Today, one would be hard-pressed to read through the technology news cycle without encountering a story using the word ‘automation.’ The Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence defines RPA (Robotic Process Automation) as “the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses, and communicating with other digital systems.”
What does it do? What are the benefits?
The major function of RPA is to automate routine manual processes in the exact same way as human would perform by registering processing procedures and it’s actually surprisingly simple. Most of the RPA solutions have intuitive interfaces, and even a person without programming knowledge can easily register these processes by recording steps and using drag-and-drop diagrams.
One of the major benefits is that RPA eliminates the existing burden of automation and increases operational efficiency by getting rid of the need to review existing work flow and upgrade legacy systems.
You see the most significant value-add of RPA when it is applied to routine and repetitive, cross-system operations since RPA can only operate in the exact order in which it is registered. In other words, RPA is not suitable for operations that can change or require judgement. Imagine at the end of each day, you need to register the same data to multiple systems. Every day it takes 30 minutes for you to launch multiple systems, login to each system with each ID and password, and upload the data file to each system. By using RPA, this whole operation can be done within 1 minute, and you can enjoy the benefits from the day.
Is RPA a fad?
There are many reasons why more and more financial institutions are adopting RPA solutions globally.
1) Regulatory pressure and lack of talent
Since the financial crises, there has been increasing pressure to enhance corporate governance, while the offshore cost of handling conventional routine operations has been increasing. As a result, many financial institutions have to reform their exiting operation models to secure the quality of operation, establish governance, and reduce cost by utilizing new technologies like RPA.
Japanese financial institutions have geographically specific reasons to use RPA. Japan is picking up speed to improving business efficiency and reforming work style by rectifying its traditional (and notoriously long) working hours. Second, efficient utilization of increasingly scarce talent is an imminent challenge due to the declining labor population in Japan. As a result, RPA has been rapidly gaining popularity in Japan.
2) Enhanced user-friendliness of solutions
There are a growing numbers of information systems that can be processed with RPA. The fact that RPA does not require any high-level programming knowledge to register processing procedures has made it extremely accessible for users across industries. In addition, since 2010, there have been more business models to support smaller implementations with reduced initial cost, as well as RPA solutions equipped with machine learning capabilities. As a result, in general there are more opportunities for RPA solutions to be utilized in operations.
3) An increasing number of success stories
As RPA’s implementation time is much shorter than conventional system development, and since the benefits can be experienced instantly, successful examples are also disseminated quickly. These stories are used to convince internal teams to consider implementation of RPA. Also, short-term and small scale RPA projects can be run within an individual department as a test run before the entire company commits its money and resources to RPA project.
What to do when implementing RPA?
Cross-department collaboration and post-implementation management are keys to successful RPA implementation.
A department that is implementing RPA needs to lead the implementation project as RPA automates the operating process through the user interface. It is necessary to have subject matter experts who have intimate knowledge of operations sort the operating processes, confirm the orders of operating process and evaluate the results.
To maximize the benefit of RPA implementation, collaboration with IT is a must as there are fine variations of RPA solutions within their operability and management functions. When selecting the solution, it is crucial for the IT department to evaluate long-term technological applicability of the RPA solution.
After implementation, establishing organizational structure to manage RPA is also imperative. In the long-run, in case of system/infrastructure change, the RPA solution needs to be modified as well. Considering the possibility of future system change, all automated processes must be controlled and monitored so that all automated processes will be smoothly transferred to the new system.
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