Every week I speak to company leaders who consider implementing RPA in their organisation. One of the questions I often ask is “why they want to use RPA?”, “what’s their business driver or strategic imperative?”. Not once but twice I heard people saying in the last month that they want to use RPA because they simply can’t find qualified people to do the job. I did find that quite remarkable as it reminded me of how the perception of RPA has evolved over the last five years. I thought I knew all the possible benefits that RPA can deliver, but I was proven wrong. That’s because a new member has joined the RPA Benefits Family. Please welcome “Skilled Worker Shortage”.
In the remainder of this article, I will walk you through the seven benefits categories that I identified. Of course, you can think of more benefits but usually they are sub-categories of the main benefits I am listing below. In writing this article I also realised that the evolution of RPA benefits is intrinsically connected with the evolution of the RPA technology itself. By that I mean that today’s robots have a much more enhanced skill set compared to what they had in 2017. The better the RPA technology has gotten the more benefits emerged. And I will explain why the “Skilled Worker Shortage” benefit is in my eyes just the preliminary climax.
When I stepped into the RPA world back in 2017 the only benefit everybody was talking about was cost-saving which basically meant FTE-reduction. It’s still a very relevant benefit of using RPA in your organisation. That’s purely because our robots can very much emulate whatever activity a person is performing on a computer system. Very concrete, I’m talking about ‘click here’, ‘copy/paste’, ‘enter value’, etc. If you think of it, those three activity groups probably cover > 30% of what many office workers do throughout the average working day.
Soon after companies have implemented RPA to save cost, they also noticed a maybe unexpected side benefit. The error rate started to drop, or in other words, the quality of their data and business processes has gone up. That’s simply because robots make no mistakes, if implemented and developed correctly. They don’t get tired or get distracted by phone calls or anything else. Robots are highly focused on what they need to do and thus, they meet the highest quality standards.
Compliance and Risk departments quickly noticed these very desirable ‘properties’ of robots and adopted their capabilities to mitigate risk and improve compliance. This movement only accelerated after the final report of the royal commission into misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was released and has put pressure on executives across the sector to take action.
In the meantime, robots continuously improved their skillset and added new capabilities. They have evolved from ‘doing’ things to ‘understanding’ things. That enabled exploration of a whole new group of benefits. Benefits that were not only ‘inward’ focused (cost, quality, risk) but instead were more focused ‘outward’ (sales, customer, staff).
With RPA now being well established in many forward-thinking companies, business leaders expanded the scope of RPA into revenue generating business functions. For example, gaining a competitive advantage by automating sales related business processes. The focus in this area was mostly on reducing end-to-end process cycle times, in other words, speeding up the business process through the use of automation. Surely you can think of business processes in your own domain that would generate more sales if performed faster.
Once again, an initially unexpected side benefit started to emerge. Companies that used RPA started to see improvements in their Net Promoter Score, which is widely used to measure customer satisfaction. It made sense, as a result of reducing response-time, for example in customer facing business units, and as a result of reducing error rates, customer advocacy went up.
The next benefit of RPA is maybe the least expected one, it’s also the one that makes us most happy when we achieve it. As a specialised RPA Solution Provider, we don’t necessarily get to see the cost-savings, quality improvements, compliance, revenue and customer benefits that we realise for our clients. But when staff members of our clients thank us for the robots that we implemented in their organisation because we freed them from doing mundane, repetitive and non-value added tasks, that’s what puts a big smile on the faces of our developers. Believe it or not, we have seen it now numerous times, employee satisfaction goes up with the use of Robotic Process Automation.
Now let’s turn our attention to the newest RPA benefit. A skilled worker has specialised knowledge in a certain domain, which means they can solve problems! That brings me to a new capability of modern robots. The first generation of robots were and still are really good at performing ‘work’ at high-speed and at scale, but as soon as something changed in the process or an unexpected system behaviour occurred, the robot struggled. The current generation of robots is still able of ‘doing’ and ‘understanding’ things and on top of that they have entered the space of ‘thinking’ meaning they are much better at dealing with problems and unexpected challenges.
If you struggle to find and hire qualified skilled workers, or you find that your good people leave the organisation way too soon, you should contact us so we can discuss whether Robotic Process Automation can fill that gap. Our robots, when trained properly, can perform many skilled worker tasks, which means, instead of five skilled workers you may only need to hire two. And here is another big advantage, robots are very loyal, they never leave you, they stay with you forever.