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RPA for the Digital Age

By Gareth Smith

Gareth Smith

Gareth Smith - 13 August 2019

In a recent article in the Enterprisers Project, Kevin Casey wrote, “If it’s repetitive and manual, it’s probably a good fit for RPA.”

RPA, short for Robotic Process Automation, can help companies cut costs, reduce errors and increase efficiency. Perhaps because it contains the word “automation,” there is often an assumption that RPA requires a significant amount of developer involvement but, in fact, the opposite is true. The beauty of RPA is that it automates manual developer processes and helps business users be more effective, both by freeing them to focus on more strategic tasks and also by reducing errors that often arise when humans tackle repetitive work.

RPA is still considered an emerging technology, but we’ve seen it become more widely adopted within the last year as companies look to automate as part of their digital transformation strategies. But as more organizations embrace RPA it’s critical that they not forget an essential element—starting with a clearly defined process.

That likely sounds like a no-brainer but it’s actually not as straightforward as it seems. As Eggplant’s Antony Edwards put it when interviewed for the Kevin Casey piece, “For example, you try and do RPA for invoice approval, but you didn’t realize that there are actually about 30 different approval processes in the company—because of acquisitions, because this SVP doesn’t like the new process, etc.”

Once you’ve confirmed that the process you’re eyeing for RPA truly is clearly defined, following are some additional criteria to consider:

  • Transaction volume
  • Prone to errors or rework
  • Amount of manual work
  • Process predictability 

Some of the best business use cases of RPA we’ve seen have been in the financial sector. As mentioned above, invoice processing (assuming that the organization has a uniform approach) can be significantly improved with RPA, as can sales order processing, accounts payable and similar functions. Other examples include management reporting (gathering data from multiple sources and inputting it into spreadsheets); marketing (CRM management, email, social and digital marketing); and IT (employee on and off-boarding).

Advanced implementations of RPA focus on automating processes across different device and user types. For example, taking data from an Excel sheet on a PC, inputting it into a mobile expense report on an iPad end entering a record in the company’s mainframe. As the technology becomes more widely adopted and companies move further along in their digital transformation journeys, expect to see more examples of this advanced RPA at work. 

Learn more about RPA and how it can help your company—now and into the future.