Over recent years we have watched robotic process automation (RPA) grow as a solution to an ever increasing number of tasks. Many organisations have explored opportunities to improve the efficiency of manual labour, provide better customer experiences, and minimise repetitive or mundane work for their staff.
But many people still believe that RPA will always be poorly suited to complex processes. So you might be surprised to learn that there are in fact many prime RPA prospects that can be successfully automated today - provided you know how to identify them.
In this article we will explore what types of complex tasks RPA can be a great solution for, and what methodology you can use to identify the best candidates for automation.
Identifying The Right Processes
So what type of processes can be automated? First we need to understand what is meant by a process. The clearest way to think of it is some type of business transaction that is manually completed by a human. This could be reviewing documentation for an insurance claim, creating a letter of offer for shortlisted job applicants, changing customer details, or making a financial transaction.
The prime targets for processes that can be automated using RPA software is a process that is rule-based and repetitive. It should also use electronic structured data and be high volume. The cost and time required to automate a process also needs to be factored in - as there are clearly cases where the cost to automate can outweigh the benefits of the value generated by automating it.
The Process Lifecycle
One effective way of identifying tasks or actions well suited to RPA is to look at them through the lens of the lifecycle of the process. The lifecycle can be thought of as the series of ordered steps that humans or applications go through in order to complete a task.
This approach helps to uncover the logical or rules-based nature of complex processes.
Any tasks that fit into the following five step methodology are suitable for at least partial automation:
Step 1 - Data Collection
Structured electronic data gathered by collecting information from reports, online forms, email notifications, or websites. Further information can be collected by reading through unstructured documents and scanned forms or the task can be partially automated by using text recognition software.
Step 2 - Data Interpretation
The aggregated data is interpreted and validated based on predefined rules that set the subsequent course of action. If the validation or interpretation of data cannot be achieved using finite rules, then it normally must be performed manually or as an isolated case.
Step 3 - Identifying Exceptions
Once information has been validated, it is time for a decision to be made on whether the process can proceed to a “system action” being performed. If the process cannot be progressed then it is considered in RPA to be an “exception”. The determining factors for an exception may be based on compliance conditions, by regulations, or by a designated person within the organisation who oversees business processes.
Step 4 - System Actions
If no exception is identified then the process can continue to take the required system action for that task. This may for example be a modification to a database or the initiation of a transaction.
Step 5 - Close Case
Depending on the outcomes of the steps above, the process ultimately leads to a closure of all necessary actions or to an unsuccessful exception that may require an element of human interaction to close out.
Back To Basics
As demonstrated in the five step methodology above, even complex processes might actually be suited to RPA once the time has been taken to deconstruct them. This methodology helps identify where rule-based processes are present or where they can be applied. Then by looking at the handling times for completing actions within these lifecycle stages, you can gain a full understanding of the potential value that can be realised by automating a process. If you’d like to learn more about how you can better utilise RPA within your organisation, talk to FinXL.