Article | 1.2.2021 

Don't overlook automating core functions – the key benefits of RPA are often in direct customer impact

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RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is often seen as an automation tool especially for support functions and administrative tasks. However, software robotics is also widely used in core processes and operations related to external customers – such as marketing communications and processing orders, applications and compensations, as well as other stakeholder-related processes.

A study conducted by Sisua Digital as part of the Roboäly project analyzed the division of potential sub-processes and tasks for using robotics in either core or support functions in Finnish organizations. According to the analysis, the majority (62%) of the potential automation targets for software robotics are located in corporate support functions, which supports the previous research.

 

However, a closer analysis of the research data reveals that although support functions are automated to a large extent, they do not necessarily guarantee the most optimal productivity improvement potential. Only 30% of the automation use cases for support functions and processes have significant productivity improvement potential, while the corresponding figure for core processes is much higher: 43%.

 

The phenomenon can also be viewed from another perspective – about 78% of companies that have already started using robotics have used RPA for processes related to external customers, while RPA has been used to automate support functions in only 63% of the companies surveyed.

 

Thus, two things can be deduced from these results – the potential of core functions for RPA automation is on average greater than support functions and organizations are more inclined to launch their RPA projects in their core functions instead of support functions.

 

Automating core processes is advocated by its impact on customers, the volumes of those processes and previous automation history

What explains the potential and strong emphasis of automating core processes in organizations? In practice, many companies initially start to use robotics consciously in those processes that have the greatest impact on the end user, i.e. the customer experience. On the RPA roadmap smaller core process automation use cases often go past support functions’ automation use cases even if they had higher productivity improvements, as more significant quality improvements can be achieved with core process automation.

 

Secondly, the emphasis on automating core processes is explained by the volume associated with them. Finnish organizations may have hundreds of thousands or millions of customers in their customer information systems. Often, the transaction volumes of potential tasks for robotics in core processes are higher than, for example, in financial or human resource management processes.

 

A third significant factor is the organizations’ automation history: the most potential automation use cases are commonly found in functions whose systems’ automation has not traditionally been prioritized and the degree of automation is lower. Particularly financial management systems are often already highly automated, which means that there are basically fewer potential applications for RPA.

Utilizing robotics should be considered in the company's strategy

The software robotics strategy must always be synchronized with the company’s strategy and ICT roadmap. When starting an RPA project, you need to think about what are the strategic priorities of the organization. And what are the key performance metrics that support these goals? If developing customer experience and customer value are key factors in the development of the entire business, then this should also be reflected in the RPA roadmap, and then the core processes should be boldly emphasized, as their automation has a direct impact on the customer.

Author: Justus Tirronen, Senior Solution Consultant

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