Ángel Velez Marticorena
In these more than five years automating processes with RPA tools, we have seen how the opinion of the staff, the staff manager, the CIO and the CEO about this technology has been changing. When process robotization was beginning, almost all opinions converged on skepticism towards a novel technology and job reduction as the main and most important objective of robotization. Today, after robotizing hundreds of processes in companies in many different sectors, we have seen that robotization is understood for what it really is: an opportunity to simplify management and focus the workplace on generating value. That is, to better serve customers, uncover opportunities, design and develop new plans…
In order to robotize, it is necessary for the employee to expose each process he/she manages in detail, the interaction with the systems, the exceptions, the results… In addition, in many occasions, the process is not documented, so all the knowledge belongs exclusively to the employee. When we start a robotization project, we find many employees reluctant, fearful that the robot will compete for their job. But robots are made for employees. The employees are their owners, responsible for the operation of the robot. When an employee gets his first robots, which free him from the harder, repetitive work and allow him to engage in more creative and fulfilling activities, he becomes a fervent advocate and driver of company automation.
Almost all jobs with a computer among their tools generate automatable processes. Almost all jobs with management, decision making, customer relations… work with a computer and limit their real dedication to value creation by dedicating themselves to tasks that can be performed by a robot. It will also do it faster, without errors, without fatigue. Human resource managers who have monitored a process automation project have found that the first and most important result of robotization is to increase the ability of staff to generate value. With the same staff, the company can manage more and better, increase sales capacity, conflict resolution, dedication to the customer… Capacity limitations due to the administrative weight of the process decrease, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of the staff.
RPA is a non-intrusive technology that has minimal impact on existing systems and can be used by any company, regardless of its IT architecture. Everything that a user can do from his keyboard with the most diverse applications and user interfaces can be done by a robot. To date, we have not encountered any non-automatable user actions, which proves the potential and maturity of this technology. The CIO leading or promoting an automation project is aware that RPA is a complementary technology to the systems already in place and that it enhances the most efficient use of their internal systems and other external systems needed for daily management.
If traditional systems “automate” long processes defined by procedures, formulas, rules…, RPA “automates” shorter processes defined by user actions performed on existing systems. The CIO understands RPA as the essential technology to reduce the need to adapt or customize existing systems to user requirements. Also to move data between different systems, websites or office tools and to start introducing artificial intelligence solutions. Solutions that expand the potential of management systems. The CIO is integrating RPA technology into IT by defining and structuring a Competence Center in charge of extending robotization throughout the company’s various departments.
Often, an automation project starts with a simple proof of concept, developing a first robot for the company to “see and understand” the new technology and its possibilities. In each management area, there are many processes that can be automated. However, it is advisable to prioritize those that present a better ROI or those that substantially improve a service or the capacity and quality of management of a work center. When a CEO sees the first robots running and reviews the monitoring of results and ROI, he becomes aware of the enormous interest in process automation.
On the one hand, each automation is a small project that is defined and built in a few days or weeks. There is no risk of a large project. On the other hand, returns on investment for each automation are almost always less than one year. To conclude, the staff is oriented towards generating value, achieving, as we have said before, with the same staff what would require a larger workforce. In this context, the CEO identifies process automation as an essential project to strengthen the company.
All businesses will introduce RPA as a technology to streamline and simplify their processes. The symbiosis between robotization and cognitive technologies is a reality: artificial intelligence, text recognition and analytics, natural language processing, machine learning… Technologies that make it possible to create “intelligent robots” that replicate human capabilities and enhance employee-robot complementarity. All efficient workplaces will have software robots that will assist the user in the best performance of his or her function. In other words, “hyper-automation” is an irreversible path.