THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO RPA

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T-Impact’s Ultimate Guide to RPA

As experienced transformation experts and one of the greatest advocates of software automation over the last 10 years, T-Impact have become synonymous with RPA in a number of industries.

This guide is intended to help businesses navigate the subject of RPA, as they identify relevant applications to their organisation and build the business case for their first RPA project.

Index

• What is RPA?

• What are some common examples of RPA?

• What are the benefits of RPA?

• How do robots manage exceptions?

• Do you need to be technical to implement RPA?

• Why RPA implementations fail?

• What are the pros and cons of attended vs unattended automation?

• How does RPA compare to other enterprise automation tools?

• What is meant by “Automation First”?

• What is meant by “Hyperautomation”?

• How do you deliver RPA at Scale?

• What is an RPA Centre of Excellence?

• What are the key factors driving automation adoption?

• RPA by the numbers

• Use cases by industry

WHAT IS RPA?

RPA is the abbreviation for Robotic Process Automation and it involves using software (the “robot”) to perform tasks at the user interface (UI) level normally carried out by humans. These tasks need to adhere to a set of rules and are typically highly repetitive.

If it can be done by a human and follows specific rules, then a robot can almost certainly do it. They can copy and paste data, log into applications, extract and process content from documents and emails, and make calculations.

• RPA can assess IT systems, extracting & updating data via screens.

• RPA can communicate with humans using email, text message, letters and work flow systems

• RPA can be configured with business rules to apply human type logic to activities, e.g. deciding when to approve/decline things, knowing who should be notified, tracking status against service levels

• RPA can be combined with AI to have natural language conversations with humans

What are some common examples of RPA?

The examples depend on the industry in question (see specific use cases at the bottom), but some common sector agnostic use cases include:

• Payroll processing

• Customer on-boarding

• New enquiry processing

• CRM updates

• Order processing

What are the benefits of RPA?

Reduction in cost

Improvements in quality

Enhanced employee engagement

Agility

Enhanced insights

Greater scalability

Reduction in cost

Robots are able to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They don’t call in sick or waste time chatting by the water machine. Put simply, for certain tasks they are far more efficient the humans, enabling more to be done at less expense.

Improvements in quality

Robots don’t make mistakes. Human error is entirely eliminated from any task that is fully automated (assuming, that is, that it’s been configured correctly!).
Greater compliance – the enhanced consistency and accuracy makes it far easier to satisfy regulatory requirements.

Enhanced employee engagement

The major fear of RPA is a resulting loss in jobs. However, while that is a rational expectation, in practice the vast majority of companies investing in RPA have not only avoided large scale redundancies, but also found more valuable and rewarding ways to use their staff, improving employee experience and engagement.

Agility

One of the challenges of many forms of enterprise technology is its inability to adapt to changing circumstances. RPA, on the other hand, can be modified rapidly, far faster than a human workforce.

Enhanced insights

So much of business strategy nowadays is fuelled by data, but most businesses struggle to leverage this value as their data is inconsistent, inaccurate or inaccessible. RPA doesn’t make mistakes or skip steps, so the data it produces can instantly be fed back into the machine to ensure ever smarter decision making.

Greater scalability

Perhaps the greatest benefit of RPA is its ability to scale massively. Traditionally, when a company uncovers a great commercial opportunity, its ability to capitalise is limited by the speed with which it can hire, train and deploy new talent, which will invariably take months if not years. RPA shifts that paradigm entirely.

Even repetitive tasks involve some inconsistencies. How does the software cope with those?

These are what we call “exceptions”. Ideally tasks being automated would always contain structured data that follows certain patterns and rules. However, even highly repetitive tasks will often contain unpredictable elements. These exceptions are highlighted by the software so that they can be manually reviewed by a human.

Do you need to be technical to implement RPA?

This depends on the task being performed but one of the attractions of RPA is that with basic training any employee in an organisation can learn how to use robots to assist in their day to day role. In fact, it is the vision of the major RPA vendors that before long every employee will have their own robot and use it for all of their dull, repetitive tasks.

Why RPA implementations fail?

Companies fail in their automation journeys for the following reasons:

THEY THINK TOO SMALL

THEY DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT SYSTEMS IN PLACE

THEY DON’T ENGAGE SENIOR LEADERSHIP

THEY FAIL TO HAVE AN EFFECTIVE CHANGE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

THEY SELL IT TO THE BOARD AS A COST CUTTING EXERCISE

THEY EXPECT THEIR IT DEPARTMENT TO DELIVER RPA WITHOUT SPECIALIST SUPPORT

The first automation project for any business is always the hardest. After all, this is the project that reveals all the shortcomings in their systems and the inconsistencies in their data, not to mention all of the people problems involved in any change management initiative. This first project will have to resolve all of these issues, and it won’t be simple, but once that’s done then every project thereafter will be significantly easier and faster. However, if their exploration into automation was sold to the board as a simple pilot test, the results are likely to be disappointing. The second, third and fourth projects will never happen, and all of that hard work will have been for nothing. Even if it’s a success, the impact is going to be isolated within a particular part of the business. To have any chance of driving a true enterprise transformation strategy, you have to think big from the outset.

 

Automation is only as powerful as the system being automated. Automate a bad system, expect terrible results faster than ever! Unfortunately, most companies fail to bridge the gap between the technology and business process architecture. They may have really smart technology teams but if those people aren’t equipped with the necessary business expertise or able to effectively engage with the department in question to ensure it’s solving the problems they actually need solving, then the end result, no matter how beautifully developed, is unlikely to represent a compelling business case for further investment. This is precisely why companies hire T-Impact – to bridge the gap between business and technology.

 

For this to be implemented at an enterprise level and to represent a true automation strategy, you need the buy in not only of IT and the business functions in question, but also of senior leadership. Otherwise this will be approached in a siloed fashion, change adoption will be a struggle and results will be limited.

The paradox of any large scale technology programme is that the technology is invariably the easy part. The real challenge is in the human dimension. How do you win hearts and minds? How do you articulate to people why automation is not only the right thing for the business, but the right thing for them? How do you engage them effectively so that they don’t become obstructive, but rather collaborate positively and help you to apply RPA in a way that produces real business results?

It all comes down to executing the fundamental change management principles that have underpinned every successful transformation programme of the last 30 years. Senior leaders must communicate a clear vision and why automation needs to be part of that vision. Fears must be listened to and addressed. And likely champions must be identified so that they can embrace the technology with enthusiasm and demonstrate the value of RPA to the rest of the organisation.

Can automation remove costs? Of course. Dramatically. However, if you sell it as all about cost cutting you are making two mistakes:

1. You are selling your people short – You are going to lead people to believe that jobs will be lost. In our experience, that is rarely the case. Far more likely that these human resources will be put to better use instead, typically in more customer facing, creative and rewarding roles.

2. You are selling the technology short – RPA is capable of transforming the customer experience by enhancing accuracy, rapidly accelerating response times and enhancing human engagement as people are now freed up to do the things that only humans can. The cost savings, as profound as they can be, are rarely the lead benefit.

As already discussed, the greatest challenges you will encounter involve people, so passing exclusive ownership to the Head of IT is unlikely to yield the results you’re after. Furthermore, the commercial value of the automation is determined by the process being automated, so it’s essential that the functions in question are driving the design of the robots. For example, if the task is customer on-boarding, you need to involve those people currently responsible for customer on-boarding, as they’re the people who understand what “good” looks like. They know what matters most to the customer and where things could go horribly wrong. This involvement of each department is what we call a “hub and spoke” system, where the technology function is the “hub”, and each department is a “spoke”. The “hub” element is essential as this is where the technical expertise exists, and where standards can be set and monitored. It’s also where the RPA Centre of Excellence can reside to ensure the lessons learnt from one use case can be applied to other parts of the business. However, without the engagement of each “spoke”, the adoption levels and business benefits are likely to be underwhelming.

What are the pros and cons of attended vs unattended automation?

Unattended automation involves those tasks that can be fully automated using RPA. This depends on the data being entirely (or almost entirely) structured, so that everything can be programmed. There may be a number of “exceptions”, but they too can be built into the rules for the robot to follow.

The trouble with some tasks is that they contain so much unstructured data that it’s virtually impossible to create all the necessary “exceptions”. Instead, the robots will need to collaborate with a human worker, so that the robot automates the structured elements, and the human deals with the rest. This attended automation is sometimes referred to as “Desktop automation”.

This of course places a cap on the speed with which the robot can operate, which is why increasingly vendors are integrating elements of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to replace the human component.

 

Unattended vs. Attended RPA Solution

How does it compare to other enterprise automation tools?

RPA VS Traditional Automation

While traditional automation requires significant programming as the developer has to integrate different underlying systems, RPA simply replicates the action of the user at the UI (User Interface) level. In other words, traditional automation is a highly technical endeavour, whereas RPA is able to bypass much of that complexity and still achieve the same results.

Further to that, developers may not have access to the source code which in some instances may make the necessary customisation for traditional automation impossible, or the system may be so old that finding the necessary technical skills could be difficult. Again, RPA overcomes these hurdles.

This relative simplicity also accelerates the “time to market”, which can be vital in building the business case commercially.

Perhaps most importantly, the fact that non-developers can use RPA means that the functions being directly affected by the technology can have a strong input in its design, maximising the likelihood of it solving real business challenges, while traditional automation often becomes silo’ed within the technology department.

RPA VS Artificial Intelligence (AI)

There is a world of difference between these terms. RPA is simply a piece of software that mimics human activity, while AI is the simulation of human intelligence by machines.

RPA in one sense is actually very rudimentary technology, which is precisely why it’s so powerful. It is simply a machine copying what a human would do, but faster, more accurately and without stopping. AI, on the other hand, has no limits, and in truth we are barely able to comprehend its potential to transform both business and the broader world. It’s this complexity that means that, for the majority of businesses, the practical value of AI is in many cases less profound than that of RPA. For now, at least.

To confuse matters further, both terms actually sit within a continuum known as IA – Intelligent Automation, in which RPA is the “doing”, while AI is the “thinking”.

Increasingly, RPA vendors are looking at how they can apply elements of AI in order to take greater value from their robots. For example, let’s say that a task being automated has a large proportion of unstructured data. RPA alone will not be able to interpret that data (unless every “exception” is programmed, which in this example we are assuming would be too large a task to be practical). One solution is “attended automation”, in which a human would complete those elements of the task that depended on instructed data. However, that human input obviously places a bottleneck on speed that may significantly reduce the value of the automation. This is where using an element of AI or machine learning can help the process to automate fully, although it will of course add a level of complexity and cost to the project.

What is meant by “Automation First”?

An increasingly common phrase now being used by the large vendors is “automation first”. They have seen from implementing thousands of RPA projects around the world how those companies that derive real value from automation, build it into their strategies from the outset. They understand that every function in a business can benefit profoundly from automating repetitive tasks, and freeing up the humans in that department to focus on the things they do best – thinking creatively and adding value to the customer experience.

What is meant by “Hyperautomation”?

RPA is now moving beyond task automation to more complex processes and workflows. With RPA as the means of assessing your IT systems, it is integrating AI, machine learning, process mining, digital analytics and other emerging and disruptive technologies to go beyond the simple automation of everyday human tasks, and towards entirely new organisational capabilities that allow ambitious companies to achieve things they previously couldn’t have imagined.

How do you deliver RPA at Scale?

Once the business case for RPA has been proved and the organisation is seeking to roll it out company-wide, there are operational questions to be asked around how this large scale adoption is managed. There are three main options:

The centralised model – the centralised approach is where the company places responsibility in the hands of one single team, usually within the technology function. The benefit of this is that the team has a really strong understanding of RPA and the likely technical hurdles. The team can also ensure certain standards and frameworks are developed. The advantage of this model is that there is a high level of standardisation and control, but the downside is that the solutions designed may not always address the most significant challenges and opportunities faced by the individual business functions.

The decentralised model – this is where power is passed to each of the individual business functions, so HR may have its own RPA team, for example. The upside of the decentralised model is that each of these business functions best understands the most powerful potential use cases for RPA, and can apply the technology accordingly. The downside is that it can result in a lack of standardisation and quality control, with every function doing things that little bit differently.

The hub and spoke model – the hub and spoke approach is the one we typically encourage, where the hub is the centralised RPA unit and the spokes are each of the separate business functions. The idea of course being to find a sensible middle ground, where certain rules are standardised whilst also offering sufficient flexibility for each function to apply the technology in the way that they know will have the greatest possible impact.

 

RPA Models RPA Implementation RPA Service Provider

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What is an RPA Centre of Excellence?

In order to embed RPA deep within the organisation, we recommend that companies set up an RPA Centre of Excellence. Ideally the CoE will include all of the following roles:

RPA Champions – the person or people, ideally at a senior level, who evangelise about the benefits of RPA and educate other key influencers within the organisation on the potential use cases.

The change manager – the person who will take the helm from a cultural and people perspective. The person who will articulate to those most directly affected why this is in their interest, to engage and consult them throughout the process and address their concerns as they arise.

Business analyst – the people who understand the processes that are to be automated and how they need to be mapped out in order to maximise business benefit.

Solution architect – the expert who defines the RPA solution required, and oversees the implementation phase ensuring all the right tools and features are integrated.

Developers – those who actually build the solution, testing throughout and collaborating with the analyst and architect to ensure alignment with their plans and objectives.

Service support – once deployed, the RPA support experts will handle queries and manage exceptions to ensure the full value of the solution is realised day to day.

Key factors driving automation adoption

Changing expectations of employees – As Guy Kirkwood, Chief Evangelist of UiPath put it, “The young are not prepared to put up with the sh** that we put up with in the last 30 years.” The point being that young people entering the workforce are so comfortable with technology, and so conditioned to turning to technology as a solution for all of their problems, that they will not tolerate companies that fail to adapt. They want to be doing interesting, rewarding jobs, and pass the boring tedious stuff onto the robots.

Economic disruption – be it the financial crisis of 2008 or the Coronavirus outbreak of 2020, we live in unpredictable times. Businesses will always exist for and because of humans, but it’s important that business resilience and continuity is not dependent on humans at every minute of every day. RPA offers a chance for businesses to be far more durable, so that when crisis strikes, humans can turn their attention the other parts of their lives that matter, without fear of losing their jobs or the business hitting the wall.

The Amazon effect – it doesn’t matter what sector you’re operating in, consumers have come to expect fast and frictionless transactions with the brands they engage with, so when you’re judging the quality of your customer experience, you need to ensure you’re not only comparing yourself to your direct competitors, but to the likes of Amazon and Netflix. What can you learn from their user journey that you could apply to your own? This attention to detail is only possible if you are using technology to ensure consistency of experience, while freeing your people up to do the things that humans do best – engage with other humans. As of today, RPA is probably the single most powerful technology in facilitating this revolution.

RPA by the numbers

5 years – At the current rate of growth, RPA adoption will become saturated – meaning nearly every company will be using it in some form – in the next five years, according to Deloitte. In other words, RPA will reach near-universal adoption at some point in 2023, Deloitte predicts.

2020 – Gartner projects spending on RPA software to hit $1.3 billion this year.

$2.9 Billion – Forrester has predicted the RPA software market to total $2.9 billion in 2021.

800,000 Robots – By the end of 2020, there will be around 800,000 unattended Robotic Process Automation robots running on cloud and on-premise servers, according to the latest report from the Everest Group.

58% Increased Productivity – The increase in productivity in the manufacturing industry since 2009, largely attributed to the widespread use of RPA, from the Office of National Statistics.

26% Increased Revenues – The increase in revenue per employee seen by companies adopting RPA according to CGI Group.

10% Costs Cut – The cut in enterprise costs seen by companies adopting RPA, according to the CGI Group.

30% Automation – The percentage of all jobs that could be automated by mid-2030s according to PWC.

50% Transport Jobs Automated – The number of transport industry roles that will be available to be automated by 2030 according to PWC.

$6.7 Trillion Global Value – The global financial implications of automation and RPA technologies, according to Mckinsey & Company.

13.6% Market Share – The market share held by our RPA partner of choice and world-leading RPA provider UiPath.

72% on RPA Journeys – Deloitte estimate that by 2021, 72% of their RPA survey respondents will have embarked on their RPA journey.

Less than 12 Months Payback – Due to the efficiency of RPA, Deloitte found that investments in robotic process automation are usually profitable within a year.

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ACCOUNTANCY USE CASES

USE CASE 1 – Export & Import from Account Statements

USE CASE 2: Accounts Payable, Receivable & Customer Invoicing

USE CASE 3 – End of Month Accounting

Generating account statements involves multiple programmes and huge amounts of data being manually imported and exported. Not only is this process inefficient, but the volume of data being transferred to and from various locations exposes it to human error.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can manage this sequence, including:

• Transactions in and out of the business.

• Exporting and importing account statements to and from different software platforms.

By automating this process, companies can significantly reduce the manual effort needed for the task, as well as greatly speed up processing times. This frees up staff members to deal with complex customer queries, resulting in faster response times and better customer service.

 

Setting up accounts payable and customer invoicing has always involved a great deal of administration, which has traditionally been a manual process performed by bookkeepers and junior staff. This often leads to data entry errors and consequently control reports are required to mitigate the risks.

For accounts receivable, timely collection of revenue is essential to cash flow and liquidity. Delays in accounts receivables can affect sales revenue as well, as customers who have reached their credit limit are likely to buy from competitors. Customers need to receive regular reminders, as well as being able to easily determine the net amount owed to businesses to ensure they can maintain positive cash flow.

Robotic Process Automation can automate every aspect of the accounts payable process:

• Open and scan supplier invoice emails, extracting key details such as VAT, the amount due and supplier information from digital or scanned images.

• Identify suppliers in the finance system using extracted data, adding approved suppliers where they haven’t yet been created.

• Match invoice to purchase order and verify basis for payment such as milestones & products received in the finance system.

•Identify the person responsible and obtain approval/rejection with rationale, following with reminders until resolved or escalated.

• Add it to the payments schedule once invoice payment has been confirmed.

Robotic Process Automation can automate every aspect of the customer invoicing process:

• Set a component trigger on the automation platform, such as a sale being closed in a Customer Relationship Management system or a timesheet raised on a professional service automation platform.

• Detect and verify that the timesheet information is accurate and complete, before sending out the invoice for internal approval and producing the final invoice for distribution.

Robotic Process Automation can automate every aspect of the accounts receivable process:

• Match check, cash, bacs & credit card payments against debtor invoices & credit notes.

• Apply payment type specific business rules, e.g. cash payments are only applied to exact match, BACS payments applied if payments within defined tolerance.

• Sophisticated “natural language” matching rules, with flexibility to add additional rules later, considered (a) age of debt, (b) precedence, (c) amounts of payment, (d) amounts of invoices, (e) amounts of credit notes, (f) tolerances.

• Update finance system to reflect invoices paid and credit limit released.

• Send automatic reminders based on customer payment terms, e.g. reminders some days before payment due and some days after.

• Implement collection treatment plans based on age of debt, implementing appropriate actions such as further reminders, internal escalation or outsourcing to credit agencies.

Automating these processes ensures greater accuracy in accounting and finance reporting and works almost three times as fast as the human workforce. By eliminating manual, repetitive and tedious work from daily schedules, not only is money saved, but staff members are empowered to focus on more creative, strategic and customer orientated tasks that drive real value into the business.

 

Transaction and invoice reconciliation is a hugely time consuming process for any finance function. A thankless task that only attracts attention when mistakes are made. RPA can automate this entire process, resulting in:

• A huge reduction in error rate.

• Faster processing times.

• More time for your staff to engage with customers.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT USE CASES

USE CASE 1 – Rental Increases

Annually there’s a huge spike in the pressures on local government staff as housing associations submit rental increases. These spreadsheets must be handled quickly so that the council has accurate financial reporting and statistics to base decisions upon. Unfortunately, many councils have limited resources to devote to this anomaly.

T-Impact designed a Rental Increase Robot to automate the process with virtually no “exception” conditions. It is able to:

• Confirm that the rental increase is equal or below the approved percentage.

• Apply the new rate to the address, taking multiple service costs into consideration.

• Apply benefit discounts related to the property for eligible residents, and generate letters to confirm outcomes.

• Deal with password protected spreadsheets by checking for an associated email containing the password, or contacting the housing association if they forget to provide one.

Automating rental increases reduces the burden on council workers, eliminates the need for temporary staff and leads to greater security when it comes to financial planning. Staff are freed from repetitive administration to focus on giving taxpayers value for money.

USE CASE 2 – Housing Benefit Claim & Exchange

Housing benefit applications, changes in circumstances and council house exchange are labour intensive, with data manually being replicated across numerous IT Systems.

RPA that manage this process can:

• Verify both new claims & changes, consistently applying complex rules.

• Isolate the small percentage of true exceptions for expert evaluation.

• Enter the verified data into Revenue & Benefits systems, such as Capita One & Liberate.

An untold number of work hours are reduced, freeing council workers from mundane administrative tasks and enabling them to devote their time to adding value through direct engagement with citizens. It also eliminates numerous data entry errors that often take days to isolate and resolve.

LEGAL USE CASES

USE CASE 1 – Automate Outsourced Legal Service

USE CASE 2 – Automate Case File Notes

File notes, whilst critical to investigating and defending any claim, are an administrative burden for any solicitor. Claims may arise many years later, making it unlikely a solicitor can remember the details in full, or worse, the original solicitor may have actually left the firm. Furthermore, notes are often filed manually before being transcribed into the case management system, increasing costs, delays and inaccuracies.

Robots, with the help of advanced OCR technology, are able to:

• Transcribe physical documents into digital files using just a mobile phone.

• Input transcribed text into the case management system.

• Create a 2-way dialogue between fee earners and clients, automating correspondence where appropriate.

Automated file notes are processed quickly and fully comply with due diligence requirements, whilst eliminating the cost and inaccuracy that comes with manual transcription.

 

RECRUITMENT USE CASES

USE CASE 1 – Sourcing Candidates

Heads of Recruitment and Talent Acquisition often have to search through wide pools for candidates, but many people who show interest in opportunities are not actually qualified or do not fit requirements for roles. To avoid wasting time speaking to candidates that are not suitable, recruiters need to streamline candidates to identify quality prospects, rather than engaging every single applicant.

Recruitment companies can use robots to search existing talent pools using predefined criteria to identify candidates that are suitable, as well as eliminating anyone who does not fit the requirements.

Allowing robotics to manage your initial candidate outreach means:

• Greater numbers of candidates can be processed.

• Recruitment teams can spend more time engaging with the streamlined list of quality prospects to find the best candidate for the role.

• Recruitment teams can also use the time that has been freed up to liaise with clients to better understand their needs and advise on their talent acquisition strategies.

USE CASE 2 – Candidate Engagement

When discussing potential new opportunities, candidates want to be able to engage recruitment teams at any and all times. If they cannot do this, or experience downtime between a question or submitting an application, this could reflect poorly on the hiring company and cause a candidate to have second thoughts. However, it’s impossible for a recruitment team to have the capacity to engage and respond to candidates 24/7.

RPA technology can support recruiters by formulating appropriate responses to candidate communications and questions. They can help to pre-screen candidates on key aspects like experience and education, and respond to frequently asked questions. Most importantly, they can respond to C.V. and cover letter submissions and schedule interviews or ask for more information where appropriate.

Using chatbots to support your recruitment means:

• Companies gain the ability to instantly respond to candidate questions and communications, keeping them engaged and interested in the role.

• Interview schedules are controlled by the chatbot to assist HR and senior management teams with time management.

• Real-time management of candidate experience through data collection and satisfaction surveys.

• Other administrative burdens can also be removed from your recruitment process via automation.

USE CASE 3 – Offer & Rejection Letters

When the time comes to make decisions on candidates, the information contained in offer letters need to be specific to candidates and need to comply with all necessary regulations. Although recruiters can find this information in company files, it is time consuming and often stored in multiple systems and databases, increasing the likelihood of errors being made due to the manual nature of input.
RPA software can support the immediate creation and sending of offer and rejection letters. They compile all necessary information from all systems and fact-check it to ensure there are no errors. Once sent, they can also automate requests for any additional checks e.g. DBS Checks and monitor returned documents and responses.

Using RPA to help generate candidate offer letters results in:

• Faster processing for new offer letters.

• Zero percent chance of error in letter generation.

• Immediate application processing for additional checks and on-going response monitoring.

• Recruitment staff and HR staff freed up to begin facilitating the onboarding process.

HEALTHCARE USE CASES

USE CASE 1 – Patient Administration

USE CASE 2 – Diagnosis & Care Cycle Improvements

USE CASE 3 – Health Workflow Management

Ongoing correspondence is essential between patients and medical professionals both during the process of identifying conditions and once a condition has been identified. Prescriptions and general records will also need to be updated where appropriate. This process is time-consuming but needs to be available for every single patient, meaning staff members end up overworked and unable to add value in other areas.
Software robotics can instead automate the process of patient administration, pulling details from patient records in order to generate letters automatically based on set criteria. They can send and respond to this correspondence as necessary, helping to arrange prescriptions or updating medical records on an ongoing basis.

By robots managing this administrative responsibility:

• Patients feel reassured by the level of communication they are receiving from their healthcare provider.

• Doctors and nurses are freed from administrative duties allowing them to focus on helping patients.

• More customers can be managed in a shorter span of time.

• Errors and misinformation are eliminated, avoiding a serious breach of medical law.

• Operational costs are minimised through digitised appointment details, updates and medical results.

 

With only a limited number of doctors able to assess someone’s state of health, it’s possible that key information or analysis may be missed and an incorrect treatment strategy applied. Not only does this open up the potential threat of legal action against the healthcare provider, it also wastes precious time and resources which could be used helping other patients.

RPA can be used to support diagnosis procedures by creating continuous record monitoring procedures, thanks to robotics accessing advanced data analytics. They can scan comprehensive amounts of data to help find the most likely and accurate diagnosis, and quickly create a relevant treatment plan based on the information.

With robotics supporting the diagnosis process:

• Doctors can spend more time attending their patients and giving human assistance.

• Treatment strategies can be finalised quicker with more accurate understanding of outcomes.

• Healthcare professionals gain access to a cost-effective alternative to enhancing or replacing existing triage platforms.

• Overall care service improves as doctors can quickly diagnose and prescribe treatment for patients.

 

Running a healthcare or care delivery organisation means that doctors and nurses have to deal with an unlimited number of processes and workflows. Organisations have to manage medical inventories, patient treatment, resource and capacity utilisation and a number of other activities. Manually overseeing these processes takes away key time from medical practitioners, negatively impacting the experience of patients.

Robotics can help to streamline these processes and workflows into a logical order. They can manage how capacity and resources are allocated and automatically update medical inventories, raising orders when necessary to replenish stock.

This would mean:

• Medical practitioners are freed from administrative duties and able to focus on critical care activities.

• Shortages of key medicines would be prevented as the inventory is constantly managed.

• Unnecessary processes and workflows would be scrapped or amalgamated, improving response times.

 

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT USE CASES

USE CASE 1 – Name & Address Changes

Central Government systems often contain duplicate versions of the same record held in different departments. Updating these details becomes a tedious process with a high potential for human error, and accumulates hours that add little value.

Using robotics to help manage these changes allows you to update all systems at once via a central hub that works to predefined rules. Once a singular record is created or updated, the robots can ensure these changes are applied across all systems. Automating this process means:

• Zero data entry error which ensures complete legal compliance.

• Operational costs are reduced as staff no longer need to spend time completing this repetitive task.

• Efficiency will increase as robotics can be deployed 24/7.

• Staff members have more time to devote to tasks that add value to taxpayers.

USE CASE 2 – Audit & Reporting

Accountability is paramount in Government organisations, and senior leaders need to be able to quickly and accurately whilst viewing current performance and future projections at all times on any device. Managing this information for human staff is complex and data errors occur frequently.

Robots can be deployed to audit on performance levels at all times, taking into account operational factors and review them against predefined criteria for what is success.

This information is then fed back to senior leaders who can access it on mobile, laptop or email. This results in:

• A completely impartial review of proceedings removing the potential for bias.

• A rounded view of current activity to help for future planning and benchmarking.

• Empowered departments as they have total accountability for their actions.

• Senior leaders no longer have to chase departments for specific information as they can access it all in one place.

• Guaranteed compliance as RPA connects to legislative portals and updates automatically if anything changes.

USE CASE 3 – Legacy System Integration

As Governments embrace digital change, departments are quickly realising they need to amalgamate existing and obsolete systems into an updated IT infrastructure. If they are unable to do this, they either face the arduous task of manually rekeying all the relevant data, or invest in an expensive new system that will also become obsolete in the future.

As an alternative to this, Government departments can deploy RPA to help integrate legacy systems into updated IT frameworks. RPA can speed up the entire process of migrating data and upgrading databases, without needing any human resources to support. Robots can:

• Upgrade old systems that they cannot afford to replace to unlock their virtual workforce.

• Allow governments to remain in full control of their IT infrastructure, which can be scaled up or down depending on future need.

• Achieve flawless data migration with no margin for human error.

• Reduce time wasted on complex integrations to legacy systems, maximising efficiency and operational agility.

LOGISTICS AND SUPPLY CHAIN USE CASES

Use Case 1 – Parcel/Container tracking

Use Case 2 – Customer tracking report

Use Case 3 – Improve last mile deliveries

Many logistics & supply chain firms track delivery vehicles & vessels, using data provided by third party websites, such as port authorities.

• Capturing details for each parcel/container at every stage of delivery requires significantly more data and effort than to track individual vehicles or vessels.

• The process requires multiple manual customer data entries on a number of systems to ensure all data is synchronised.

• This is not only a lengthy process but one of high stakes and susceptible to unintentional human error.

• Where logistics and supply chain firms track vehicles and vessels using data provided by third party websites, such as port authorities, there is also a lack of visibility of expected stock delivery time and the supply chain as a whole.

Software robots can:

• Provide a scaled and efficient freight management workflow, taking into account planned delivery times and external factors that can cause delays.

• Navigate a shared drive.

• Populate spreadsheets with container details.

• Log into third party websites.

• Update vessel ETA in port systems.

• Send discrepancy reports by email.

Parcel/container tracking data can add significant value for both B2C and B2B firms:

• Customers have more accurate information re: parcel delivery times

• Businesses are able to mitigate the impact of any delays in planned delivery times

• Insight to eliminate delays from current and Brexit-affected custom procedures

• Opportunities to improve truck/parcel loading to reduce haulage/shipping costs

• Acts as a key differentiator that can help you win more work

Most importantly, you can be assured the information is correct, the data reliable and the process continuous.

For one logistics company we conservatively estimated that the likely ROI from these improvements would be £776,000 over a 12 month period.

 

Your customers are managing complex supply chain processes, which depend upon your deliveries. Insight into parcel/container delivery times and locations are crucial for them to plan their own activities.

Delivery data is often stored in multiple IT systems and website portals, from suppliers, ports, customs clearing, etc. Designing and building automated interfaces can be expensive and often requires support from external teams, whom you do not control. Extracting the data manually is time consuming and error-prone. Existing data sources are changing to respond to Covid:19 and Brexit, increasing these challenges.

What a robot can automate:

• Extract data relevant to each customer from multiple IT systems & websites, using existing screens – no changes are required to IT systems & websites

• Identify any missing or invalid data and send to your team to resolve, waiting for resolution before proceeding

• Prepare tracking report for each customer

• Submit to authorised person on your team to check & verify, if required

• Distribute to customers and store a copy for your team’s reference

• Update audit log with evidence of what reports were sent to each customer

• Update compliance reporting, if required

 

The benefits of this include:

• Significant time saved from the otherwise manual reporting process.

• Increased frequency of reporting, leading to improved customer experience and retention.

• Improved decision making from better quality data.

• Increased growth potential as the robots are infinitely scalable.

• A powerful USP for future competitive tenders.

For one logistics company we have estimated conservative benefits of £412,000 in the first 12 months, which excludes new revenue earned as a consequence of this competitive edge. Full ROI would be achieved in less than one month!

 

Retailers understand that the last mile is a “moment of truth” in the customer’s buying journey, often referred to as ‘The Moment That Matters’. It is the face of their business and has a significant impact on customers reviews, recommendations and retention.

The growing demand for goods has increased the complexity for last mile logistics. Shippers of all sizes have identified last mile logistics as the cornerstone to driving growth and profitability.

Customers want to have full, real-time visibility of deliveries, particularly in the 24 hours leading up to receipt of goods. Delivery schedules are impacted by incorrect addresses, remote locations, cramped locations, changes/cancellations of orders and unattended delivery locations.

Central business district deliveries are impacted by traffic, limited access congestion & and carbon emissions areas. The additional care required for toxic, fragile, perishable and flammable goods can also impact delivery schedules.

 

Logistic firms are removing variability from delivery schedules though:

• Lockers & convenience store deliveries, to reduce unattended parcels risks of weather exposure and “porch pirates” (theft) but aren’t always accepted by customers or practical in urban centers.

• Drones deliveries still face many of the customer challenges. A recent survey also indicated that 25% of shoppers were anxious about drones damaging packages or getting stolen.

• Autonomous vehicles could reduce delivery costs by $1.3 trillion in the US alone but still face technical and legal challenges regarding accountability for accidents.
Moving distribution centers closer to areas of highest customers concentration

• Investment to improve the individual last mile experience is easily justified for huge B2B deliveries but can be challenging for B2C deliveries, where costs are potentially borne for a single package.

 

What a robot can automate:

• Contact customers to confirm delivery address & attendance before your vehicles leave the depot to ensure only packages that can be received are loaded

• Contact customers to request photos of the delivery area, which Robots can automatically evaluate to ensure sufficient space for parking & unloading

• Planning and optimising vehicle loading, ensure that drivers complete most deliveries in the least amount of time and burning the least amount of fuel. Vehicle routes and package loads can consider driver availability, location proximity, delivery windows, traffic conditions, local regulations, min/max order load & weight capacity

• Increasing time available for deliveries by automating customer notifications, eliminating calls the driver is expected to make on route. Robots can carry out natural language conversations via voice, text or email

• Manage customer expectations by monitoring vehicles & sending customer updates which refine the delivery window when goods will arrive

• Provide real-time visibility of delivery status, updated online tracking portals with real-time tracking data from various sources, e.g. GPS tracking devices
All of these benefits can be achieved without replacing or changing your existing IT systems. Robots use existing screens to access/update data, no interfaces are required.

 

The benefits of this automation include:

• Win more business from competitors by offering a better end customer experience, managing expectations, communicating more effectively and providing accurate real-time tracking data

• Reduce your operational costs by eliminating the most common delivery delays, incorrect/unattended addresses and insufficient space for parking & unloading vehicles

• Optimise load planning, loading only goods that can be delivered onto vehicles and consider the key factors affecting delivery efficiency

• Improve driver safety and availability by automating last mile communication with customers

Delivery from a distribution center to the consumer constitute 28 to 41 percent of the total delivery cost – depending on which expert you believe. E-commerce retails sales is expected to grow 54% between 2019 and 2022, from 3.53 trillion ($USD) in 2019 to 6.54 trillion ($USD) in 2022. Covid:19 is changing buying habits and will is likely to accelerate this growth. Imagine what you could achieve if you reduce the last mile costs by 15%, while achieving a larger share of the this 54% business growth!

MANUFACTURING USE CASES

Use Case 1 – Supplier Purchase Variance Analysis

Supplier invoices often differ from goods received and agreed costs. Regular review of costs can substantially improve profitability but can be quite time intensive. These manual reviews tend to focus on the top 20% of spend, as reviews of low volume/value goods would cost more than the savings generated.

Suppliers quickly realise which products are price sensitive and make up margin on other products. Staff spending time comparing goods received to invoices or summary reports/spreadsheets could be proactively running competitive tenders to reduce costs further.

Every supplier requires a significant amount of work after they are on-boarded to ensure value for money. Although smaller suppliers may be able to offer goods at a lower price, the management of additional suppliers may require additional staff, which erodes any savings.

Robots can automate this work, making it cost effective to ensure pricing is correct for all goods received. A robot could:

• Download summaries of goods received

• Extracting supplier specific data for reconciliation against invoices

• Verifying quantity and price of goods received against supplier invoices

• Cross-reference unit costs against supplier catalogues

• Reconcile invoices and credits notes

• Generating queries to suppliers and finance for resolution

For one major manufacturing & retail firm, we identified £600,000 benefits from invoice credits and potential cost reductions for additional competitive tenders over a 12 month period. There were additional unquantified benefits from resources freed from this manual and tedious work.

Use Case 2 – Trade debtor payments & credit limit

Depending on the number of payment methods supported, manually processing customer payments for goods consumes a significant amount of time and resources within financial teams.

• Most finance teams process payments once or twice a day. Increasing the payment processing frequency could require additional staff, which may not be warranted by the additional income.

• Failure to process payments regularly negatively impacts cash flow and liquidity.

• Delays in accounts receivables can affect sales revenue, as customers who have reached their credit limit are likely to buy from your competitors.

• Customers need to receive regular reminders, as well as being able to easily determine the net amount owed to businesses to ensure they can maintain positive cash flow.

 

Robotic Process Automation can automate every aspect of the accounts receivable process:

• Extract data from different locations and systems, collating them to make decisions based on a defined set of rules and conditions.

• Match check, cash, bacs & credit card payments against debtor invoices & credit notes, to identify payments that have already been processed.

• Apply payment type specific business rules, e.g. cash payments are only applied to exact match, BACS payments applied if payments within defined tolerance.

• Ensure reminders aren’t sent to customers who have already paid, improving customer relationships.

• Sophisticated “natural language” matching rules, with flexibility to add additional rules later, considered (a) age of debt, (b) precedence, (c) amounts of payment, (d) amounts of invoices, (e) amounts of credit notes, (f) tolerances.

• Update finance system to reflect invoices paid and credit limit released.

• Confirm that bank deposits are made by the end of each working day.

• Create a cash report and send it to credit control.

 

Automating these processes ensures greater accuracy in accounting and finance reporting and works almost three times as fast as the human workforce. By eliminating manual, repetitive and tedious work from daily schedules, not only is money saved, but staff members are empowered to focus on more creative, strategic and customer oriented tasks that drive real value into the business, such as financial analysis or collaborating with project teams on new product launches. Furthermore, increasing customer communication improves retention and drives new cross-sale and up-sale opportunities.

For one company, the estimated ROI for this amounted to £454,200 per year, with a full ROI after just 3.2 months, which doesn’t include the benefit of having existing resources redeployed to perform higher value tasks.

Use Case 3 – Monitoring Stock and Inventory Optimisation

Excess stock increases operating costs and wastage. Your customers want goods delivered “Just in Time” (JIT) for their own needs. As sales lead times continue shrinking you need to continuously optimise design, materials procurement, production & shipping.

Planning and scheduling software can help monitor & reduce inventory but are only as accurate as the data entered. Solutions that consolidate multi-warehouse stock, incorporate vendor managed materials & auto-replenishment can be quite expensive to purchase and maintain. Your procurement team are working to reduce you materials costs but cheaper suppliers may require your team to invest more time managing your own supply chain.

The complexity of the supply chain network has increased with globalisation. Many businesses rely on a vast network of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, intermediaries and retailers to source, distribute and sell their products. This leads to a number of stock management challenges:

What a robot can automate:

• Monitor emails to identify new/changing customer demand and update your manufacturing planning systems , using existing screens – no changes are required to IT systems & websites

• Send emails & texts alerts to your to confirm their needs immediately before their production run begins – updating your planning systems if they increase quantities

• Send emails & texts alerts to notify customer when goods will be shipped & expected time of arrival

• Monitor emails from your suppliers’ and supplier websites to confirm shipment date, quantity and specifications for materials – updating your planning systems to minimise startup & changeover delays

• Monitor production line equipment, updating planning systems and sending real-time notifications for stoppages, stabilisation issues & low yield – particularly important for unattended (lights-out) operation

 

The benefits include:

• Increase sales revenue with real-time refinement to customer order quantities JIT for production runs

• Optimise your planning system’s performance by ensuring data is entered in real-time, regardless of how it is received

• Optimise your production line efficiency, ensuring materials are available when required and quickly resolving production issues

Supply disruptions account for 31 percent decrease in profitability (Source: Georgian Institute of Technology 10-year study). Imagine what you could achieve for your business with a 31 percent increase in profits!