In recent times, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has taken the lead as one of the most cutting-edge technological tools available to organisations for saving time, money and resources via the automation of repetitive, high-volume activities. Although Robotic Process Automation has been employed across a large range of industries with excitement and enthusiasm, RPA myths still circulate on how exactly this new technology works to systematise and unify a business’s operational platform and improve efficiency company-wide.
These misunderstandings about RPA’s core propositions, its effects on companies and their staff, and new developments that may occur, can create confusion and fear for enterprises looking for a tool to positively change their business processes and create a more flexible and responsive organisation.
To gain a clear picture of RPA’s potential value and to demystify a few misconceptions, we will now uncover the truth behind the misinformation with the four most common misconceptions about Robotic Process Automation.
Myth #1: Humans will be replaced by robots.
While it’s true that some activities previously executed by company employees can be automated these days with RPA, that certainly does not mean that human staff are obsolete. Even with the dawning of cognitive technologies, which point to a more human-like functioning of robots, artificial intelligence tools still need programming by humans.
Simply, software robots cannot function independently of humans and they are still not able to carry out the more complex human thinking processes. Human employees will be supplemented by the introduction of Robotic Process Automation technologies — to support staff members’ performance rather than supplanting them. There are benefits to be had for both company and employee.
As RPA takes care of the menial tasks, employees have more time to focus on core human responsibilities such as sales, marketing, strategy and solutions. This in turn will create higher business value and cultivate deeper customer engagement. When Robotic Process Automation is implemented in a company, staff roles may need to be reviewed and employees relocated to more important customer service activities, as the tedious back office processes are now automated.
Myth #2: RPA robots ensure 100% accuracy.
It is possible for RPA software robots to make mistakes. The Deloitte whitepaper, Automate This, stated: ‘Robots have no “common sense”, so if a flaw in your organization's robot management process allows an obvious error to creep into the instructions provided to your robots, they will still follow those instructions to the letter — and replicate the error hundreds or thousands of times until someone spots it.’
As software robots execute the rules programmed into them, they can and will replicate errors that exist in a workflow. If not identified by human staff early in the process of automation, these mistakes could necessitate the repetition of all the work done to date, whether it be manually or through re-automation after fixing the robots’ programming. To avoid these issues altogether, it is essential to check that procedures are error-free and confirmed correct during the transition to RPA as well as keeping an eye on the software robots in the initial stages of automation.
Myth #3: RPA is not relevant to my industry.
There seems to be a belief that RPA is only useful in selected industries, like banking and finance, for example. Yet the fact is that back office activities must be carried out in all industries, which makes Robotic Process Automation relevant to a much larger range of businesses than perhaps first thought. Wherever there are repetitive, standardised and numerous menial tasks to complete, RPA has a potential place to fill. Robotic Process Automation can be employed to manage details such as retail order processing, insurance claims processing, accounts payable/receivable, audit and compliance, communications between manufacturers and their customers, as well as in the healthcare industry, where it can manage patient appointments.
Myth #4: The cost of RPA is prohibitive.
Companies are always looking for innovative ways to cut costs. In past years, they turned to outsourcing as a solution for the completion of certain business procedures. Now, organisations are introducing RPA so that they can benefit from internal automation of their back-office activities. There are establishment costs associated with RPA, but when compared with the high pricing of business process management software (BPMS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) setup, Robotic Process Automation seems like a much more budget-conscious option. In addition, RPA’s ability to cut costs and increase ROI is significant. PwC contends that ‘While a number of solution options exist, RPA offers a superior customer experience and dramatic error reduction, providing significant cost and efficiency benefits in short timeframes. Being relatively simple to implement, RPA can deliver benefits quickly and ROIs of between 300 – 800% are common.’
Dispelling Fear and Misconceptions
The misunderstandings that can sometimes arise in conversations on RPA can cause unnecessary complication for forward thinking organisations aiming to centralise their business processes for greater flexibility and responsiveness. As companies search for the “next edge” to stay relevant and competitive in their industry, they will most likely come across RPA as a viable option. The reason for this propensity for fear and myths to congregate around RPA implementation is unclear. It could be fear of the new, a lack of first-hand exposure to Robotic Process Automation or just a lack of basic knowledge on this technology. What is clear, is that organisations that take the time to investigate the real potential of RPA will be the ones that benefit most from its transformative power in the business landscape.