As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a connected, mobile society indoors for the foreseeable future, organizations have begun to adjust to a new “business as usual” remote delivery. The strain on employees working to cope with these new demands may reveal unpreparedness in the execution of daily business functions, and vulnerabilities in your mission critical business operations may start to emerge. But for businesses, critical functions must continue uninterrupted, just as when staff are in the office: vendors must be paid on time, the books must be closed at the end of the month, and corporate financial reporting obligations continue.
For the first time, many organizations are moving into an entirely virtual environment, forcing them to rethink how work can be accomplished. Few businesses planned to have 80-100% of employees working remotely, shining a spotlight on inefficient business processes that include unnecessary manual steps and handoffs between employees and departments. As a result, many business transactions may become sluggish, with employees straining under the weight of unparalleled expectations.
Fortunately, businesses can leverage Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots as robotic helpers when the show must go on.
Providing Business Continuity
If the past several weeks have taught us anything, it’s that businesses should plan for the unexpected. Critical functions in many organizations fall on the shoulders of a small number of employees, exposing the process and business to risk if the key staff member is unavailable. To bolster preparedness and ability to adapt to changing circumstances, businesses can augment human capacity with the assistance of a robotic workforce. RPA provides for business continuity in many ways:
- RPA not only provides for business continuity and disaster recovery, but its ability to quickly scale also provides benefits down the road. This means it has the capacity to:
- Manage surges in demand;
- Handle workforce contingencies;
- Increase productivity when workloads need to shift between employees, locations, etc.; and
- Plan for contingencies, leverage that same capacity for normal operations, and quickly scale in times of uneven demand.
- Because you can get notified at any time, RPA provides controls and reassurances. You aren’t stuck waiting until the last day of your close process, so there’s ample time for a human to address any problems.
- An RPA program provides the mechanism to codify business and process knowledge, benefitting all members of the team.
- RPA provides continuous support, without breaks, to your employees who may be spread across time zones or attending to personal obligations.
- RPA can always work from the office, allowing your employees to easily collaborate with their digital coworkers if they have the need to work from home.
- RPA provides the ability to schedule when work is executed. Employees can schedule high-volume, network-intensive processes for execution during off-peak hours when network traffic is at its lowest, which helps to ensure process resiliency and limits the impact on strained IT resources.
No Physical Hardware Needed
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the toughest decisions for business leaders is how to continue business operations without jeopardizing employee health. Some job functions require on-site presence. Traditionally, provisioning a new computer and deploying IT resources has required some level of physical presence from IT staff members.
Today, bots can run on Virtual Desktop Instances (VDIs), which staff can provision remotely (and securely in the cloud) in a matter of minutes. Similarly, staff can schedule processes for execution or log-in and kick off a job whenever they want the bot to run, all without needing to step foot in the office. During normal times, this provides convenience; during a pandemic or natural disaster, this increases employee safety.
Increasing Certainty in an Uncertain Environment
As humans, we have a limited capacity to manage competing priorities, especially during high stress, anxious times. With the numerous distractions that working remotely can bring, it can be difficult to pay close attention, causing errors at work.
Bots, on the other hand, have no such distractions. With a 24/7 availability and coded with error handling and alerting mechanisms, they will do exactly what they are programmed to do, and alert humans when the job is completed, or an unexpected hurdle pops up. This helps to ensure that critical, time-sensitive business processes are handled with timeliness, accuracy, and a complete audit trail.
As business leaders, we want what is best for our employees, especially during times of increased vulnerability. Assistance from a robotic workforce can alleviate some of the burden of work during both good and difficult times. During an unparalleled event such as the COVID-19 pandemic, bots provide safety and process resiliency to businesses. In routine times, bots can provide a competitive advantage, allowing organizations to augment human capacity with bots running around the clock.
As this crisis evolves, we will continue to release blogs to assist organizations in managing the fallout of this pandemic. See also: