Defining Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Manufacturing and supply chain industries throughout the world have employed robotic automation to deliver quality, efficiency and productivity through automating repetitive and manually intensive tasks. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has taken this concept and applied it to the world of BPOs and end-user companies wishing to automate shared services centers and back office processes.

Essentially, Robotic Process Automation refers to situations where a virtual machine drives existing application software in the same way that a user does. This means that unlike traditional application software, RPA operates and orchestrates other application software through the existing application’s user interface and in this sense is not “integrated”.

Where Robotic Process Automation has the most impact is in back-office centers running high volume, repetitive, rules–based work. Early adopters include Business Process Outsourcers, who stand the most to gain right away by leveraging RPA across their multiple client operations and shared services teams.

For end-user companies, highly automate-able processes are typically found in back-office tasks administered by Finance, Accounting, Customer Service and HR and in specific areas such as call centers, electronic mail room, order processing, etc.  If these functions have already been outsourced, Robotic Process Automation may offer a way to retake control of these tasks and lower costs at the same time.

Immediate Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA):
  • Cost reduction – robotic FTEs (rFTEs) are typically at least 1/3 the price of an off-shore FTE
  • Efficiency – rFTEs can operate 7 x 24 without breaks or vacations; one rFTE typically replaces at least two traditional FTEs and sometimes as many as three to five
  • Accuracy – Human FTEs make data entry mistakes, transpose numbers, skip steps in processes, etc. rFTEs perform the same task the same way every time – error free
  • Improved audit and regulatory compliance – Every robotic process transaction appends to a detailed audit log enabling advanced business analytics and improved compliance with industry and governmental regulations

The “Long Tail of Change” Challenges IT Professsionals – Forrester

In a 2011, study Forrester conducted interviews with more than a dozen large companies representing various industries, including healthcare, financial services, banking, telecommunications, and utilities.

Their research found the following:

  • Opportunities for business process automation are often missed.
  • Most large firms use thousands of spreadsheets and Access databases to track and coordinate work.
  • With appropriate technology, the IT organizations can facilitate business self-service.
Blue Prism's Long Tail of Change
Forrester concluded that “Given the shortage of IT resources and ever more strict budgets, there are lots of improvement possibilities that just don’t make the cut. What’s left represents the “long tail” of requirements — things that the business folks want done but never quite happen.

Each one of those situations represents an opportunity for process automation, as the cut-and-paste approach is fraught with potential problems — handoffs between roles allow work to slip through the cracks; only one user at a time can access the data; file duplication often leads to significant rework; backup and data security are poor while auditability is nonexistent.”

Deal With The Long Tail Through The Presentation Layer

Forrester’s recommendation: “When limited to traditional integration approaches (such as BPMS and application integration), existing applications create the economic roadblock that drives long tail of change.  However, when you can leverage presentation layer approaches, those same applications usually provide the underlying mechanisms that enable the business functions to meet their own needs.”

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