A report by Research and Markets estimates a worldwide $5 bn robotic process automation market in 2022. So RPA-wise, the future looks bright. Many consulting and software companies target RPA implementation in large enterprises, with tens of thousands of employees. But do these exhaustively cover the scope of automation, leaving smaller firms out of the picture? In other words, where do we stand with respect to RPA for small businesses? Could it be that automation is viable for them also?
In order to answer this, let us first have a look at the growth trend for small businesses in Australia. The global financial crisis in 2008 affected all business sizes. However it appears to have been worse for small business. Their recovery also appears to have been slower compared with medium or large firms. After a peak in June 2007, they started to go down until reaching a minimum in June 2009, at the time when large businesses peaked.
Small companies then started to go up at a very low pace, but it took until 2012 to reach the June 2007 level again. Roughly put, this indicates that businesses with a low number of employees are waiting for some novel strategy to ensure a change of trend, a change allowing them to rival large enterprises. RPA for small businesses might respond precisely to this need.
The issue we tackle is basically how RPA can assist small businesses to become more competitive with large enterprises or global corporations, this being the umbrella-benefit of RPA for small businesses. Process automation is, in fact, a recommended measure for setting up businesses that are likely to eventually turn into successful, vying ones. In a Forbes article, Martin Zwilling suggests that ‘automation to the max’ is one of the crucial factors for an extensible startup.
Is automation feasible for small businesses?
The short answer is yes. In fact, RPA can be implemented even more efficiently in small than in large firms, for a number of reasons. A lower number of employees automatically translates into less possibility of internal resistance to RPA - a relevant issue for large enterprises. Since automation responsibilities do not need to be divided across various departments, organizational efficiency is increased and the chance of error decreased.
Furthermore, employees’ familiarity with the business processes is higher than in large companies, therefore facilitating automation. So there are good prospects for automatization in small businesses. But what would the consequences be?
To what uses can RPA for small businesses be put?
1. Great scalability opportunities
RPA allows small business to flexibly adapt to what the moment requires in terms of the amount and the kinds of tasks required for any given goal. Automation can help small businesses accommodate the particular requirements of specific objectives. This is because robotic workforce is adaptable to task- and time-specific needs.
In the larger picture then, RPA makes small firms better able to cope with the unpredictable, and efficiently respond to changing market demands. This aspect nicely fits the flexibility of small businesses, their capacity to change quickly and adapt.
2. Productive and effectively organised business activities
One of the key advantages of RPA is its capacity to report much data about its processes. When applied to small businesses, this is very beneficial because they can take advantage of this data to improve the workflow. The immediate consequence is the firm’s heightened efficiency. Such streamlined activities are also inherently more productive.
3. Improved customer service
Small companies, more so than those with a larger number of employees, can have a hard time meeting the high variability of customer needs. But in an automatized small company, where the dull, repetitive, routine tasks (like payroll or invoice filling) are passed on to software or robots, the few employees can better focus on customer care.
Therefore customer needs can be better addressed by proficient, skilled workers who are willing to engage in personal interaction. Moreover, automatically generated reports (like those mentioned at (2) above) can be used to better understand customers’ needs.
4. Reduced implementation costs
The mere fact that small businesses have few employees is an advantage when it comes to the price of implementing automatized processes, which are suitably designed to meet specific needs. It is quite likely that business processes are known start-to-finish by single employees, and not divided among several departments like in large enterprises.
Consequently the workflow automatization is rather unequivocal and thus it can be done at quite low cost. As Katie Behrens - robotic apprentice - puts it, “RPA is really like hiring a whole team of grunt workers for a fraction of the cost”.
5. Support for transformation projects
Anthony Ryan, RPA COE Lead at eir Ireland, emphasizes the utility of RPA for the transformation projects in small companies. With respect to such projects, the benefit of RPA for small business is that it can quickly connect disparate systems. By so doing it smoothly keeps track of “legacy systems that need to be maintained during a transition period that can span many quarters or even years”.
To put it differently, RPA provides small companies with a functional equivalent of the great number of IT staff that global companies have. All this, obviously, with much lower costs.
6. Support growth and expansion
Because RPA allows to place the responsibility of dull tasks on robots’ shoulders, so to say, more time and intellectual resources can be invested in developing high-level strategy. This is extremely helpful for businesses committed to expanding themselves. Such engagement is intrinsic to most small firms. This is to say, they start small but aim high.
Most importantly, by facilitating (1) to (6) above, RPA can make a small business more competitive with larger players in the field. And, thereby, perhaps influence to their advantage the negative growth trend discussed in the introduction.
Zooming in on small businesses now, RPA can do a good job helping them overcome risk through streamlined, flexible processes that can be changed or added to as needed or as times change. To these end, the reduction of human error, increased compliance, and scalability have a significant influence. All in all, in our age of digital transformation, RPA is greatly needed for small companies to focus on fostering expansion and outreach within a healthy working environment.
That is why we created a fleet of RPA Robots for Hire that we are going to launch soon, to enable smaller companies to remain cost competitive in their market sphere. Subscribe to our newsletter to be among the first to gain access to our RPA Robots for Hire.