Gartner: Robotic process automation (RPA) is a game changer

By Janet Brice
Six-step guide to how RPA could revolutionise your business in the future, outlined in a new White Paper by Gartner...

 Revolutionising via Robotics; is a White Paper from Gartner who present a perspective on this emerging field from shared service leaders across the world. 

Robotic process automation (RPA) could be a game-changer for shared services, states the research and advisor company Gartner. 

RPA, also known as “smart automation” or “intelligent automation,” is an umbrella term for advanced software systems that are programmed to perform tasks that previously required human intervention. Other robotic solutions incorporate machine learning and include cognitive computing and artificial intelligence.

Providers of the new software say it usually costs about one-third of an offshore employee or one-fifth of an onshore employee, but it can work nonstop, with no human errors - if programmed correctly. 

“With numbers like that, it is no wonder RPA has caught the attention of shared services organisations, which are designed to ultimately be cost savers and to provide consistent back-office processes and business support,” comments Gartner in the White Paper.

A few early adopters have implemented RPA and more plan to: in April 2015, about 30% of shared services executives indicated they had either implemented or were evaluating an RPA solution, and by November 2015 the numbers had grown to 45%.

Traditional automation v RPA

Gartner points out that The Institute for Robotic Process Automation uses the analogy that traditional automation is like cruise control on a car and RPA is more like a self-driving car. 

“Traditional automation keeps your organisation moving at one speed but can’t easily adapt to shifts in the environment. RPA identifies different conditions based on a given set of rules and adjusts for those changes by following the rules,” comments the White Paper.

According to the report RPA software systems can interact with multiple, existing applications just as a person would by moving a computer mouse. They can manipulate data, set off responses and “talk” to other computer systems. 

RPA solutions might also be able to “review” reports and flag problems. They have the same level of security and access as a person, but they can work without interruption. 

Six-step guide to RPA:

  1. RPA is not one product or tool

There are multiple RPA solutions in the marketplace, and each one is designed to perform in different ways. If you decide to adopt RPA, you need to evaluate various products to identify which offering best fits your company. 

  1. RPA runs separately from applications and systems

The software runs separately from your underlying systems and can be implemented and altered. However, it does require human work for quality control and maintenance. 

  1. RPA is faster, cheaper and easier

Business analysts with a clear understanding of process and workflow can program RPA technologies - without training or coding knowledge. 

  1. RPA is scalable

There is no limit to the number of human activities or processes that are candidates for RPA. Accounts payable, customer feedback capture and sales quote preparation are among the most popular candidate processes. 

  1. RPA doesn’t always replace outsourcing

The ability to displace repeated human work with RPA negates the strategy of cost sourcing, but that does not mean the end of outsourcing. 

  1. Shared services leaders need to initiate change

In October 2015, Gartner hosted a roundtable for heads of shared services on the future of the function. “Multiple companies in attendance admitted that their IT functions were not knowledgeable about RPA’s capabilities. Implementation started when shared services leaders brought information about and opportunities for RPA to their IT counterparts.”

Feedback from shared service leaders includes:

“We achieved cost savings and productivity benefits through the initial consolidation of activities via a shared services model, and we have gained additional cost savings by further refining our processes and outsourcing wage arbitrage. We now see automation as the logical next step on our journey,” said Business Systems Support Manager, Energy & Utilities Company, $20+ billion in revenue.

For more information on business topics in the United States and Canada, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief North America.

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