are different forms of automation which we use regularly, starting with simple tasks like getting on a bus and using a contactless card to pay the fare, which in turn automatically debits your bank account and invoices you for the trip. Other forms of automation can be found in the home or at the office, where devices can sense human presence and, for example, automatically turn off lights and air conditioning systems when no longer required.

Automation is also being used more frequently in clerical work as well, especially in situations where repetitive tasks and form filling are commonplace. This type of automation and technology allows humans to focus on work where judgment and human competence is essential, whilst offloading monotonous work to the robots.

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But how can we make the better use of robots?

This question is often asked by entrepreneurs looking at introducing robotic process automation (RPA) within their organisations. To answer this question, one must first understand that an RPA robot is paid for through a yearly license, which can be seen as similar to an annual salary of a full-time employee. In that time, a robot can work 24 hours a day, performing as many tasks as possible. To be clear, a robot can perform only one task at a time but can do so faster than a human being and with the flexibility of being able to be programmed to run a wider variety of tasks.

Robots give you the ability to set deadlines and priorities, to carry out specific tasks before others, and to utilise idle time. For example, let’s say that you want to prioritise a key part of the work which also needs to take place during the day, while there are other processes that can happen at any time. Therefore, the ones programmed to take place during the day are given a deadline and set to a higher priority, while the others can be set to run during the night or when the robot is idle. With this technological functionality, you can maximise robot utilisation whilst getting a higher return on investment (ROI) in terms of the yearly license.

Also to keep in mind is that while a robot will execute tasks faster, the output is always expected to be the same, whereas a human might be affected by the surrounding conditions, well-being and other influences. In addition, it is easier to spawn a new robot in case of an environment failure without the need for retraining - this supports business continuity, providing faster recovery with fewer dependencies.

Further down the line, having more robots available will increase efficiency and output as, given the way they work, robots can be introduced on separate machines and work in parallel to form a digital workforce. This will help the human workforce to focus more on tasks which require their specific skillsets, removing the mundane elements from their daily workload, resulting in higher employee satisfaction and a reduction in staff turnover.

What processes will give me the fastest ROI?

This is a key question which requires a deeper understanding to be able to answer. For a start, one must identify potential processes which are eligible for automation and to do so, one must look at how much time is spent on a task each day or week and how repetitive a process is. By using such criteria, one can determine which processes are worthy candidates for automation. These processes are likely to be the low hanging fruit which will give you the most return on investment in the short term as opposed to processes which either require a substantial amount of effort to create or are used sparingly and don’t take much time to be done by a human.

Another aspect to consider when it comes to ROI, is the current human capacity available for the required tasks, especially those required for compliance and what the repercussions are if a task is not done properly, has a high error rate, or is not done at all.

These are all key components which can drive an organisation to benefit the most from RPA and intelligent automation and one should consider such criteria during the initial assessment to determine the quick wins and to identify which processes are suitable candidates for automation.

All things considered, there is no doubt that RPA & IA can drive organisations forward on the road to digital transformation, with short term gains in efficiency, performance and productivity some of the clear benefits to be gained. At Deloitte, we are seeing an increase in demand for RPA technology. Some deployments are reaching enterprise scale and operating on processes across various industries. Deloitte can help from the start by identifying which of your existing processes may be suitable for automation. Depending on your needs, our team can support your business from an implementation point of view or by upskilling your technical team. Come and speak to us we'll help you to get started on your automation journey

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About the author

Brian Fiorentino is a Manager at Deloitte Consulting.

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