Imagine a pair of team members working together to seamlessly handle a company’s customer support calls. Whilst one worker answers the phone and engages the customer, the other works behind the scenes to pull up and validate the customer’s account information.
By partnering together, the two workers could achieve greater efficiency and create a more seamless, streamlined customer experience than they could when working on their own. Yet achieving these outcomes doesn’t require hiring two staff members.
In fact, in the scenario described above, the team member handling data processing doesn’t even have to be human, thanks to the growing field of robotic process automation (RPA). RPA can be defined as the structured use of technology to automate business processes. Order management, customer service, accounting, and data compilation are all examples of the kinds of horizontal functions that can be managed by an RPA program. RPA interacts with software the same way a person does to help them get on with their jobs.
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These benefits place cost savings as the most basic and enhanced customer experience as the most advanced on a maturity scale. To help businesses better understand both the current usage of RPA and its potential future applications, the team at Canon Business Services surveyed 36 companies, including Westpac, Savills, Nine, BlueScope, Woolworths, Monash University, Australian Tax Office, Healthcare NSW, and PWC. In a report, Canon Business Services published their insights on RPA adoption and how it will progress into 2020. As a broad takeaway, however, our findings suggest that a successful RPA implementation comes down to finding the right combination of three things for your business needs: people, processes, and technology.
75% of the respondents surveyed by Canon Business Services reported being “likely” or “very likely” to integrate automation into their business processes. 60% of the companies said they are investing in their people with training and enablement tools as they look to build the workforce of the future.
Given such widespread interest, RPA is a technology that enables “the workplace of the future.” However, the survey identified they have yet to accept the challenge and start their automation journey. Culture, change management, efficiencies in the technology, implementation, and on-going support of their digitisation solution are challenges for businesses that have started.
That said, it is useful to see precisely where business leaders are planning to use RPA in their business.
Given the rate of digitisation at the time, in a survey led by McKinsey before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 92% of the company leaders surveyed did not believe their business model would remain viable because the speed at which the company operates is not enough. Although there are multiple platforms businesses can adopt for a digital strategy, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics automation is the fastest option. RPA ensures quick implementation, especially when adopting an as-a service model, reducing full deployment to weeks.
As businesses contemplate how to return to normal operations in a still unstable environment, they need to consider three structural changes:
1. Customer behaviour and interaction preferences. An increase in digital services has been established and is likely to continue. 75% of first-time digital channel users indicate they will continue to use these even as some semblance of normalcy returns.
2. Demand recovery will be unpredictable. Businesses will likely face times of structural overcapacity and uneven recovery.
3. Remote-first staff. Digitally connected teams enable companies to provide customers with everything needed—from product information to sales and after-sales support— digitally.
Companies prospering today are investing in tech, data, process, and people to support an increase in speed with more thoughtful decisions and responses. While digital transformation can help your business reduce the backlog, you must also minimise obstacles and increase business efficiencies and accuracy.
A well-planned transition to a digital future includes:
More than 80% of organisations implementing or scaling RPA indicated a happier workforce in a Deloitte study. This high satisfaction rate is mainly due to employees performing less manual and repetitive work favouring that which is more meaningful work. Ultimately this shift makes an individual’s roles less tedious, boosting productivity and improving responsiveness from employees with more enjoyable tasks.
RPA not only positively impacts your business processes through the increase in efficiency, accuracy, and audit trail but has the same effect on your employees. Businesses should prioritise a digital future that includes adopting digital transformation strategies such as automation. RPA can accelerate business recovery and enable you to emerge with a competitive advantage.
Another lens for considering RPA adoption is to view it as a single opportunity within the spectrum of artificial intelligence (AI). Because RPA can be used to quantify and measure manual tasks as data sets in a way that was previously impossible, RPA data can be used in the implementation of intelligent systems and machine learning in a way that enables these systems to present deductive analysis to the business.
This means that organisations can’t expect to make the transition to being driven by AI immediately. Instead, they need to firstly reframe their perceptions of the interaction of humans and technology to understand how technologies can be integrated into core business processes. This involves an organisation shifting to a data-driven methodology in its operations by deploying cognitive tools across business processes - a business-first, rather than technology-first, mindset.
Rather than leading with technology adoption, a business-first mindset requires that businesses first choose the strategies they will pursue, and then select the technology solutions that will best support their objectives. Creating consensus around planned outcomes and investing in the technology necessary to achieve them - rather than choosing solutions based on their potential and possibilities - runs counter to the way many organisations operate, but creates a stronger foundation for AI adoption.
With these foundational decisions made, organisations can slowly and systematically transition to having business processes driven by AI. This can involve the adoption of machine learning and big data, eventually leading to the competent and complete use of AI across business processes.
Machine learning’s role is to provide the business with insights derived from raw data. It is a process in which algorithms iteratively learn from data to surface insights without explicit programming. Companies use the information to solve or simplify complex and time-consuming data problems, such as eliminating manual data entry, forecasting customer lifetime value, predicting maintenance requirements, detecting spam, recommending products, analysing financial reports, making medical diagnoses, increasing customer satisfaction, and so much more.
While the quantitative potential of RPA shouldn’t be overlooked, its qualitative impacts can also be significant. For many organisations adopting RPA, the ultimate goal is to free people to focus on higher-impact activities. “RPA is about being able to take the “robot” out of the human, your team should be able to focus on the impactful tasks and the menial should be removed” states AdrianYassin, Head of Innovation at Canon Business Services.
Take the case of the call centre worker described above. If RPA replaces the manual data-processing requirements of the position, the worker can reallocate attention formerly given to these tasks to activities requiring human input. This reallocation may be merely providing a higher calibre experience to the organisation’s customers (which, in turn, is likely to improve both customer and employee satisfaction). Time saved could also be devoted to building customer relationships, improving customer service, analysis and decision-making, or working on additional projects, further increasing the beneficial impact of RPA.
To talk to our automation experts about the processes that could be automated with RPA in your business, contact us for a free consultation.