How is Robotic Process Automation changing the way we work?

Robotic Process Automation is already changing how we work in the UK and beyond. Read on to learn more about how RPA works, the benefits it can bring your organisation, and how RPA is already transforming several industries.

Mark Probert

Chief Strategy Officer (CSO)
·6 min read (1470 words)

Robotic Process Automation - RPA for short - has become increasingly common in today’s working world. The potential applications of RPA technology are so wide-ranging that it is set to transform the ways in which many sectors of our economy operate, from marine and energy to healthcare and finance.

But what is Robotic Process Automation?

Defining Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation is, as the name suggests, a form of automation in which software bots are instructed to complete repetitive tasks that would otherwise be performed by people. It’s a big step forward from the traditional automation you’ll already be familiar with, in which a programme follows scripted step-by-step instructions. RPA software works on a larger, more intelligent scale. RPA bots, acting in their thousands, can mimic human actions across systems using structured logic and pre-defined rules.

RPA isn’t quite AI either. The bots in RPA don’t learn and iterate on what they are doing – they simply refer to their logic sets to get mundane and repetitive tasks done, freeing your people up to spend more time on the creative, innovative projects that only a human can do.

How does Robotic Process Automation work?

RPA bots are programmed to replicate human actions. Most organisations these days rely on an array of digital systems, and it takes time for users to understand them and complete processes within them - just think of all the different programmes you’re required to log in to for invoicing,
project management, team management, holiday approvals, and everything else in between. An RPA bot can be taught to navigate between these as a human would, operating within and between programmes as needed to complete a task. It can complete forms, copy and paste information, move files and folders, make calculations, and extract data from a range of sources, navigating between programmes as it needs to.

Implementing RPA isn’t just about reducing admin and busy work either, although that’s a huge win for productivity. RPA software can be developed to meet specific use cases, tackling the processes and problems your organisation faces due to the sector or sectors you operate in. It’s all about how the RPA software instructing the bots is developed and deployed into your enterprise.

What are the benefits of Robotic Process Automation?

Integrating RPA into an organisation can be transformative. A few headline benefits include:

How is RPA already being used in the UK?

RPA usage is on the increase in the UK, and it’s only getting smarter. Some uses, such as invoice processing, can save an organisation time no matter the industry, but let’s take a look at some of the more ingenious ways RPA is being used to address the specific needs of different sectors.

In healthcare, the NHS digital transformation team is working to support GP surgeries in implementing RPA solutions. The digital transformation department have identified the time and cost-saving opportunities RPA presents GP practices, who are overwhelmed with paperwork, patient files, appointment bookings, and other administrative tasks. RPA is being used to improve the quality of patient records, to support the transition between different care providers, and even handle bed management.

Finance companies have found many uses for RPA too, particularly when it comes to compliance and regulation. RPA bots have streamlined Know Your Customer (KYC) processes for many firms, helping with the collection and validation of customer data, reducing overheads, and generally supporting with compliance requirements. Banks are using RPA to approve loans, detect fraud and money laundering, and process customer documents.

Industries that rely on complicated, niche processes are also benefitting from RPA. Utilities firms have improved their customer service by using RPAs to handle labour-intensive tasks, freeing their teams up to spend more time with customers at a difficult time in the sector. HMRC, a Government service renowned for being difficult get hold of and deal with, is starting to make use of RPAs to support both their office staff and the employers they work with.

Challenges in implementing RPA

Although there are many benefits to your business in introducing RPA, that doesn’t mean it’s not without its challenges.

Initial set-up can be expensive. A bespoke RPA system is going to cost in the thousands, and can cost tens of thousands of pounds depending on requirements. When seeking approval for such a spend, it’s important to outline the long-term savings that will be made to show the return on investment for a pricey initial outlay.

Employees may be resistant to RPA too. The idea of ‘robots coming in and taking jobs’ is intimidating and gives people cause to worry about their job security. These feelings are valid, if misguided, so CTOs , CEOs and other responsible leaders need to allay these fears early on and make it clear that RPA bots aren’t going to replace people, they’re going to make their jobs easier, with less dreaded admin and repetition.

Another challenge teams may face in getting Robotic Process Automation live in their organisation is in getting it just right. It’s vital to have a clear vision of which processes RPA can handle for your organisation, and where it’s an appropriate option. RPA experts, such as our team at Newicon, can help you find your way and get the most out of RPA for your business.

The future of RPA in the UK

The World Economic Forum predicts that the use of machines and algorithms in the workplace could create up to 58 million jobs around the world in the coming decade. RPA has its part to play in this figure.

RPA has the potential to boost creativity and innovation in the UK. With a workforce freed from the drudgery of repetitive tasks and primed for the more engaging, strategic work that only humans thrive on, there’s so much opportunity to evolve past the workplace we know today. A 2018 study found that 60% of UK workers would be happy to delegate repetitive tasks to robots, so we know we’re already ready for a boom in RPA use, and UK businesses who get on with developing their RPA systems now will give themselves an edge over competitors who are slower on the uptake.

It’s not just about the workforce and productivity. When RPA bots are busy taking over admin and customer paperwork, customers and end users benefit too. They’ll need to complete less paperwork and spend less time validating and form filling. They’ll also be more likely to find a real, sympathetic person to talk to online or over the phone when they have a problem as customer-facing roles stand to benefit hugely from RPA time-savings.

Using RPA to transform your business

Robotic Process Automation is already changing the working landscape, bringing cost and time savings, improving adaptability and compliance, and boosting employee engagement. It serves a much-needed purpose and, in doing so, creates opportunities for businesses to grow and innovate beyond their current capacity.

So, why introduce RPA to your organisation now? Across multiples studies, over 70% of businesses surveyed had implemented or were in the process of implementing RPA – you don’t want to get left behind when your competition may already be well on their way to using this transformative technology. If you’re aware of time-consuming processes, an overload of admin, or repetitive tasks in your organisation, you and your employees stand to benefit from making use of RPA.

At Newicon, we can work with you to create an RPA solution that fits your organisation’s needs. We’re experts in using advances in technology to improve business operations, smoothly enhancing your organisation’s digital capabilities with hands-on project management and a wealth of experience.

Don’t get left behind – get in touch with one of our team today and we can start planning your new Robotic Process Automation solution.

I'm Mark Probert

Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) at Newicon

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