This is how companies benefit from Robotic Process Automation – without a great deal of training effort. By Robert Ekstrom, Vice President EMEA DACH and North.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is gaining in importance, and at a rapid pace: 44 percent of companies see RPA 2020 as a high or very high priority, compared to only 25 percent in 2019. This is the result of a report by Blue Prism summarizing the results of the "Process Mining & RPA 2019" study by IDG Research Services.
Copyright: Process Mining & RPA“. Study by IDG Research Services, Munich, 2019
But the report also reveals areas where companies still have problems. RPA's high level of training is an obstacle for their employees, said 19 percent of survey respondents.
The reservations may be based on bad experiences with other IT projects. However, they are groundless – with the right RPA approach, training can be kept to a minimum.
Robotic Process Automation automatically executes processes that would otherwise be carried out by a human on a computer. The prerequisite is that these processes are completely digitalized.
The software robots – called digital workers – open, record and check for example invoices that are sent to the company by email. After verification based on fixed rules for completeness and correctness, they transfer the data to accounting systems or specialist applications – error-free and at top speed. Digital workers can be scaled freely, they free their human colleagues from repetitive tasks, reduce errors and save considerable resources – and they are ready for operation around the clock.
Strategy instead of patchwork
In order for RPA to reach its full potential while remaining secure, companies should consider a number of factors. RPA should be used as a strategic enterprise-wide platform, rather than as a stand-alone solution for individual departments. To prevent employees from automating individual processes without the knowledge of the IT department and thus creating the danger of hidden parallel structures, i.e. shadow IT, the following distribution of roles is recommended:
In order to automate a process, it must first be understood from A to Z. The automation of processes is therefore the task of the employees in the specialist departments and cannot be delegated to IT. These employees have the specialist knowledge of what the process looks like and where it still has to be optimized before it can be automated.
IT takes care of the technical framework, keeps an eye on security and compliance and helps with problems, especially in the introduction phase.
In order to keep the training requirements for new employees as low as possible after the introduction of RPA, but also for questions within the divisions, companies should train "Digital Worker Managers" within the individual departments. They are the channel to IT when problems arise, they can train new colleagues, also with regard to departmental specifics, and they thus also ensure a transfer of knowledge within the department.
Programming? Not necessary
A common misconception is that to create a software robot you have to be able to write program code. However, this is not true, rather the individual steps of a process can be merged as predefined objects in a kind of flowchart by drag and drop.
The effort for this and for the initial training is put into perspective when you consider that software robots, once configured, can be multiplied simply at the push of a button. Scalability is one of the great advantages of RPA.
This allows employees to focus on other, more creative activities with greater value creation potential. In times of a shortage of skilled workers, this is a great advantage for companies with high personnel requirements.
Reducing the burden on the IT department
Because the employees in the departments do not need the help of the IT department, they can flexibly adapt software robots to the requirements of their business goals. At the same time, IT is relieved and can concentrate on ensuring compliance and security instead of having to deal with automation requests from the departments.
AI and other functions make software robots "intelligent“
When configuring digital workers, the Digital Exchange (DX) Appstore gives companies access to additional modules from leading vendors and partners. This allows the software robots to be equipped with cognitive abilities thanks to AI, for example. The add-on modules are simply dragged and dropped into the process at the appropriate point.