Digital technologies have penetrated nearly every industry and market on the planet. In order to take advantage of this change in the business landscape, executives are seeking to enact “digital transformations” that integrate cutting-edge technologies into their company.
Automation, in particular, represents a game changer for businesses of all sizes and industries. Many science fiction movies depict a fully digital workforce: a world in which robots and intelligent software have assumed total responsibility for human jobs. Although these ideas may be a long way off from becoming reality, it’s also true that robots have arrived in the workplace—and they’re here to stay.
This article will discuss how you can structure and educate your workforce to make the most of these digital technologies. In doing so, you’ll see a greater return on investment, become more efficient and productive, and gain a competitive edge over your business rivals.
Robotic Process Automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) has the potential to drastically change the face of today’s workplaces, on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution. RPA uses robotic software agents to automate a variety of business processes.
Specifically, these robotic agents are able to mimic the actions of real human users when interacting with a software interface. For example, RPA software can easily extract information from one application and import it into another application, or analyse it to make a decision.
What’s more, RPA isn’t just for IT-heavy organisations; any process that follows a consistent, predictable set of rules is a good candidate for automation. Using RPA provides you with benefits such as:
Robotic “employees” that are capable of working 24/7/365
More accurate, higher-quality processes and results
Lower implementation costs and greater ability to experiment with different ideas
Better integration between disparate systems, software, and processes
Less time and money spent on manual, tedious, repetitive, laborious tasks
More time for human employees to spend on higher-level strategic business activities
Companies who have implemented RPA within their organisation find that the advantages are well worth the effort. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, RPA has a return on investment of 30 to 200 percent in the first year alone. Tech market research company, Forrester, believes that the global RPA market will soar to $2.9 billion by 2021, which is a tenfold increase from $250 million in 2016.
RPA can automate a surprising number of business processes, but these basic robotic agents have their limits. Tasks that require human skills such as creativity, judgment, independent thinking, and persuasion would seem to be out of reach for RPA.
Enter cognitive automation: an RPA field that leverages the latest technologies in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Computers are now able to perform some highly complicated tasks, from recognising handwriting and understanding speech to identifying the contents of an image. Cognitive automation makes full use of these developments to partially or fully automate processes that are non-repetitive and unpredictable.
The potential applications of cognitive automation are plentiful. For example, banks and financial companies can use cognitive automation to analyse the performance of different markets, stocks, and portfolios. The software can then generate personalised reports for each customer in an easy-to-understand language.
Meanwhile, retail companies can use cognitive automation to partially automate their customer service workflows. By parsing customers’ replies during an online chat or phone call, cognitive automation agents can direct customers to the right person to help solve their problem.
How to Begin with RPA and Cognitive Automation
While it’s easy to see stars when you first hear about the potential of RPA, you should also be realistic about the path to a successful implementation. Make sure that RPA and/or cognitive automation is the right choice for your business, before you spend valuable time and money on a solution that ultimately may not work.
The first steps are to identify the processes you want to automate, and, the key stakeholders you need to win over. Processes that are time-consuming, rules-based, highly predictable, and dependent on a high degree of accuracy are very promising candidates for RPA. When speaking to stakeholders, select the right key performance indicators (KPIs) and focus on the savings that RPA will provide in terms of efficiency and productivity.
Next, start a pilot RPA project before you roll it out across the entire organisation. Choose the right RPA partner who knows how to build the software agents you need in order to see the results that you want. Once you’ve proven that RPA can be viable for a single team, department, or process, you can begin to implement it in other areas as well.
In the near future, your company’s digital workforce will be the optimal combination of people, RPA bots, and cognitive automation bots. Using automated software agents will become the “new normal,” as humans and robots join forces within your working environment.
By taking the initiative now to understand your RPA options, you can better prepare for the digital workforce of the future. To learn how you can start optimising your business processes with RPA and cognitive automation, contact an experienced RPA partner who can assess your own situation or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.