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Robotic Process Automation, Automation as a guarantee of quality and savings

At a time of cost reduction and shortage of IT personnel, RPA or robotic process automation may appear as a solution for automating repetitive tasks. Plus, it can facilitate digital transformation. So, is it the umpteenth term in vogue for the IT industry to enjoy? Or is it truly a disruptive technology? No doubt its success will depend on its integration into the overall business strategy.

If the Gartner research firm is to be believed, which views hyperautomation as one of the ten key technologies for this year, organizations using hyperautomation technologies will be able to reduce their operational costs by around 30% by 2024. Its consultants also estimate that the robotic process automation or RPA market could represent a turnover of 7 billion euros this year and constitute the most promising market segment in the field of enterprise software. Knowing that 40% of large companies will already have adopted an RPA software tool this year, compared to 10% in 2019.

RPA: a buzzword?

Gartner describes hyperautomation or RPA as follows: “This is an approach that allows organizations to quickly identify and automate as many processes as possible. RPA involves the use of a range of technological tools, including but not limited to machine learning, intelligent software solutions and automation tools.”

RPA aims to automate as much as possible those business processes that used to require human intervention up until now. In practice, the organization configures a software application, or a robot, that is capable of capturing and interpreting data in order to process repetitive operations. This brings advantages such as a greater speed of intervention, an improved quality (no risk of human error and a 24/7 operation) and obviously also lower operational costs (some observers suggest returns on investment of 30 to 200 % the first year).

In addition, by integrating technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing or voice recognition, RPA is proving to be even more efficient and interesting. And if you also add ITSM (IT service management) or process automation solutions, the benefits will be multiplied even further.

Limitations

Yet RPA is not a panacea, as the technology is not suitable for all types of organizations. Indeed, to allow the generation of relatively stable rules, it requires processing large volumes of transactions and very repetitive processes. This is particularly the case in the air transport sector (air tickets), in the financial world (credit cards, banking operations), in the public sector (services to citizens) or in many support functions (human resources, helpdesk , purchasing or IT). Even though a research firm like Deloitte believes that RPA is “a solution that can process any input data by running a series of pre-programmed actions, like a macro, and following predefined business rules.”

Another pitfall of RPA: entrusting (too many?) responsibilities to the robot, to the detriment of human workers. Especially since 9% of the global IT workforce could be threatened by this hyperautomation, according to consultant Forrester Research.

Also, RPA can only be successful if it is part of an overall strategy. Indeed, it is about rethinking business processes and their entire business model. And therefore about setting up a vast digital transformation program.

Finally, designing, interconnecting and managing thousands of robots may prove to be more complex and costly than most organizations initially imagined. Kind of like the cloud when it started.

Integration

As with many new IT technologies, the watchword of RPA is “integration”, as Gartner explains. “RPA may provide quick relief as a noninvasive form of integration. However, processes are not always simple, routine, repetitive and stable. They may be long running, and they often involve intelligent automated decision making and optimization. The real challenge — to scale beyond the initial few low-hanging fruits of routine processes — cannot be solved by a single tool or with siloed strategies.”

Aprico Consultants is a consulting company specializing in the architecture and transformation of information systems. By resolutely accelerating their digital transformation processes, the company provides its customers with the required flexibility, performance and competitiveness to strengthen their position on the market. Aprico Consultants collaborates with its clients to translate their company’s strategy, objectives and constraints into pragmatic transformation programs that deliver real added value and a proven return on investment.

“Given the potential that RPA holds, it is vital for organizations to develop a digital transformation strategy that encourages an automation-first mindset. While it is difficult to predict the technologies that will emerge in 2020, only innovative organizations will be able to react, adapt and lead,” Gartner concludes.