By Jamie Atherton, Hyland
As digital transformation makes way for digital evolution, a state in which automation and digitisation are continuously being iterated upon and optimised, many organisations find themselves dealing with situations nearly as challenging as those they were looking to improve with automation in the first place.
The influx of new applications, data and processes – especially in the absence of clear communication, change management and thoughtful integration – can create gaps in automation and in integration with legacy systems. This may result in employees creating manual workarounds for new inefficiencies, security weak spots and process gaps.
To avoid frustrations like these, it’s important to identify the preliminary use cases for any new technology, as well as fast followers and future-state use cases. It’s tempting, when considering use cases for a new investment, to zoom out and look at everything the solution could possibly handle — “Imagine the ROI!”
While this approach may work to get a new implementation approved, it’s not the best way to roll out said implementation.
Look to robotic process automation (RPA) as an example. While there are hundreds of RPA use cases specific to dozens of industries and departments (and implementing many of them is likely in your organisation’s future and in the future of automation in general), it’s impossible to roll them all out immediately.
Back up … Why RPA?
When you’re looking to maximise ROI from digital transformation and begin automating quickly, RPA is a great place to start. Because RPA automates high-volume tasks, it can begin saving you time and labour hours right away.
According to the whitepaper Frost & Sullivan Research Suggests RPA Tied to Company Success, Profitability, “RPA has become a differentiating factor within automation and an enabler of digital transformation.”
Used at its fullest capability, a modern RPA platform enables your organisation to:
- Deliver a completely digital experience
- Increase accuracy and efficiency
- Improve information security, compliance and disaster recovery
- Improve process visibility
- Get more value from existing investments
Where does RPA fit?
In surveying more than 400 IT and business decision-makers about their organisations’ level of adoption of and interest in RPA, Frost & Sullivan found that there is a universal “typical RPA journey.” That is, companies overwhelmingly find success by implementing RPA in the same departments in the same order:
- Information technology (IT)
- Human resources (HR), finance and accounting
- Case management and/or records management
- Manufacturing and warehousing
- Customer communications and sales
- R&D, vendor and legal contracts
Again, this hierarchy reflects the fact that RPA reduces repetitive digital tasks where machines can do the same job more efficiently, and gives time back to those departments.
So, the best use cases to start with are those that are structured, rule-based, voluminous and repetitive, and where human effort does not add value. Of all functional business areas, the most rules- and data-heavy in most organisations are IT, HR, finance and accounting.
With that in mind, and with a focus on these departments, it makes sense to look for the opportunities in your unique organisational processes by asking the following questions:
- Where are your employees reporting frustration or low job satisfaction?
- Where are you spending unreasonably for off-hours support or a seasonal spike in workload?
- Where could a simple manual error result in disproportionately heavy consequences for the business?
(Nearly) universal use cases for RPA
No matter which industry you’re in, you may find that following Frost & Sullivan’s typical RPA journey, beginning with IT and the back office, gives you a good framework for introducing the technology at your organisation.
RPA IT department use cases include:
- System migration
- System integration
- Server monitoring and alerts
- Application monitoring and alerts
- Batch processing
- Master data creation
- Password resets for approved users
- Data backup
- Data restoration
- Credential creation
RPA accounting and finance use cases include:
- Purchase to pay, including vendor master creation and maintenance; requisition and supplier requests; purchase order creation; and purchase order management
- Order to cash, including quote management; order retrieval; and invoicing
- Account closures
- Customer onboarding
- Invoice downloads
- Vendor and purchase order “not found” alerts
RPA human resources use cases include:
- Time and attendance management
- Recruiting process tasks
- Employee onboarding
- Employee offboarding
Industry-specific RPA use cases
Whether you work for a hospital, a university, a tech company or a local government office, choosing a feasible initial implementation for RPA is crucial. Starting strong means you’ll continue strong. But you won’t realise the full value of a modern RPA suite by keeping it relegated to the back office forever. It may be time to evaluate the many uses within an organisation, and see where RPA can make a difference right across the company.