The IT to-do list continues to grow with increasing demands from businesses to do everything on that list better, faster and cheaper.
And IT leaders are already battling long project lists, with many critical tasks and projects falling by the wayside as businesses increase pressure to deliver solutions quickly.
But it’s not only pressure to do everything on the list better, faster and cheaper that IT leaders have to worry about, it’s holding up profits too. According to a Gartner study, 84 percent of CEOs said that they expect digital change to bring higher profit margins.
This is despite the fact that traditional integration tools and in-house development can often take months, or even years, to plan and execute. According to a Cognizant Center for the Future of Work 2015 report, organizations are automating, on average, only 25-40 percent of their work flow today.
Despite this low number, a 2014 PMG IT survey found that 98 percent of respondents see the automation of business processes as vital to seizing business benefits.
In addition, IT departments are increasingly expected to align their resources and technology projects with the key goals and objectives of the business, such as operational excellence, high performance, and customer satisfaction.
Short of building a time machine or developing magical powers overnight, it’s hard to see a way to get it all done on time and in budget. Obviously, something has to change. But what?
Is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) the Answer to Your Needs?
There’s a smarter way to get everything done and, yes, it’s almost magical. Almost.
It’s called robotic process automation (RPA) and it works pretty much like it sounds. Software robots can do all the repetitive, mundane and manual tasks that are now major time-sinks for your valuable employees and knowledge workers.
It’s the new ‘it’ thing in IT because while RPA quickly delivers value to the business, it also frees up your IT resources to focus on the larger scale technology projects. In other words, RPA makes it possible to get to the rest of the project list!
The short explanation of how RPA works is that these software robots automate processes between applications, portals, websites, and other data sources. The work your employees do in manually moving information between applications, clicking from window to window or swiveling their chair to work between machines or monitors, can now be automatically done behind the scenes by software robots.
Wait, you might say, isn’t that like an application program interface (API)? The short answer is, not really. These software robots don’t need APIs to function.
While the world is ruled by an army of APIs these days, they generally lose the battle in integrating data from legacy systems or external web sites and portals. Your IT team could be armed to the teeth with APIs, but they’d still be back to where they started, forced to manually move data around.
You could elect to build the integration using the APIs that may (or may not) exist for your legacy systems. But as IT has learned, those APIs are often complex to work with and often don’t deliver all the functionality required. Also, writing code to connect with these systems is adding more work to your IT to-do list – the very opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.
It’s simply faster and easier to deploy the software robots to collect, aggregate, extract and input the information from all your data sources, including Excel spreadsheets, email, websites and portals.
Leveraging Robotic Process Automation for Your Organization
Robotic process automation can be deployed for virtually any business activity involving users, data and systems. And, the benefits are many and immediate.
Those in the transportation and logistics industry can automate the capture of new loads, schedule appointments and track shipments, expedite invoicing and payment while reducing Days Sales Outstanding (DSO). For example, PITT OHIO uses software robots to automate multiple manual shipping processes, starting with the pick-up request.
Robotic process automation reads each incoming email to extract shipment details—then logs in to the PITT OHIO scheduling system, navigates through its menus, and enters the details into the scheduling system. When the scheduling system responds with a pick-up time, software robots capture the time from the web page, log into the shipper’s business portal, and post the time into the shipper’s portal—all automatically, within seconds of the initial email, not hours after the fact. Automated updates are also provided whenever the shipment status changes.
By eliminating manual website updates, PITT OHIO has reclaimed 90 percent to 95 percent of a customer service representative’s time for higher value work. Robotic process automation has also eliminated 100 percent of the cost of routine B2B portal updates, and costly transcription errors have been eliminated.
IT leaders working in banking and insurance can deploy built-in change detection robots and keywords to identify relevant and timely account issues; automatically drop duplicated entries; improve accuracy and speed in reporting; and automate account aggregation.
For example, Union Bank has deployed many software robots within their consumer lending business, which has led to faster time to revenue for loan deals, lower costs, and easier audit compliance. One software robot does what a human use to do, which is gather all the relevant files, combine them into a PDF with bookmarks for easy navigation, and send a notification that the file is ready. This enables the team to deliver all the loan documentation required for quality control or audits faster than ever before.
Professionals working in any industry can benefit from automatic data cleansing, enriched data analysis and increased speed and accuracy in reporting.
The IT Benefits of RPA
The payoffs of RPA for IT leaders are significant. Projects can be completed in a few weeks instead of months, as no coding work is needed and deployment is fast. There’s no rip and replace required or reengineering processes, and RPA integrates with existing systems in a very cost-effective way.
Built for enterprise management and operations, RPA has a simple, visual data flow design, enables easy access to any data source, an agile deployment model, and addresses the needs of the business user in a timely manner. In other words, it’s the perfect solution to cutting your project workload without sacrificing the quality or quantity of work.
With RPA, you’ve successfully sped up the work and cut down your IT to-do list in one move. This means your team is now free to work on more important and strategic projects where their talent is most needed. In turn, business executives are thrilled with how much their teams are achieving, and how well the work now matches the key goals and objectives of the business.
RPA increases staff productivity, service levels and capacity by 35-50 percent and delivers 25-50 percent in cost savings. A software robot is like a human, the only difference is it never makes a mistake and it works 24/7.Imagine all your work completed with 100 percent data accuracy, avoiding costly errors and rework. Better yet, take the employees who were overwhelmed by all this manual work and focus them on higher value activities, ones that absolutely require a human touch.
Deloitte expects “robotic process automation to increase exponentially the level of automation across the back office,” in part because it offers short payback periods compared to other implementations, according to a recent report.
Besides enabling you to improve operational performance by eliminating manual tasks and accelerating work flow, RPA simply gives you back control of your day.
And in today’s fast-paced world, time is an invaluable asset for the modern IT leader.
To learn more about how your IT team can move from zero to hero through the strategic use of RPA, get a free preview of our ePaper: Digitally transform the way you work‒How to deliver big results in six small steps with process transformation. Or, download the complete ePaper here today.
Source: Gartner Inc., Cathy Tornbohm, 26 October 2015; Market Insight: What Should Business Process Service Providers Do Next in Robotic Process Automation Transitioning to Virtual Workers?