Whether it’s to gain a competitive advantage or to simply keep up with their peers, executives are beginning to look ahead at what’s next. Perhaps counter intuitively, organizations can unlock some of their greatest cost savings by spending a small amount of money upfront with very deliberate objectives. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a proven solution with a low entry cost that can immediately digitally transform an organization. A strategically executed investment in a digital workforce will maximize efficiency, enhance controls and yield a significant return on investment (ROI).
Invariably, some amount of cost growth is a direct result of process inefficiency and disparate systems. Often this manifests itself in elongated process execution time, which directly contributes to cost growth. To combat this, companies can apply automation where process pain points exist. For example, if an organization is struggling to pay vendors on time due to a lengthy invoice approval process, they may not only miss out on early payment incentives, but also incur charges for late fees. This problem further reduces available capital to be accessible for system upgrades, hiring, or other expenditures that may assist in reducing cycle time. In addition, automation presents the ability to perform a comprehensive audit of invoices against contracts in order to identify potential revenue leakage.
Organizations can leverage RPA to right size a solution that fits their budget, risk appetite, and ROI timeline. Common starting points include the following:
- Partial Process Automation or Task Automation – Requires a lower upfront capital expenditure and less technical expertise, but also yields lower ROI until processes are completely automated.
- End-to-End Process Automation – Entails larger upfront capital expenditure and time commitment but yields greater long-term ROI.
Companies should balance precision when selecting an approach and processes to automate with the positive outcomes of getting started. Quick wins help drive organizational buy-in and successes multiply.
Helping, Not Replacing, a Human Workforce
For most organizations, payroll is the largest recurring expense. While some have used bots to replace elements of their human workforce, this creates an environment of distrust and leads to a wariness of technology, which is precisely the opposite sentiment most organizations are seeking to cultivate. This short-sighted approach leads to near-term cost savings, but at the expense of employee morale, innovation, and organizational growth.
Instead, organizations can leverage RPA to create additional capacity for their human staff, freeing them up to work on higher value, more fulfilling work. Firms who look to incorporate “digital workers” are better prepared for non-linear growth. Because bots are not salaried employees, the organization is able to complete more work with the same headcount, introducing additional cost savings. Executives who embrace the symbiotic relationship between robots and humans can drive innovation throughout their enterprise, often leading to new ideas that drive further cost savings or generate new revenue streams.
Better, Faster, Happier
Humans can typically execute tasks quickly or accurately, but rarely both. Especially when executing high-volume, low-complexity tasks, humans typically begin to zone out. Bots, on the other hand, have 24 hours a day of capacity, an unlimited attention span, no distractions, and can usually execute a task in one minute that would take a human 15 minutes to perform.
With the increasing prevalence of desktop automation software, employees with no coding background can automate tasks to work more efficiently. Executives can immediately introduce cost savings by applying larger scale automation to high-volume process areas with mature, stable process inputs and outputs.
RPA also provides benefits that multiply, yielding downstream opportunities for cost savings within an organization. Let’s explore how:
- Bots execute processes quickly, accurately and independently, immediately reducing costs associated with errors, omissions, and re-work.
- Bots create capacity for human staff to perform more complex, value-added work, which can improve a company’s bottom line.
- While bots handle mundane tasks, humans can dedicate more time to client satisfaction, customer experience, and product quality.
- By reducing the rote work performed by staff, automation often increases job satisfaction and reduces turnover, lowering recruiting and hiring costs associated with back-filling positions.
- Bots work around the clock, reducing wait time for many time-sensitive transactions.
- Bots increase operational and process resiliency by always executing critical processes on time.
- Bots enhance controls by providing additional validations and quality checks.
- Automation provides a robust disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
With a technology that has so many benefits, one of the biggest appeals of automation platforms is the low cost of implementation and maintenance.
Use Your Existing Infrastructure
One of the greatest advantages of automation is the ability of RPA platforms to work with the organization’s existing IT infrastructure in a complementary manner. This has a range of benefits that increase operational efficiency and decrease operating costs. RPA:
- Provides the ability to share data across systems without the need for costly connectors or integrations;
- Extends the useful life of legacy applications and systems;
- Replaces more costly custom software development projects;
- Provides the ability to push reports through email or network drives, which reduces the need for additional application licenses;
- Allows for incremental IT upgrades, rather than full-scale system changes;
- Provides a stopgap or a long-term solution instead of system replacement; and
- Reduces the need for staff training to come up to speed on new systems.
A lean, cost-efficient organization does not have to be stale and lacking innovation. Assistance from a robotic workforce can provide a competitive advantage to organizations that display the requisite discipline and vision. By starting small, developing a roadmap, and scaling, organizations can have the best of both worlds by testing the automation waters before diving all-in with a large investment. RPA has the strategic benefit of accomplishing more work with the same headcount, while employees feel fulfilled and eager to contribute to the organization’s goal of emerging stronger.
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