Being an Industrial Engineer by training, I like improving performance whether it be in a warehouse with conveyor belts, transportation/supply chain, or software. One of the great things about Salesforce is the ability to build processes that can automatically create tasks, send emails, pass data to other systems, or request approvals. I enjoy helping clients streamline their day-to-day activities to be more efficient.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is software technology that allows you to build software robots to simulate human activity. In the manufacturing world, robots can apply a weld to a car on the assembly line. In the RPA world, robots can automatically approve an invoice (for example) without a human involved. Back when I was using Lotus 123 and now Excel, I often build macros to automate the movement or perform calculations on data sets. With these macros, they always do the same thing, and the chance of a data error is significantly less than if it is done manually.
How Industries Use Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Across many industries from Financial/FinTech to Professional Services, organizations are investing in RPA in significant ways. Some of the areas that implement RPA include the following.
Finance and Accounting
While there are many examples as to how this can be done for the Finance and Accounting groups, one example is Invoice Processing. We all get invoices (unfortunately), and we need to reconcile that invoice to a purchase order or equivalent. While this certainly needs to be done, it is not a value-added task to the business. If we could have a software robot that could read the invoice, find the corresponding document, compare the two and only forward questionable invoices to the appropriate party, this would save organizations time and money.
As you know, everyone wants to get paid on time. The challenge with some organizations is that consolidating data from a variety of systems (i.e. timesheets, payroll, internal systems, etc.) can require extensive work with a hard deadline once or twice a month. In professional services, hours worked/billable hours are data points that need to be collected weekly once the manager approves them. Additionally, you could use RPA to make changes in the payroll system for changes to a person’s deductions, resignation management, etc. These software robots can not only compare data to ensure it is “right” but also automate key strokes that a person would do.
Hiring and Onboarding
As a former business owner, this is a very time-consuming process to ensure that the right person is hired and onboarded properly. After putting out a job description, you could be flooded with resumes, and someone has to go through them to figure out who (if any) could be a good fit for the position. Software robots could go through the list of documents and identify ones that could be a fit for you. Once you hire someone, there is an onboarding process that needs to be done. In this process, you need to ensure that each person fills out the required documents, and having a process automated to make that happen would make HR people very happy.
Who wants to call a company’s support line and be on hold for a while? Not me! I like going to the company’s website and start a chat session. The first part of the chat session is usually a chatbot that qualifies what my request is and either manages the issue through to completion or forwards my request to an agent. These chatbots can also be available on certain webpages such that if someone has a question about a product, it can “talk” to you with information specific to that page you are on. Since chatbots never call in sick and work 24×7, we are seeing a huge adoption and I hope, as a consumer, that they continue to enhance the capability of them.
Whether you are a wealth management firm that needs to schedule your annual meeting with a client or a professional services firm that needs to meet with your client on a periodic basis, scheduling these meetings can be very labor intensive. I periodically get an email from my financial advisor’s assistant with several days and times that we could do our annual review. Because this email is sent to a bcc list, other people may request a time immediately that I want to request when I get around to finally scheduling the meeting. If you schedule any meetings with people where you can’t view their calendar, you know what I mean. Organizations can use Robotic Process Automation to both identify that a meeting should be happening soon but also launch the request to the client and manage the entire process.
RPA and AI
RPA and artificial intelligence (AI) can operate separately or work together. A great example of how they can work together is when your AI solution determines that a client has a high propensity to leave your firm. RPA can then take over and schedule that important meeting in hopes that if the client is thinking of leaving, you can retain them.
There are a lot of RPA software vendors in the marketplace, and I believe there will be more opportunities and examples of how to use RPA in the future. How will you incorporate this technology into your organization? If you need help figuring it out, contact Sikich.