Collaborating author: Danny Green
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology enables companies of any size to vastly improve the productivity and consistency of their repetitive manual processes (read our blog here to see how RPA can help with your manual processes).
One of the most common concerns with RPA is the impact it will have on the workforce. Despite concerns, in many cases RPA will not displace human employees but enable them to make more valuable contributions. This post explores how humans and robots work together.
Types of Automation
There are a few ways that a robot can be set up to assist your workforce, with two overarching approaches: unattended and attended automation.
- Unattended Automation – the employee designs the tasks and decision trees but once established the repetitive nature of the tasks only require human intervention when there is a change to the process. Unattended automation is best suited to simple, repetitive processes and requires strong controls
- Attended Automation – an employee (or team of employees depending on the number of robots) manages the robots' daily/weekly/monthly tasks within a command center. The human designs the process flows and decision trees for the robot. The human delegates and prioritizes tasks on an ongoing basis, monitors processes for issues or improvements, and escalates to the appropriate party if human intervention is required. Attended automation can be further broken down by two methods:
- Robot Helper: in this method, each employee is provided with a single robot to assist in repetitive and process-heavy elements of the workload at their discretion. The Robot Helper approach is great for a small organization or one that wants to ease into automation slowly
- Captain and Crew: this is where one or more employees manage the group of robots on behalf of their team or department. The Captain and Crew approach provides the largest potential scalability
With either the unattended or attended approach, employees are challenged to think critically about the processes in place and how to automate the steps in the most efficient manner while maintaining key controls.
There are many different ways robots can be integrated with human staff in practice. Below are some examples.
- People and Robots Splitting Task Responsibility: There are many processes that have the repetitive and rule-based elements that make them candidates for automation but also require human input or review for analysis, approval, and control purposes. RPA can effectively work in tandem with humans in order to record and process online orders. With 24/7 processing capability, the robot can efficiently compile sales order data and report to the sales team for price and discount approval. The robot can also flag new customers for a ‘better experience’ follow-up. Once the sales order is reviewed and approved, the employees can then initiate automated order processing and invoicing tasks for the robot to pick up and complete. This basic example can be extrapolated and applied in many industries.
- People and Robots Allow Each Other to Focus on Strengths: In many scenarios both quality of information and presentation are critical. In Finance, investor reporting must be flawless; anything less is detrimental to brand. While a human has the analytical eye and can scan investor accounts for unusual activity that might signal an incorrect transaction, the same human will have a large number of reports to prepare. RPA technology can be used to take care of preparing the all-important report once the numbers are sound; applying the same formatting touches to each set of accounts means that the company logo is never left out or a client’s name is never misspelt again.
RPA will undoubtedly have an enormous impact in the coming years but the workforce will also evolve to become more analytical, think more critically, and ensure a better customer experience.