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The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a profound effect on the global economy. Uncertainty is probably the leading reason for the difficulty of handling the pandemic effectively. The dynamics of the outbreak require concerted action, and crisis specific flexible plans.

The minimisation of business disruption, while taking all the necessary precautions to ensure population health, is the overarching, global objective. To begin with, businesses are to acknowledge the stringent need to develop policies that foster remote working during the crisis. Supply chain distributions must be proactively mitigated (and not merely reacted to), despite the novelty and the inherent unpredictability of the situation.

Last but certainly not least, in the context of the shift to remote working, businesses have been forced to consider the acceleration of digital transformation by means of digital upskilling. Precisely for this reason, it makes sense to discuss in concrete terms how companies can use robotic process automation to handle business crises.

Let’s look at some of the things we could learn from past recessions. According to the financial analysis of Harvard Business Review about the effects of the 2008 economic crisis, based on a huge dataset of 4.700 public companies, some of those companies can indeed talk about some silver lining of these difficult times.

Some of them were able to outperform the rivals in their industry sectors by 10% in terms of sales and profits growth. What did they do to come out of the crisis so prosperous? The focus on operational efficiency, i.e., performing the processes better, faster, and cheaper, as a means to reduce costs – the typical financial approach to recession – appears to have the highest likelihood, 37%, of placing businesses on the winners’ side.

Currently, the benefits of RPA have become tantamount to operational efficiency. So companies may use RPA to handle crises because the functional profile of automation can be stated in terms of better, faster, and cheaper processes.

This perspective is well aligned with what the 77 Australian decision-makers that responded to a recent study by iTWire, on their view about the top benefits of robotic process automation. Almost two thirds of them said that RPA allows for better work production, because it enables people to work more efficiently, effectively, and accurately.


“In fact, 73% of Australian companies believe that RPA is even more effective than they originally anticipated, which is above the global average of 67%.”


How to better handle crises with robotic process automation (RPA)

The gains of working side by side with software robots justify why industry leaders use RPA to their benefit, and also why the forecast is that they will resort to it more and more, reaching a market value of 12$ billion by 2023.

However, especially in a context of economic recession, it is worth looking beyond the financial benefits, and acknowledging the positive influence of software robots on productivity, employees’ job satisfaction, and overall operational efficiency. During times when fears of losing jobs are on the rise, it is crucial to emphasize the human-centred facet of RPA adoption, and show the employees that your strategies do take into account the future of work.

We invite you to read more here about how industry leaders leverage RPA to their advantage, since that could stimulate you to consider how to use robotic process automation to handle business crises.

Among the empirically evidenced best operational practices for making the most out of software robot deployment, we wish to emphasize the need to start from answering why you need automation, for which processes, and in which departments. A goal-oriented choice of the tasks that are likely to yield most favourable outcomes when automated paves the way for successful outcomes.

Once you identify manual, repetitive, rule based processes with measurable savings, as well as the pitfalls of manual processing that can be sidestepped with automation, you are one step closer to a significant effect on accelerating and amplifying the return on investment. If you are interested and wish to be informed when we publish a full article on operational best practices for implementing RPA, please subscribe to our newsletter below.

Let’s now look at some concrete ways in which RPA makes businesses better prepared to deal with the economic effects of the pandemic, and to keep your business running in pole position.

1. A more direct path towards your business goals

The routine, high volume, stable processes that you can pass onto software robots are usually also dull and time-consuming, draining your employees’ resources without adding anything to their job satisfaction (on the contrary). Consider copying and pasting clients’ data in between Excel Spreadsheets, and you’ll know for sure what we are talking about. The bots can do everything more efficiently, i.e., faster and error-free.

2. Make up for diminished productivity due to switching to work from home-offices

People need time to adapt to working from home, at the same desk with their partner, while the kids run around constantly and demand attention. Even for those without families and kids, the new work schedules, as well as being tied to news about the rising number of COVID-19 deaths or its disastrous economic effects, may make the transition to home offices overwhelming.

A drop down in productivity is to be expected in such conditions. Software robots can support sticking to the regular workflow, and allow the employees to take their time when adjusting to a new kind of work life.

3. Be more prepared for the expansion of your company’s online presence

In these times of radical uncertainty, online expansion can bring about some sense of solid ground. However, because it requires additional labour resources in order to be able to deal efficiently with more clients and to process more requests, the move towards online business doesn’t come so easily.

Robotic process automation can streamline the transition to the online space without paying the extra costs of hiring new employees. They can do the menial, routine jobs, such as filling in online forms, or scanning documents for relevant information, while your employees can focus on higher-value tasks that involve creativity, complex analytic skills, or human-to-human communications.

4. Cut down operational costs

By swapping bots for human employees for the monotonous, time-consuming front- and back-office processes, your talent management abilities will be implicitly upgraded. The bright human minds in your team will be freed to invest their cognitive energy in developing creative solutions for crisis-specific issues. This will get you one step closer to optimum efficiency.

5. Increase speed and accuracy of processing unemployment applications

In the context of 195 million jobs estimated to be lost due to COVID-19, there will be a concurrent boom in the amount of unemployment applications. Claim handling is among the top use cases of RPA in the public sector, and using RPA to process applications, send payments, and communicate unemployment status to the citizens can decrease handling time from 45 to 5 minutes. Bots’ assistance can help communities of people hold on until economic organisations start to reopen.

6. Streamline non-urgent patient rescheduling

This is extremely useful these days for healthcare facilities, which are forced to postpone all but the COVID-related, and the most urgent visits and procedures. The creation of online portals can save the medical staff the hassle of communicating cancellations and rescheduling appointments. Software robots can manage the back-end of the online request system, freeing the personnel from time-consuming and energy-exhausting paperwork.


The bottom line is that RPA deployment cuts down operational costs by improving employee productivity, while maintaining the revenue constant. But, as you can see in the picture below, a small productivity increase means a much larger profit increase.

So chances are that you start to gain more confidence in the continuation of the automation journey, and plan to use RPA beyond the current objective of being on the winners’ side after the business crises.

Source: UiPathSource: UiPath

In this case you will likely benefit from the information provided in our free ebook on implementing RPA in various industries. 

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