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Process improvement through robotic process automation
Zoom in on value
As RPA advances, it continues to highlight the need for standard processes to be identified and automated, and the robots performing these tasks to be continuously maintained. Where humans earlier provided service delivery, now they manage and service exceptions. The differences between the traditional operating models and a robotics-driven environment are important to understand.
From 30,000 feet
Over the last 20 years, computing power has continued to swell, and the potential now exists to automate many rules-based, repetitive tasks, and to some extent, even teach robots to think like human beings. These capabilities are the genesis of robotic process automation (RPA). Emerging as a major driver of innovation around back-office processing, RPA is well positioned as an enabler of innovation.
As organizations look to extract more value from their outsourcing contracts, RPA is playing a growing part in that value equation. Deloitte’s 2016 Global Outsourcing Survey (GOS) indicates 75 percent of organizations surveyed are already realizing cost-saving targets through labor arbitrage and are looking at new ways to drive the next wave of transformation.
With the use of outsourcing growing, outsourcing models and methods are reinventing themselves to adapt to market forces and disruption. To track the ongoing journey of global outsourcing, Deloitte reached out to industry leaders from organizations of various sizes and operational footprints in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. The executives surveyed in our 2016 GOS represent various legacy functions—including information technology (IT), finance, and human resources—from more than 25 different sectors. Our analysis reveals a vibrant pathway for outsourcing to drive innovation into the enterprise.
In the area of RPA, several relevant valuable insights emerged. The increased focus by organizations on process improvement, and the desire for flexibility to expand or contract volume, have catalyzed the need for technology-driven innovation. With its ability to generate significant cost savings amid short deployment timelines where processes are already standardized, RPA is emerging as an excellent option for unearthing new value.
For detailed survey results, visit www.deloitte.com/us/2016GOS.
Challenges and opportunities
These statistics give credence to the power of RPA. As the GOS illustrates, rich opportunities exist for RPA to deliver an innovation advantage:
- Cost savings: 43 percent of organizations surveyed look toward innovation to reduce cost of delivery. While an outsourcing provider may deploy onshore and offshore resources at different price points post-build, a robot can cost 10 to 20 percent the cost of an onshore full-time employee in high-cost locations like the United States.
- Accuracy: 57 percent of organizations surveyed look to increase process quality through innovation. Robot-based end-to-end processes reduce the need for human involvement to exception processing, which increases consistency.
- Efficiency improvement: 20 percent of GOS respondents identified reduced transaction times as an area to be addressed. Robots have a tolerance to work 24/7/365, and can complete routine mundane tasks that employees often find draining. Robots also address issues like cycle times and throughput, and they can even solve the problem of attrition.
- Timeline optimization: Setting up ERP and BPMS systems can take some time, but it usually takes just a few weeks to deploy a robot workforce—and once in place, a new process can often be assigned in days. This increased speed in implementation is a major winning factor for RPA over traditional transformation tools.
- Scale expansion: A robotic workforce is highly flexible and scalable. Once the process is designed, it can be scheduled to run when it is needed on as many robots as required.
That is not to say RPA is all benefits and no challenges. Implementation challenges can be serious, but proactive planning up front can reduce or eliminate them.
- Security: Organizations typically do not have a defined IT and security policy needed to govern the implementation. Concepts, such as robots approving robots and user identifications for robots, need to be accepted and applied to ensure comfort of stakeholders.
- Build or buy? While automating, customers have a big decision to make: build robotics capabilities or purchase them? If looking to purchase, one has to consider the providers’ existing capabilities and third-party providers they might need to connect with to provide such services.
- Metrics: Measuring the impact of RPA remains a challenge due to lack of defined metrics. As this gets deeply ingrained in provider offerings, metrics need to be created and tracked to define automation as a success or failure.
These very solvable implementation challenges should not detract from RPA’s ability to open new avenues for organizations and providers to explore, often resulting in large-scale transformation.
RPA is here to stay, and will likely be the driving force in outsourcing in the years to come. Customers should ensure that they derive maximum value from RPA through effective contracting and continuous governance of implementations. Providers need to be aware of the implications of RPA on existing operating models and adapt to the changing customer requirements.
It takes strategy, vision, and experience to tap into the innovation potential of RPA. If you are looking for ways to better navigate the evolving global outsourcing landscape, mange risks, and realize opportunities, we should talk.
Ask the pro: Doug Plotkin
Thank you very much to all of our participants in this year’s Global Outsourcing Survey. We are in the process of analyzing our responses and will be publishing our findings and POVs by Summer 2018.