Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of software robots that can be programmed or trained to execute any repetitive, rules-based task currently performed by employees, such as data entry, data capture and categorization, copying and pasting, and many of the steps in such processes as billing and accounts payable, claims or loan processing, or order fulfillment. View this video for a quick overview.
The most versatile RPA solutions are available in three modes: Unattended, Attended and Hybrid Automation.
Traditional Robotic Process Automation
- Executes repetitive, rules-based tasks 24/7
- Common in back offices and shared services
- Robot runs on a virtual desktop without human involvement
To learn some of the processes prime for traditional RPA, read the blog: 25 Examples of Processes For Robotic Process Automation.
- Works alongside the human worker providing process guidance and ensuring compliance
- Used broadly across different functions
- Robot runs on employee desktop and assists actively in the work
Learn how Verint Process Assistant™ can help your staff work more efficiently.
Robots run in unattended and attended modes
- Enables the passing of work between humans and robots, letting each do what they do best
- Good fit for contact centers
- Robot does some work automatically, helps employees do other tasks
Hybrid Automation in Action: Car Loan Financing
A multinational financial services company wanted to become the automobile financing lender of choice. To do so, it needed to accelerate the adjudication process for dealer requests for financing.
Instead of having full-time employees manually sort loan applications into adjudicators’ queues based on specific parameters, the company took a hybrid approach to implementing RPA. Now, when requests for financing are received, the system acknowledges the receipt and starts the data collection and review process (i.e., unattended mode). Software robots populate the evaluation form, categorize each application and submit it to the adjudicator, who can quickly approve, reject or pend the loan for further investigation.
The system can flag anomalies in applications and prompt adjudicators on actions needed to rectify the issue (i.e., attended mode). It can also prevent adjudicators from approving loans outside their authority limits, reducing company risk. When adjudicators approve or reject loans, the software robot picks up the task, completes the response form and can submit the approval or rejection back to the dealer.
Through automation, the lender reduced the time it took to collect, assess and assign applications to adjudicators by 50 percent, freeing up 5 FTE for higher value activities. It also increased business because of faster turnaround times while removing 100 percent of human error from these process steps.
How Do You Create a Blended Virtual and Human Workforce?
Robots can unleash employee potential by removing low-value, tedious tasks, enabling employees to focus on customers and adding value to the organization, rather than on transactions. However, creating a smooth workflow and effectively planning resources – both robotic and human – is a journey organizations are just embarking on.
According to a Deloitte 2017 survey, “32% of companies are prepared for RPA technology; but only 12% are prepared for the people implications.”
2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte Consulting LLP
The following activities can help you create synergies between robots and humans, manage the combined workforce and create value for your customers, employees and organization.
Identify Processes for Automation
Organizations need to take a measured, structured approach to identifying processes that are prime for automation: both unattended (high volume, error prone, repetitive, rules-based tasks/process steps) and unattended (some automation with required human decision touch points). Click here for tips on prioritizing processes for automation.
A solution like Verint Process Discovery can help speed this process by creating near real-time process maps based on actual employee desktop activity. The maps show how many people executed the process and all the process flow deviations taken and possible outcomes.
Read the whitepaper: Five Steps Toward Sustainable Process Improvement to learn how Process Discovery and Analytics, along with RPA can help organizations measure, monitor and continually improve business processes.
Create a Holistic Capacity Plan
To get the most from your digital and human workforces, you’ll need a capacity model that captures the work performed by both, all on a single dashboard. This can help you understand the value gained by RPA. As efficiencies improve and new tasks and automations are added, you’ll need to update the model.
RPA can impact capacity in several ways:
- A reduction in handle times for processes
- Increased capacity that can be used to reduce backlog and overtime or the need for temporary help during peak seasons
- Greater availability of resources to assist other departments
- An opportunity for employees to take on more complex, challenging work – improving skills and job satisfaction
Having a capacity plan that factors in both the digital and human workforce is critical to ensuring the efficiency savings created by RPA are captured by the organization. If processing times and goals are not adjusted for your employees, the savings may never be realized. Parkinson’s Law – the adage that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion – is likely to prevail, and capacity created by RPA will simply be absorbed by the organization.
The amount of time which one has to perform a task ... is the amount of time it will take to complete it.
Balance Workloads and Manage Performance
It’s critical to manage workloads and performance by automating the allocation of work and tasks between robots and humans, load balancing the output of robot work into the human queue and vice versa. A workload dashboard can compare actual volumes vs. forecasted, and the amount of work to be executed vs. the available resource hours available, alerting managers to potential service level risks.
The dashboard should also provide a view of key performance indicators, which will be different for robots than for humans. Throughput (number of activities executed) might be a KPI for both, but the goals will be different based on task types executed. New ground is being broken here by applying performance metrics to the digital workers. Robot KPIs include:
- Processing time by task
- Time active by task type
- Task repetition
Dashboards like the ones available with Verint Performance Management™, give leadership visibility into how well the whole team is doing and where adjustments need to be made.
Caveat: Avoid making comparisons between robot and human overall productivity; it is not a like-for-like scenario. Robot productivity can be optimized with effective planning and scheduling. Human productivity can be impacted by many factors, and improving productivity typically requires coaching, training and ensuring employees have the tools they need to perform well.
Software robots and employee skills will need continual training and updating as work volumes, types, and systems evolve. For robots, this means creating scripts with rules and business logic applied to the tasks they are to perform. Employees will need training on exception handling and more complex activities that require judgement and creative problem solving. Case management and knowledge management solutions can help employees navigate the more complex tasks and processes and provide contextual, just-in-time knowledge resources for better decision making.
Address Cultural Concerns
Educating employees and managers on the value and impact of RPA is critical. Consider creating a change management plan that includes communications on how the robots help the human workforce, not replace them. Be up front in addressing employee concerns (Will my job be taken over by a robot?) and emphasize the value RPA provides as a positive addition to the team.
Also, acknowledge that it will take time for your employees to trust that the robot is doing the right things and that an issue with a robot won’t reflect poorly on them. Software robots are faceless, but it’s human nature to want face-to-face interactions with colleagues. Some have gone so far as naming the robots and designating an empty desk as the robot’s, with an avatar placed on the desktop screen. But what will ultimately make employees comfortable with the new technology is a thorough understanding of why it’s being deployed, how it works and how it will help them and the company reach their performance goals.