Robotics Process Automation – Is the Promise Real?

The headline got my attention: “Facebook Fires Humans, Hires Robots to Tell You What’s Hot Today.” There’s an entire backstory to this, notably about editorial bias at the social network, but that’s not why it caught my eye. Lately, I’ve been focused on a new, very hot area called Robotics Process Automation or RPA, and this is just one example of how automation built on machine learning and artificial intelligence is changing the workplace and customer experience.
RPA isn’t science fiction any more, but it doesn’t mean an army of human-like robots will run entire corporations, either. This technology is “robotic” software, which can be trained to understand and conduct specific workflows. We’re not talking robots on the factory floor. RPA can be used to manage transactions, manipulate data, trigger responses and communicate with other systems, according to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation.
Today’s bots can take on dozens of types of routine and repetitive clerical and administrative tasks, such as processing insurance claims or onboarding new employees. This means RPA is poised to take over more complex and interactive business processes, including IT support, remote infrastructure and back-office functions in everything from finance and accounting to supply chain management.
But one of RPA’s key advantages for businesses, especially in the financial industry, is time. When robots take over tedious, high-volume, repetitive tasks, employees have more time for developing insights and delivering higher-quality customer service.
RPA benefits include improved customer experience, better regulatory compliance and cost savings.
For example, Bank of New York Mellon is using RPA to clear its daily queue of nonsettled trades. It has programmed bots to perform research on the orders, resolve discrepancies and clear the trades. The bots can do it in a quarter of a second – much faster than the five to 10 minutes it would take a human to complete the same task. The employees who used to manage the reconciliations are now spending more time on client service and higher-value analytic tasks. It’s a trade-off that’s beneficial for everyone.
This is good news for C-suite executives looking to improve customer experience and regulatory compliance, as well as save administrative labor costs. IPRA says a robot can cost one-third of a full-time offshore worker and one-fifth of a full-time onshore employee. In addition, because robots can run 24 hours a day, year round, they’re more efficient. And they make fewer mistakes, which benefits highly regulated industries such as financial services and pharmaceutical.
The downside of automation may be most keenly felt by the IT team. IPRA founder Frank Casale believes most IT infrastructure support jobs will be automated in the next three years.
But while some jobs may go away, RPA will create new opportunities for IT and other subject matter experts who can design, implement and manage the programs, according to InfoWorld.
An independent management or IT consultant with RPA expertise can orchestrate your entire automation project
Because this is an emerging field, many businesses don’t have the internal expertise to work with this technology. To fill the gap, the C-suite can bring in an independent consultant to launch and manage an RPA initiative. A management or IT consultant with RPA expertise can orchestrate the entire project, for example, and supply chain management or financial experts can map end-to-end processes.
RPA likely will have a significant impact on nearly every business and industry. And while it might be new, it’s growing fast. The global IT robotic automation market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60.5% from 2014 to 2020, according to Transparency Market Research.
For businesses that embrace it early, there’s another, perhaps more compelling, benefit of RPA: It’s likely to give them a significant competitive advantage.

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