Robotic Process Automation Can Streamline Workflows, Transform Business Performance
by Ken Neal
April 12, 2021
Many business leaders are aware of the potential benefits of digital transformation. If you are reading this, chances are you are already on the transformation and digitization journey. It is also likely that you are assessing your manual, labor intensive processes across the enterprise and considering how automation can advance your strategic initiatives.
But while robotic process automation and workflow automation are established technologies, COVID-19 dramatically changed the road to transformation in the blink of an eye — and the map along with it. The pandemic created wide-ranging effects, challenges and opportunities. Some organizations found that the pandemic imperative motivated them to move through transformational initiatives faster than they once thought. Others were forced to take greater risks on innovation and were pleasantly surprised to see their people and technology rise to the challenge. Others were not so lucky and will have to find new tools, resources, and partnerships to fuel a strong recovery.
Change is constant, but the pandemic and subsequent economic challenges accelerated the pace and created a greater need to get the most out of RPA’s potential to help drive business transformation.
Don’t Wait — Intelligent Automation Is Here
Gartner research estimates that the sale of automation software will increase by 20% this year, on the heels of a 12% increase last year — nearly twice the investment in the same amount of time. RPA adoption is also happening on a greater scale. A recent Deloitte study found that 80% of executives surveyed have implemented some form of RPA, and another 16% intend to within three years.
Statistics like these were already trending in this direction, but the pandemic has turned up the heat. Intelligent automation is no longer just a “nice to have” — it’s a must. If you have only dipped a toe into the RPA waters, it is time to take a closer look at the benefits for a wider range of functional areas in your business with the help of a partner whose expertise you can trust.
The RPA Advantage
Two of the biggest barriers to digital transformation are legacy technology and processes. Organizations that struggle with aging enterprise resource planning systems and complex, multiplatform environments often find that their workflows and processes no longer serve the changing needs of their business. Compliance requirements and document management demand time and resources. Rote, labor-intensive tasks rob your workforce of valuable hours, while fragmented applications obscure valuable data.
Fortunately, the same organizations that suffer most from these challenges see some of the greatest benefits from an intelligent approach to RPA. The pandemic has also forced the hand of many businesses that have hesitated to change. Remote and hybrid workforces have led to even greater complexity — such as new collaboration issues, new talent onboarding and development challenges, disruptions to the supply chain, and an exclusively online consumer base.
It’s a perfect time to reevaluate RPA for your organization. RPA offers the potential to optimize your business processes and yield a solid return on investment (ROI) in several key ways:
- Productivity improvements. Robotic software can complete common tasks up to five times faster than manual labor and works around the clock, creating more time for revenue-driving activity.
- Increased accuracy. Clerical errors and oversights are a natural byproduct of manual, heavily routine tasks. Nobody’s perfect, and while your people strive for perfection, this isn’t possible without the assistance of automation. Mistakes are not just time-consuming and costly to identify and correct; they can also cost you customers if inaccuracies affect service levels.
- Better resource utilization. Automation doesn’t just create extra time. It’s also a scalability enabler. RPA can easily be scaled up or down to meet a specific need without the disruptions to your workforce that accompany changes in demand to manual processes.
- Better information. Automation extracts valuable data from disparate documentation, ensures that information is at your fingertips how and when you need it, and eliminates errors and inconsistencies. This allows you to reach insights faster and achieve continuous improvement of your business processes.
- Unlocked potential. RPA can have a profound effect on your talent base. Organizations that get the most out of automation don’t replace employees, they redeploy them. Those working with manual information often develop strong business acumen and data expertise as a result; automation frees them to apply and share that expertise in roles that create better outcomes. For example, State Auto Insurance Companies employed RPA to handle 173,000 hours’ worth of work without laying anyone off. This freed up the staff to focus on higher-impact work, and they were happy to be relieved of menial tasks.
The right external managed services partner brings process, technology and industry-specific expertise to the RPA journey. Such partnership can help identify the right processes to target, assist with implementation, and even support training to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your investment. This is especially necessary as organizations look to quickly recover and thrive following the pandemic.
We have helped clients solve document processing challenges. One financial services company was dealing with an unprecedented increase in the volume of human resources claims. The firm tapped Canon’s expertise to help meet the business challenge. With the help of Canon’s dedicated team, nine software bots were applied to the millions of human resources claims that make up a huge portion of their business activity. These bots replaced the manual tasks of extracting relevant data and matching it with legacy system records. This created uniform cases for the upstream adjudicators to finalize processing.
But the pandemic created a fourfold surge in HR claims, straining the capacity of the existing automation. The firm needed an immediate, scalable response to keep pace with the growing demand. Canon’s partnership and experience allowed the company to find the right solution — not just the easiest. When increases to 20 bots and then 35 bots were not enough, Canon ultimately deployed 70 bots working 24 hours a day to properly address the workload.
By leveraging Canon’s partnership and the expertise to scale automation quickly to meet the need, the financial services company was able to keep up. Canon’s collaborative approach had already transformed their business, and that foundation enabled the company to increase the number of bots incrementally — allowing the investment to match the need. In a time of crisis, the financial services organization had the right automation framework and, crucially, the right partner to respond.
A tumultuous year has forced organizations to reimagine the very fundamentals of business. The road to full recovery is long, but along the way, you can lay a better foundation for the future of your business. You’ll need the best people and the best ideas, and the time and resources to leverage them. Automation will be a big part of this reinvention. And Canon Business Process Services can help.