Brandon Nott is senior vice president of product at UiPath.
The automation opportunity is bigger than you think.
Many of us have been led to believe that automation can only eliminate large, expensive, repetitive processes and that automation requires a massive undertaking to achieve. Too much focus on those processes has caused organizations to underestimate the cumulative effects of smaller, more targeted automations. Like compound interest, investing in bite-sized process automations can generate outstanding returns over time.
Imagine the average duration of a particular finance department process is 60 minutes and through automation, the process can reduce it to 20 minutes. If the hourly wage for an entry-level accountant is $30, then an automation that eliminates two-thirds of that process would save your company $20 every time that process needs completion.
If one employee completes the process once per day, that would mean about $5,000 in savings every year. If 10 employees complete the process once per day, that would mean $50,000 in savings every year.
With automation, smaller efficiencies create exponential returns at scale
It’s often difficult to see this potential because there are so many small, tedious tasks embedded in processes throughout your organization.
According to McKinsey, “in about 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated.” In many of these automation opportunities, humans are needed for some part of the process, which makes classic approaches to automation challenging.
With attended automation, software robots can work alongside humans to share the workload in real-time. Humans collaborating with robots can get more done, faster, and with fewer errors. Their robots can do the dull, tedious tasks so employees can focus on the work they love.
In part one of this series, we focused on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) use cases for unattended automation, in which organizations schedule robots to handle processes that require minimal-to-no human input.
In part two, we’re focusing on three RPA use cases that call for attended automation, which leverages the relative strengths of humans and robots together in real-time.
1. Attended, Interval: Robot takeover
Financial services companies need to make regular profit and loss updates, but the process is manual and slow.
Involving more than a dozen compiled sheets, these profit and loss reports contain data that requires reformatting, compiling, and reviewing. Employees manually import the data, manipulate it, verify it, and then submit the data for further analysis and discussion. The process is laborious and time-consuming, and worse, manual composition across different reports tends to introduce errors.
Instead, employees can offload repetitive, monotonous tasks to attended robots to complete.
A user can start an attended process on-demand and in a variety of ways, including hot keys like CTRL-SHIFT-M, a mouse-click in an application, or by clicking on the process in the robot tray. Users then stand by while the robot takes over the mouse and keyboard and performs those tasks faster and with fewer errors than they would have.
An attended robot can complete these tasks without any manual intervention, so the team can focus on more critical activities. When one financial services company recognized this RPA use case, they were able to reduce handling time from 60 to 20 minutes, ensuring each report was 100% accurate.
By making portions of processes more efficient, employees, teams, organizations—and bottom lines—will increasingly feel the effect as it scales.
Forty minutes saved for one process is an improvement; 40 processes leveraging RPA are an innovation
When you can combine those improvements and innovations with creating a culture of 'automation first,' you have a transformation that takes place across your entire organization.
2. Attended, In Tandem: Working alongside the robot
Contact center agents frequently need to put customers on hold to focus on tasks that require their full attention. This doesn’t please anyone—not the employee, not the contact center, and certainly not the customer.
While their customers are on hold, agents may need to rummage through a few different systems to make notes, collect information, verify regulations, or any number of other activities to complete the call.
A scenario where humans need to juggle conversational and repetitive tasks calls for the next category of attended automation—where humans and robots work alongside each other.
In this RPA use case, an agent can continue using their machine and talking on the phone while a robot works in the background, quickly completing tedious tasks. This gives the agent the ability to keep their focus on the customer which directly increases productivity, improves the quality of the task, and more importantly, enhances the customer’s experience.
The robot can search across different systems for the required information and prepare it for the agent. Meanwhile, the agent can continue talking with the customer and use the information collected by the robot at appropriate times.
Customers and employees are happier thanks to the robot assistance
Working in tandem with the robot is possible when connecting directly to a database, automating an application in the background, or connecting to systems through an API.
Customers can get off the phone faster, with their problems having been better analyzed by a focused human.
"By 2023, there will be a 30% increase in the use of RPA for front-office functions (sales and customer experience)," according to the Gartner Predicts 2020: RPA Renaissance Driven by Morphing Offerings and Zeal for Operational Excellence report. Get your complimentary copy of the full report.
3. Hybrid Automation: Using attended and unattended robots
Sales teams often spend excessive amounts of time on data entry, which takes away from their ability to do what’s most important: selling.
The administrative parts of selling, such as entering the number of calls made, noting the sales actions taken, and recording outcomes are laborious, but critical to get right.
Using attended automation, a robot can support the activities of each sales professional. When that person performs pre-set actions, the robot can automatically collect and store that information.
At predefined intervals or in real-time, the attended robot can automatically hand off that information to an unattended robot for further processing.
The unattended robots can aggregate information for an entire sales department and send compiled information to necessary parties, as well as directly to the attended robot, which can then support individual salespeople.
While the sales team works, a combination of attended and unattended robots work together to help the sales team be more effective.
With RPA, you can not only take advantage of the strengths of human and robot labor, but also the strengths of attended and unattended robots
Hybrid automation is often useful for activities that interact directly with users, but where parts of the activities require more processing horsepower or information from multiple users to complete.
Small automations can lead to big returns
Automation doesn't require a clean separation between human and robot: in fact, some of the most impressive automations are actually a seamless integration of the two, taking the best of what each has to offer.
If your automation strategy is dependent on what enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) and large platforms make available, you’ll miss the opportunity to automate activities that can accumulate higher returns at scale.
With the RPA use cases attended automation enables, humans and robots can work together—passing off processes, working in parallel, and trading tasks dynamically—to improve efficiency, add value, increase employee engagement, and better serve customers.
Want to learn more? Join us for our "Attended vs Unattended Automation" webinar