Despite what some doom-mongers fear, robots aren’t going to steal every single job from humans any time soon. Humans are capable of carrying out plenty of jobs, especially those requiring traits like creativity, strategy and interpersonal skills, that artificial intelligence is nowhere near able to replicate. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t tasks that machines can help with: particularly when it comes to dull, repetitive, high volume and time-consuming chores that human workers’ time would be better spent without having to do.
This is where RPA enters the picture. What is RPA? Short for Robotic Process Automation, it refers to software “bots” that can be used to autonomously carry out repetitive, routine-based tasks. In doing so, not only can RPA reduce the time it takes to carry out these jobs, but also improve accuracy — all while freeing up the time of the employees who used to have to carry them out to instead focus on more interesting, value adding work.
Creating a comprehensive list of all the jobs RPA can assist with would be impossible. After all, every industry has its share of routinized jobs that have to be carried out on a regular basis. However, the below list will give some sense of how versatile Robotic Process Automation can be.
Here are five common tasks it can be effectively utilized to assist with.
Lots of jobs will reimburse employees for materials, accommodation, travel and myriad other expenses. If you’re a large organization, where expenses are commonplace, keeping tabs on these can be a time-consuming task. Using technology like Optical Character Recognition (OCR) as part of an RPA solution, RPA bots can be used to extract relevant data from receipts submitted and then use it to populate expense reports. It could even be programmed to submit these reports to the correct managers to receive the necessary sign-offs.
Data entry admin and forms processing
Every business will have some form of data entry. If this can be done quickly and easily, it’s fine. However, frequently, data entry is a major time suck — which can also result in errors being introduced as part of the entry process. In many cases, companies will additionally use legacy systems for tasks such as billing, which may not integrate effectively with other pieces of software. The result can be that pulling relevant data from software A and depositing it in software B becomes a highly manual process. This is another job RPA can do, carrying it out rapidly and without errors. If the data entry is needed for something like billing this can also speed up the efficiency of other parts of your business — meaning, for example, that invoices are sent out faster or claims are processed more rapidly.
Processing credit card applications
When you apply for a new credit card, the financial services company responsible for issuing it has to carry out a series of processes — including extracting information from the relevant user-submitted documents, carrying out credit and background checks, and other steps that are necessary to determine whether the applicant should receive the card they’ve requested. RPA bots can be used for this processing, thereby automating much of the approval process.
Onboarding of new customers
The early part of the customer journey that involves acquainting them with a new service or product is crucial, especially if you want to avoid customer churn. This means being able to rapidly answer questions, among other tasks, with the goal of making the onboarding process as straightforward as possible. Use of RPA as part of the onboarding process can take a number of forms, ranging from automated document capture and identity verification to automating communication using the customer’s preferred choice of channel or medium.
Preparing and sharing reports
Many businesses will frequently have to generate and collate reports that can be used to inform managers, teams, stakeholders and others about the progress or status of different projects. RPA makes it possible to auto-generate reports by extracting data from a range of sources and then sending it to the right parties. In doing so, it can be a major timesaver for the likes of project managers who may otherwise have to carry out this time-intensive task themselves.
Just the tip of the iceberg…
These are only a small sampling of the type of jobs that RPA can assist with. Generally speaking, if a task is able to be broken down into a series of steps, which are repeated with little in the way of variation, they can be automated using RPA tools. The technology continues to get better as well, meaning that processes that could not have been automated just a few years ago can now be with a high degree of success.
That means that, even if you’ve investigated RPA in the past and found it lacking certain abilities required for automation, it’s well worth looking again. After all, with so many potential advantages to automation, everyone from your employees to your customers will thank you for it.