Implementing Robotic Process Automation: An Overview of the Potential Opportunities and Difficulties

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Pros of RPA

An insurance provider is a good example of a business that may consider using automation to bring more order and efficiency to administrative tasks and business processes. The insurance company needs an automation intervention that can handle the bulk of the back-office processes to allow for greater business flexibility and growth. RPA can deliver numerous clear benefits to the insurance provider, including more efficient processing of claims, increased accuracy in input of manual data and the agility to scale up or down based on business needs.

The above advantages of using Robotic Process Automation are obvious and easy to conceptualise, yet there are also many deeper and broader implications to the successful application of this technology, which are discussed with much less frequency. Other benefits of RPA include:

• Higher Levels of Compliance: By removing gaps in data from different sources and automatically logging all actions taken, a greater level of compliance is achieved. Employees can manage any compliance complications in a proactive manner, with consistent internal reviews. With this ability, RPA has the potential to support numerous companies where compliance to industry regulations is imperative, including insurance, healthcare, and financial service providers.

• Compatible and Non-Intrusive: The operations of RPA are modelled on human actions, which means they use the User Interfaces of the technologies, rather thantraditional technical integration. Consequently, existing software and hardware do not need to be altered for the successful implementation of Robotic Process Automation. In this respect, it is one of a kind amongst automation interventions. The necessity for RPA to be an IT-led project is therefore diminished and it can be operated by employees without high levels of coding skill (albeit IT is still essential in managing the supporting infrastructure and they can certainly make use of RPA for many of their own processes).

• More Efficient Management Processes: Using the central management platform included in RPA systems, organisations can make use of remote capabilities such as modelling, monitoring, controlling, scheduling and operation of the software robots. Both auditing and analytics can also be conducted from the management platform. Automation rules can be set in the RPA system to facilitate greater control and management of business procedures. Using the remote control of the software robots allows for a much higher degree of security to be established and retained.

• Better Customer Experience: RPA is a method of streamlining monotonous, high-volume actions such as issuing purchase orders or processing claims so that employees can be better utilised elsewhere. So, although it may seem like automating back office procedures would not affect the front office, there are flow-on benefits. By removing repetitive tasks from the shoulders of employees, they are freed up to provide an improved customer experience, while RPA also helps to service customers more quickly and efficiently.

Challenges of RPA

As we have discussed, RPA provides many advantages to help businesses – including our hypothetical insurance provider – to more efficiently carry out business procedures and maintain higher levels of customer service. However, as mentioned at the start of this article, no solution comes without potential barriers to the successful implementation of a new technology.

Here are a few roadblocks that could hinder our hypothetical insurance company’s fruitful use of RPA:

• Lack of Employee Support: Adding new technologies to workplaces can be a source of stress for employees, as it can change their responsibilities. Company managers and executives need to keep employees up to date on new developments and expectations regarding the adoption of RPA. Developing a company culture that encourages innovation will aid this cause.

• Selecting the Wrong Processes: RPA is designed to streamline activities that are consistent, repetitive, predictable and high in quantity, while not requiring human reasoning. They might include data input/output or copy and paste tasks. Robotic Process Automation is not suited to activities that necessitate human judgement or that require customised action for their completion. Usually, these activities involve customer interaction or the strengthening of human relationships. It is therefore worth selecting the processes that are appropriate for RPA before implementation.

• Unrealistic Expectations: Although RPA can be a very useful tool for automation, it is not a miracle cure for dysfunctional business operations and processes. Companies need to have realistic expectations regarding the limits of Robotic Process Automation. As there is much variation in business needs between organisations, decisions associated with the adoption of RPA must be made on an individual company basis. Factors such as RPA’s usefulness, its introduction timeline and operational outcomes will all differ between businesses. The continuation of inclusive dialogue on the anticipated results of RPA, will help organisations get the most benefit from this technology.   

Overriding the Obstacles of RPA

While the obstacles to RPA implementation may appear overwhelming, strategic thinking and planning will enable companies to take full advantage of its capabilities. The potential for companies to leverage RPA’s operational flexibility for increased business efficiency is so beneficial that it easily eclipses any temporary transitional pains. 

In the whitepaper Organizing Your Future with Robotic Process Automation, PwC contends that even with implementation obstacles, Robotic Process Automation is still one of the simplest technologies to introduce: ‘In fact, a couple of RPA’s greatest benefits are often overlooked…[especially] its ease of deployment.’

If organisations put in the initial preparation time in getting employees on board and planning which processes to automate, they will implement RPA quickly and easily. After the initial establishment of a RPA system, companies usually find increasing numbers of business processes that are suitable to be handled by RPA, gradually increasing the level of Robotic Process Automation in their operations. An incremental approach will help spread company-wide acceptance and use of RPA technology so that even greater competitive advantages can be enjoyed by the organisation.