October 18, 2016 - Blog

An Introduction to Robotic Processing Automation (RPA)

Blog post by  Roger Whitehead, Advisory Services UK Lead  

In the previous article in this series we considered how business process automation has evolved historically but highlighted that it is still not fully maximising the all of the potential workforce and process value available. In this article we will look further at how Software Process Automation strategies are revolutionising this area and causing organisations to review and question what is possible in terms of future process, workload and workforce optimisation. We will focus specifically on one of the more prevalent automation approaches known as Robotic Processing Automation (RPA). This is often the initial entry point for many organisations into the wider sphere of Software Process Automation.

Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) helps organisations automate current tasks and existing business processes, as if a real person was performing them across applications and systems. The interactions with individual systems are performed through the same user interfaces as a human would use. However, the tasks are performed instead by a software agent or "bot".  No significant IT technology change, system transformation or system integration is therefore undertaken. The aim is to optimise and maximise the efficiency of existing stable and well understood systems, by using them at a scale, frequency, longevity and accuracy level, previously not possible with traditional "human" workforces.

Conceptually these software robots are functionally "trained" to act as virtual workers. They execute predictable, rules based information processes at scale, whilst preserving accuracy and efficiency. All outcomes are highly monitored and recorded, which makes these types of approaches highly suitable for tasks in heavily regulated and compliance orientated sectors e.g. financial services.

In this model human users manually handle any process exceptions or complex interaction scenarios which may occur (e.g. customer complaints) and staff instead are free to focus on higher value information management and control tasks. If processing exceptions can be repeatedly resolved in the same manner and suitable business rules created, then over time these scenarios should also be automated and made part of the standard task execution grouping.

 

RPA - What is It Good for?

Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) is well suited to those business processes which:

  • Are well understood, mapped and documented
  • Are standardised, repetitive & allow predictable interactions
  • Utilise defined consistent rules in the decision making process
  • May utilise multiple staff to complete the process
  • Access structured data sets or predictable data feed formats
  • Utilise applications on a Windows or Web based platform
  • Where data input processes are prone to human error and inconsistency
  • Toggle between multiple LOB applications (so called "swivel chair" applications)
  • Have well established, well tested IT Systems and environments
  • Have the minimum level of scale and usage frequency required to justify automation investment.
 

Example Processes Suitable for RPA

Some typical example areas of uses for RPA from the financial services sector include the following sample processes:

  • New account creation and verification
  • Data validation
  • Customer account management
  • Financial claims processing
  • Report creation
  • Form filling
  • Record details update e.g. change of address
  • Loan application processing
  • Standardised Settlement Processing
 

These processes are highly structured with defined outcomes and can be run in parallel and at significant scale. Critically in many cases there is also no perceived loss of service to the customer and the improved levels of accuracy and responsiveness can be seen as a potential market differentiator.

 

RPA Business Benefits - A Summary

The key business benefits of RPA can be summarised as follows:

  • Greater business efficiency through faster and more accurate 24 x 7 processing
  • Reduction / redeployment of staff to higher value knowledge tasks.
  • Solutions are cheap & rapid to implement relative to conventional system integration approaches
  • Involve low risk implementation – RPA uses existing systems & security models
 

Coming Next…

In the next article in this series we will look in more detail at the approach to implementing RPA systems, how to identify suitable systems and the basic rules to follow. In subsequent articles we will look at Intelligent Automation and Smart Processing and how they are laying the foundation for the next generation RPA 2.0. They’ll be back…

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