Robotic process automation (RPA) arrived with enticing potential.
Vendors claimed to deliver as much as 60-80 percent in savings, while boosting quality, productivity and speed across back office performance functions.
A new report from The Hackett Group however suggests that few organisations have scaled RPA up to a level that is making major impact on performance.
Hackett Group’s Vice President of Research, Erik Dorr, thinks that’s about to change however.
In the analysis, “RPA – a Reality Check”, shared exclusively with Computer Business Review, he said: “Finance executives are particularly bullish: They project mainstream adoption of Robotic Process Automation to grow by nearly 13 times, from 3 percent today to 38 percent within two to three years.”
He added: “Global business services (GBS) executives expect mainstream adoption to grow by more than five times to over 52%, with 85% of GBS organizations using RPA on either a limited or mainstream basis within two to three years.”
But alongside report authors Vin Kumar and the Hackett Group’s MD Paul Morrison, he warned: “Companies that expect mainstream adoption in the near term – as our research suggests many do – will need to exercise discipline around opportunity analysis and development of a business case as part of a robust process for managing the RPA lifecycle.”
What is RPA?
Successful RPA deployment requires tasks that have certain key prerequisites: they have digital inputs rather than analogue inputs; they use structured data; and the work to be automated follows clear logical rules, rather than allowing discretion .
RPA is proving effective for automating tasks such as:
- Extracting and entering data
- Processing and updating forms
- Merging, consolidating and archiving
- Tracking, monitoring and archiving
- Formatting and reporting
- Downloading, updating and uploading files
- Conducting periodic analysis, performing calculations and preparing analytics reports</
RPA is also effective for automating so-called “swivel chair interfaces” (labour-intensive clerical tasks that involve capture and re-entry of data in multiple business applications, such as email, spreadsheets, ERP or CRM systems, or internal and external web applications.
People are Easier and Cheaper, but…
Saleha Anwar, Lead Business Consultant at GFT, told Computer Business Review: “Robotic Process Automation deployment has to be a true partnership between Operations (the business) and IT. Operations prioritise having an operating model framework that can be applied to a number of different processes, with the potential to scale out across the organisation. IT focus on governance, control, compliance, scalability, security and the ‘rules of engagement’”.
He added: “The finance sector in particular is rife with old legacy systems which can be very difficult to upgrade, and it is often easier and cheaper to use people to bridge the divide. Although people can apply judgment, empathy, interpretation and deal with exceptions, the downside is that people are often left with repetitive and mundane tasks that are subject to errors, which result in operational deficiencies as well as demotivating staff.”
He added: “By using a ‘virtual workforce’ empowered by software robots that allow enterprise organisations to automate these mundane and repetitive tasks.”
“Additionally, if the process is: ambiguous, unstructured, not rules-based, has high exception rates and complexity, or if there are large amounts of data, then AI can be employed as this can manage greater variability..”