Dr Paul Rivers, managing director of Guidance Automation highlights how robotic process automation (RPA) is an area of technology that will continue to drive business transformation, but only if implemented correctly.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is an IT solution which brings both humans and software together to find ways of streamlining mundane processes, in turn, making it easier for humans to complete tasks with more precision. This collaboration helps the human by eliminating as much repetition as possible while also improving speed and efficiency, providing a much better outcome for both the operator and the customer.

This is not a new concept – but the application has evolved over time, from the ability to automate processes to handling business and computing decisions that has coincided with advancements in other technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. The worldwide RPA market is expected to reach nearly $2 billion by the end of 2021, according to Gartner, which is not surprising as the digital solution can help businesses contribute to meeting their strategic objectives and stay competitive, driving future business transformation.

Successful deployment

As with any new technologies, it is important to not just simply jump aboard the bandwagon without having any clearly defined processes in place.  Automation does not have to remove control or decision making, but instead, enhance processes and empower businesses to make informed decisions in real time. To successfully deploy RPA, firstly, organisations need to consider the business value or pain points that they want to solve from using this technology. Once the business case of implementing automation technologies has been fully evaluated, businesses can then begin to gradually deploy these innovations, rather than overhaul complete operations. The automation solution must fit and work alongside existing processes while ensuring it is flexible and scalable to meet any changes and growth internally.

Additionally, businesses must ensure that the human workforce is part of the deployment and understands the technology, and the benefits of RPA, minimising the need for them to conduct repetitive tasks and focus their time and attention on more complex needs. When technology can completely eradicate these arduous tasks, individuals will respond well to the change, but people need to be educated, trained and confident in the solution. They need to understand how the technology works and how they work together, as well as the benefits that collaboration will bring.

Big data

The concept of big data is driving automation, and particularly RPA, acting as a data-driven process. Vast amounts of data is generated daily, collecting information about performance, accuracy, and repeatability, but the value of this information can often be lost if it is left to humans to process. The insights provided by the collaboration between RPA and big data can be used to recognise any risks within business processes and help companies resolve and streamline these points within their operations.

A post-COVID-19 and Brexit world

COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst by accelerating the uptake in automation, especially within the manufacturing and logistics industry. With less staff able to be present within the same environment due to the pandemic, organisations faced significant challenges to meet demand. But this is where RPA can play a vital role to keep up with the pace of change and to drive efficiency across the business. Such technology is critical to business response and continuity by amplifying automated support systems to strengthen a resilient human and machine workforce.

Additionally, Brexit will bring some manufacturing back to the UK that will continue to accelerate the desire to automate. With even more uncertain times ahead, businesses must prepare for any potential changes, address problems in productivity and constrained budgets.

The UK remains behind globally in the automation and productivity race, but the country is about to play catch up, driven by COVID-19 and Brexit, despite the remaining uncertainty. More and more businesses are inquiring about automation and wanting to find out more about existing technologies to make processes more efficient, such as RPA. By ensuring this technology fits into existing business operations and deploying it successfully, RPA can support the new S curve in the UK for automation, allowing businesses to benefit from improved efficiencies and productivity, in turn, driving business transformation now and into the future.

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