Smarter Bots Mean Greater Innovation, Productivity, and Value
The bots are marching in, a trend that is going to continue at an increasing pace as the use cases for robotics expand to address opportunities throughout organizations. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are allowing companies to re-imagine and re-invest in all aspects of their businesses, including their employees. The all-time-low U.S. unemployment rate reflects the great value of robotic process automation (RPA) in driving productivity improvements and innovation, which decreases the need for workers.
The RPA and bot industry is still in its infancy, although the concepts have been around for decades. What didn’t exist until recently were out-of-the-box applications and frameworks that can be inserted into an attended or unattended process and quickly implemented to automate some or all steps of a workflow. Today bots are available to handle a growing number of common and unique front- and back-office tasks and shared business activities services.
Automation initiatives are priorities in most industries, and executives are moving quickly to get on board. Companies typically start with a proof of concept, automating three to five processes, and after the promised return on investment is rapidly realized, the floodgates are opened for multiple automation opportunities.
IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS DESKTOP ANALYTICS
Twelve years ago, desktop analytics (DA) technology entered the service world, promising to empower business managers with automated next-best-action or real-time guidance. DA had five core capabilities: desktop activity tracking (its foundational component), employee guidance/next best action, system performance measurement, workflow automation, and business process automation. It allowed business managers to create new screens and real-time guidance instructions without having to change the underlying code of the supporting systems, and it didn’t require the assistance of IT. DA solutions have been implemented primarily in back-office operating environments to handle a variety of functions and have been used lightly in contact centers, but adoption has been disappointingly low.
RPA CATCHES ON
In the past two to three years, RPA technology has leapfrogged DA and desktop process automation (DPA). DPA is attended automation that is used to improve the effectiveness of agents. RPA is unattended and fully automates the handling of a task, eliminating the need for agents or employees. RPA is being used heavily in the back office and is also handling enterprise shared-service tasks such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, and employee on-boarding, particularly now that the vendors have made progress in addressing the optical character recognition challenge. RPA also has some uses in the front office, and DMG expects to see RPA being used in more hybrid environments that include live agent support along with DPA.
THE BOT VALUE PROPOSITION
Bots are compelling because they contribute to organizations in a number of quantifiable ways. Their initial value proposition is that they allow business managers to easily and rapidly create mini-applications and automations. Businesses cannot always afford to wait for IT to fix their issues or deliver new functionality, given the rapid pace of technological change and the cost of traditional IT development.
RPA and DPA excel in automating routine, repetitive tasks. If a company can save 10 seconds to minutes by automating an activity that is performed hundreds or even thousands of times daily, it can cut thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per day from its budget. Just as important, robots don’t make human errors, although they do falter if something changes in the environment, which is why it’s essential for RPA or DPA solutions to come with a highly effective “control room” to flag anomalies and manage all aspects of the bots. Lastly, robots are typically more reliable than humans; they don’t require recruiting, training, vacations, or sick days, and they don’t come in late. Once a bot is in production, it will keep doing its function until it is told not to by its controller.