Article | 10.12.2020
Utilizing software robotics is more than just about seeking cost savings - quality and strategic benefits are often key
Operative efficiency has traditionally been seen as the primary benefit of software robotics: the cost- and FTE-savings produced from software robotics have been at the heart of the RPA value proposition. This value proposition might have brought up some concern – are robots taking our jobs?
According to an interview study conducted in Finnish organizations, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is usually utilized in automating individual tasks instead of complete job descriptions. Therefore, redundancies due to robotics and absolute cost savings resulting from that are seldom the reality in Finnish companies utilizing robotics. Instead of direct cost savings, software robotics is utilized to meet ever-increasing external demands and resource shortages, thus reducing the need for additional recruitment.
Qualitative improvements are more often the motive for using RPA
Recent studies in the field of RPA show that qualitative benefits are more often the motive for utilizing software robotics. The interview study we conducted also supported the same finding: besides operational efficiency, RPA projects are justified by benefits related to customer and employee satisfaction and qualitative improvements in Finnish companies.
RPA can be used to reduce the number of errors in the processes to be automized, minimize the risks associated with the manual process, and improve the company’s internal control. Robots can reduce additional costs that result from the slowness of manual processes or the features of the systems – e.g. the slowness of manual processes in financial administration may have a direct impact on managing cash flow and balance and cause increasing interest costs for the company.
Improving customer experience and satisfaction are also important benefits that can be attained with RPA. Software robotics enables faster customer service, which also helps to reduce the need for additional contact requests. RPA allows communicating to customers more regularly and in a more targeted manner. Although the absolute savings from automating these tasks are not significant, the improved customer experience raises the priority of these automated tasks.
RPA enables achieving strategic benefits that would not otherwise be possible
While efficiency and qualitative benefits are often the basis for leveraging software robotics, RPA also enables achieving important strategic benefits. Software robotics can be used to develop, test and launch new services. We interviewed 14 organizations, four of which created new services through RPA that could not have been executed in any other way. For example, in one of the studied organization, a new type of customer communication service was created with the help of RPA.
Management by knowledge and analytics can also significantly benefit from software robotics. Better data analysis and data utilization are increasingly key factors in successful business. The stumbling block to good data management is often that important information is not identified and collecting and processing information is laborious. Software robots are the ideal solution to these problems – collecting large amounts of data, enriching data and further processing the data from different systems is easily and quickly handled by a robot. By taking RPA into use, companies have been able to produce more comprehensive monitoring and reporting to support decision-making.
Software robotics can also be used in an organization to build artificial intelligence capabilities: the data collected by the robots can be used as input data for artificial intelligence applications and for data enrichment. Intelligent Process Automation, or IPA, is one of the most current terms in the industry at the moment: it seamlessly combines RPA automation with the possibilities of machine learning.
Therefore, while software robots can be used to replace the most repetitive tasks, the gems are often found when looking beyond cost savings alone.
This article about the use of RPA is based on a three-part empirical study: the RPA development projects carried out by Korkia (from which Sisua has since separated) in dozens of Finnish organizations in 2014-2018, interviews in private and public sector companies, and a case study in a Finnish private sector organization.
Author: Justus Tirronen, Senior Solution Consultant