When the right opportunities arise, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers a compelling value proposition for companies across a number of industries. In simple terms, RPA refers to a set of software-based tools (sorry, no physical robots) designed to process repetitive tasks. This not only alleviates human employees of tedious drudgery, it also enhances the organization’s efficiency and productivity while reducing the chance for any human error to enter the equation.
Before we continue, it’s important to define exactly what RPA is and isn’t. So, what is robotic process automation? RPA is all about automating repetitive tasks that don’t require the human capacity for critical thinking. It would be inaccurate to lump RPA in with machine learning (ML), then, since it doesn’t replicate human judgment (as in ML) but instead creates and executes rules-based tasks. This will make more sense as we discuss the benefits of RPA and help identify potential RPA use cases for your business.
What Are the Benefits of Using RPA?
Robotic process automation aims to empower organizations with increased opportunities for efficiency and productivity. Not only can RPA make [human] employees’ lives easier, it also helps them to be more engaged with their work by taking the mundane tasks off their plates. In other words, it frees them up to focus on more important and engaging tasks, like those that require critical thinking or creative problem solving. Further, arguably the greatest benefit of using RPA is the cost-saving element of not needing to pay employees to perform the repetitive (yet necessary) tasks that are suitable for automation.
What Are Some General Functions RPA Can Be Used to Automate?
RPA is better-suited for some projects than others. To determine whether a process is a good candidate for a robotic process automation solution, you can ask the following questions:
- Is this a rules-based activity? If a process is entirely governed by specific and unambiguous rules, then it may be a good automation use case example. The simpler and more straightforward the rules, the better.
- Are exceptions a possibility? You’ll need to mentally work through different scenarios to discover whether there might be cases where the rules set out for the RPA use case example will be challenged (and/or may not apply). While these can be difficult to predict in some cases, exceptions can often be uncovered through testing the RPA system.
- Is the process stable and mature? Brand-new processes aren’t ideal candidates for RPA, since there may be further development and iterations happening (which would need to be identified and accounted for within the RPA configuration as they occur). Additionally, it’s important to consider the larger product roadmap, since it may not be worth the time and resources to create RPA rules for a product or process that could be replaced in the near future.
Industry-Specific Examples of RPA Applications
Since at its core, RPA works to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks, it’s suitable for a wide variety of applications and industries. Here are a few common examples across different industries:
- Finance & Accounting: Finance and accounting professionals spend a lot of time performing repetitive calculations, and any instance of human error or miscalculation can cause significant problems. In finance and accounting, invoice processing is a great use case for RPA. By configuring rules that replicate human processes, companies can save valuable time while avoiding the possibility of human error.
- Human Resources: Hiring and onboarding processes can benefit from RPA, from sourcing applicants to screening resumes and processing new hires’ onboarding and other paperwork.
- Retail and eCommerce: Keeping accurate track of inventory and order processing are excellent candidates for RPA application. Rules could be created to generate notifications to track and process orders or manage inventory levels. Like other RPA applications, automation helps keep information up-to-date while preventing human error.
- Payroll: When payroll is delayed or erroneous, it becomes a problem. Payroll processing involves a number of repetitive, time-consuming tasks that can be automated with RPA. A wide range of payroll functions are automation candidates, including attendance management, time entry validations, payroll deductions, and so on.
- Customer Support: As customers increasingly prefer digital and self-service support options, chatbots straddle the line between RPA and artificial intelligence (AI). Within customer support, RPA can be developed to handle the most common support inquiries. For example, if a customer types some variation of “account help” into a support chat, a bot could go ahead and direct them to the appropriate resources to recover their account.
Plan, Design, and Test RPA Applications with Foulk
With these examples, we’ve truly only scratched the surface of RPA’s versatile use cases and benefits. At Foulk Consulting, we offer a number of services for tech-minded companies looking for a high-tech and high-touch partner with demonstrated industry experience. Learn more about our application performance testing, monitoring, and digital management today.