Thought Leadership

5 tips to automate

5 tips to automate

Thinking of utilizing RPA to improve efficiency? RSM offers some guidelines to follow

By Mary Beth Jameson

Robotic process automation (RPA) is not necessarily a new term, but many middle-market companies are now leveraging the strategy at a rapid pace to gain greater efficiency. RPA can be leveraged in several areas of your business, automating repetitive and manual operations, reducing errors and allowing employees to focus on more strategic tasks. However, to develop an effective RPA platform, you must understand how to target the right processes to automate and how to choose the most effective RPA solutions.

RPA is designed to create a user-friendly platform to automate manual, redundant or time-consuming tasks that don’t require a significant amount of decision-making. Manual work performed by humans takes time, costs money, affects service and can be prone to error. Alternatively, RPA can automate any business activity involving users, data and systems — streamlining the acquisition and integration of information, creating a single view of multiple data sources and transforming data into a more valuable resource.  

In our experience, we have found several direct benefits for companies that implement RPA, including:

  • 25%–50% cost savings
  • Improved efficiency — One robot is capable of performing the work of several employees 
  • Increased staff productivity, with 35%–50% service-level and capacity gains
  • Delivery of consistent, accurate data
  • Improved employee satisfaction 

For example, we recently worked with a bank that audits mortgage files to ensure that customers have an adequate amount of flood coverage. Instead of taking an employee 45 minutes to evaluate each record, RPA offered the bank a solution to streamline the process. RPA software can open documents and compare them to websites, running necessary checks and providing information in a much more efficient manner.

In addition, RPA offered the bank more time to evaluate errors in its audit tests to assess where process improvements can be made in order to avoid those errors in the first place.

While RPA was first introduced in 2000, the solution is currently gaining significant momentum with middle-market organizations. Large companies have taken advantage of RPA strategies for several years, but as these tools become more affordable, middle-market companies are evaluating where RPA might make sense for their processes. Ultimately, as RPA gains momentum, the companies that are ready to adopt it will have a significant advantage.

Another trend that is contributing to the growth of RPA solutions is offshoring strategies that haven’t lived up to expectations. In some cases, the quality of offshoring is not as good as companies envisioned, communications are challenging and problems are difficult to fix. Therefore, many companies are bringing jobs back in-house and leveraging RPA for previously outsourced processes, generating a better return on investment.        

However, while RPA can provide several direct benefits, you should consider several key factors in order to develop an effective strategy. Below are five important guidelines to consider when your company is evaluating RPA solutions.

1. Look around

Almost every company has manual, errorprone processes. Unfortunately, these processes can cause disruptions in the quality and speed of how you serve customers. By identifying and understanding your problem systems, you can begin to determine what you want to automate with RPA and build a structure that meets your needs.  

2. Start small

RPA can be a big change for your employees, and a successful implementation requires effective coordination and governance. Begin with a pilot process that is small and manageable, and automates a relatively low-risk area of the business. Resist the urge to introduce automation across the organization too quickly, and engage IT and external advisors to implement controls and help ensure risky processes aren’t automated.

3. Don’t automate bad processes

Once the benefits of RPA become clear, it’s tempting to apply automation everywhere. However, when analyzing processes, you may find issues such as disconnected systems or unnecessary repetition. Challenging or complicated processes should be addressed before implementing automation, reducing the number of bots you need and therefore decreasing related expenses.

4. Find the right platform

With the growth in RPA, the number of potential software platforms and pricing models is growing quickly. It’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of RPA solutions and determine the total cost of ownership. Project the amount of processes that require automation and understand how that pricing may change over time. If you need to automate more processes, how will the pricing change?

5. Leverage the right resources

Most RPA platform providers work with implementation advisors who work with your IT resources to help everyone understand the software and integrate it within your organization. While companies often identify internal RPA champions to lead and manage automation within their organizations, outside advisors can train those resources to provide insight and increase effectiveness. An investment in the right advisor who understands your industry and business goals can accelerate your RPA implementation and its benefits.    

RPA is becoming a very attractive solution for middle market companies to increase efficiency and make better business decisions, but it takes planning and coordination to implement an effective strategy. Following these five steps can help you understand the potential of RPA within your organization, and integrate the right controls, governance and leadership to create an optimized automation framework.