If you have not yet assessed Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and its associated benefits for your organization, you soon will. In their recent Top Trends in Tech whitepaper, McKinsey & Company identified Process Automation as the top technology trend that will impact company strategy, organization, and operations in the decade to come, with the potential to automate 50% of current manual work processes by 2025. As such, understanding RPA and its associated benefits will help you fully leverage its positive impact and prepare for the necessary change management required to support the transition to the future of work.
Before we jump into the top SMB/SME benefits of RPA, let’s first clarify the definition of Robotic Process Automation. Leslie Willcocks (Professor of Technology at the London School of Economics & Political Science) very concisely and suitably defines RPA as “a type of software that mimics the activity of a human being in carrying out a task within a process. It can do repetitive stuff more quickly, accurately, and tirelessly than humans, freeing them to do other tasks requiring human strengths such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment, and interaction with the customer.” As Leslie also noted, current RPA technologies are primarily focused on structured, repetitive, rule-based activities (not complex cognitive processes with unstructured data like real-time voice interactions or video).
Now that we have an understanding of the current definition and organizational impacts of RPA, let’s discuss a few of the key benefits of utilizing RPA in a small or medium-sized business.
Increased Employee Retention and Engagement
As the U.S. currently has more job openings than any other time in history, filling vacancies and retaining talent has never been more critical. RPA can be an asset in helping address labor shortfalls and minimizing employee turnover within your organization. Specifically, an organization can rapidly deploy software bots to automate traditional labor-intensive back-office processes, freeing internal resources and redeploying them into other higher-value customer-facing roles. These same employees (when released from the drudgery and stress of repetitive mundane tasks) are empowered to focus on more engaging, rewarding, and fulfilling work activities. When employees focus on more creative work, their job satisfaction increases, as highlighted in a Forbes study showing that 92% of companies saw improved employee satisfaction after deploying RPA.
Increased Organizational Productivity and Throughput
RPA consistently provides rapid quantifiable performance improvements in labor-intensive back-office processes. Survey analysis of companies using RPA shows average back-office capacity increases of 26% after deploying intelligent automation. Moreover, software robots are typically 4-5 times faster than humans on the same task and work 24/7/365 without breaks, vacations, or sick days. An additional benefit of intelligent automation is the process optimization that occurs during the design and deployment of an RPA solution, granting SMB’s the opportunity to repair broken legacy processes that won’t grow with the company. All of which provide small and mid-sized organizations a solid, scalable foundation for growth, allowing them to do more with less while continuing to increase their top and bottom lines.
Expedited ROI and Time to Value on Automation Investments
As noted in the Leslie Willcocks article referenced above, organizations experience RPA ROI performance of 30-220 percent in the first year. In addition to expedited ROI, SMB’s will also experience a much faster time to value, as their technology stacks are usually not as complicated (ex. utilization of standard cloud-based systems, “vanilla” off the shelf ERP/Accounting, etc.). These standardized systems result in much more rapid RPA bot deployments for small and medium-sized businesses, typically within 30 days or less. Another unique SMB benefit to RPA based automation is the light IT department footprint required to deploy RPA bots. Since RPA operates “on top of” existing systems at the user-interface level, access to high-demand IT developers to build custom interface programs is not needed.
Reduced Operational Costs and Compliance Risks
By utilizing RPA to handle repetitive manual back-office activities, organizations can decrease operating expenses in these areas while providing a rapidly scalable footing to support future growth. From a risk reduction perspective, research indicates that humans typically make between 3-6 errors per hour regardless of the activity or task. However, well-built software robots are 100% accurate, 100% consistent, and 100% compliant with policies. According to a Deloitte study, organizations utilizing RPA based processes see a 90%+ improvement in compliance, quality, and accuracy.
Improved Customer Satisfaction
Zendesk research finds that 50% of customers will switch to a competitor after just one bad experience. RPA can help thwart this customer churn by directly improving customer service, as outlined in the internal benefits highlighted thus far (ex. freeing resources for more proactive and attentive customer service, reduced errors, increased employee engagement, etc.). Additionally, RPA helps organizations improve customer-facing turnaround time and provides a foundation for 24/7/365 attention to customer demands.
Automation is No Longer Optional
RPA has been transforming the way enterprise organizations have been conducting business for the last decade. Fortunately, as RPA technology has continued to mature and advance, SMB/SME-sized organizations can now cost-effectively harness the power of RPA to reduce costs, support growth, increase agility, enhance customer service, and improve workforce engagement. However, as Winston Churchill famously noted, “With opportunity comes responsibility.” As witnessed in the enterprise space, a proactive well-planned execution of intelligent automation is now a required strategy component for SMB’s to continue to compete in today’s complex and competitive marketplace.
The future is now for small businesses. How will you leverage this transformative technology to accelerate your organization?
Read on to learn how to successfully get started on your organizational journey towards intelligent automation.