Tens of thousands of companies are already using robotic process automation (RPA) to improve efficiency, boost customer satisfaction, and elevate employee engagement. And that’s just the beginning. In this article we’ll look at dozens of examples of robotic process automation and reveal the secret to a successful implementation of RPA.
But first, how do you know if RPA is right for you? All RPA uses cases address the same constellation of questions:
- Which of these tasks involve digital data that obey a clear set of rules?
- Which parts of your employees’ jobs are repetitive and mundane?
- And which of these tasks carries a high risk of human error?
For all of these scenarios, think about how your employees may have tolerated certain tasks for so long that they take them for granted. “Creating this financial planning report is supposed to be tedious.” “Updating the CRM takes me away from selling, but what can I do?”
The right RPA strategy can give employees more autonomy and free up their time for what they do best: tasks that require problem-solving, empathy, and creativity.
So how do you get started with RPA? Read on to find out.
How RPA and enterprise automation differRead guide
Why should you launch RPA in HR?
If RPA has the potential to give us back bandwidth so we can bring more empathy to our work, then Human Resources is a clear candidate for this type of digital transformation. Hiring and onboarding, health plan enrollment, and many more tasks have often been high touch activities that could suck up dozens of hours of an HR team member’s time every month.
Many of these tasks involve answering similar questions from employees over and over. Situations like these are ideal for RPA because a bot can be trained to read incoming messages, send appropriate replies, and only forward unique questions to members of the HR team for further review.
And HR teams should be rolling out the red carpet for RPA to deal with expense management. Why force employees to retype where, when, and how much they spent if it’s all right there on the receipt? An RPA bot can be trained to read receipts, eliminate manual work, and avoid errors.
Many types of robotic process automation are mature enough that you don’t have to be a software engineer to design and launch these bots in HR. The bar has been lowered. The easier it is for people closer to the problem to apply RPA, the more likely it is that they’ll come up with a practical solution. We’ll see this again and again as we look at RPA examples in other departments.
And while it would be the ultimate irony if introducing RPA in HR led to a reduction in headcount, this isn’t the case. As we’ve seen above, RPA has the potential to change the nature of all types of work. Mike Pino, Digital Learning & Technology Strategist with PwC, said it best: “HR tasks present a lot of automation possibilities. I think as use of RPA and other automated technologies grows, HR professionals will find what they do each day on the job will be very different than in the past. Jobs don’t usually go away per se; tasks go away with RPA.”
How RPA for finance can help you avoid costly errors
As the pace of business has increased, so has the complexity of finance. And with greater complexity comes a greater risk of errors. Many manual tasks in finance are coming under new scrutiny as potential candidates for RPA:
- Reconciling cash and liquidity positions across accounts
- Collecting data for tax reporting
- Setting up new accounts
- Loan and fraud inquiries
- Mortgages and lending
- Anti-money laundering
These are just a few examples. There are dozens of RPA use cases ranging from processing credit card purchases to comparing insurance policies.
For far too long, finance professionals have had the unenviable responsibility of completing tasks like these one at a time or juggling massive spreadsheets. Laborious, time-consuming, and with the advent of RPA, unnecessary. And it’s the time savings in particular that have many finance professionals excited. That’s because turnaround times are one of the most important factors in determining overall customer satisfaction in finance. RPA is well suited to bear the brunt of the manual labor for these tasks, freeing up finance professionals to do work that can grow their business.
Related: The disadvantages of RPA
RPA for sales teams leads to higher productivity
Your customer relationship management system (CRM) is the heart and soul of your revenue projections. Your CRM is only as good as the quality of its data. And your sales team is only as good as the accuracy of your CRM.
But your sales reps get paid to sell, and they would rather be selling. So, what happens if you rely on your sales team to manage the data in your CRM? A process that’s tedious and prone to errors & gaps. And more importantly, while your sales reps are updating the CRM they aren’t generating revenue.
How do you give your sales people more of their time back while improving the quality of the data in your CRM?
By using RPA.
Imagine your sales team always having the information they need to contact the right people with the right offer at exactly the right time. Applying robotic process automation to sales can make this happen. And wherever data entry threatens to steal time away from your sales team, RPA can swoop in and save the day:
- Automate data transfer between systems
- Identify bottlenecks in the sales funnel
- Instantly analyze pricing strategies
- Prepare and send sales invoices
How RPA for marketing can free us to create our best work
Marketing is an art and a science. Yet for all the time copywriters, graphic designers, and digital marketers spend creating compelling ads, none of it matters unless they optimize their distribution. If marketing teams try to tackle this task manually, that’s like shoveling money into a black hole. You can do better with RPA for marketing teams.
Automating bid adjustments for PPC ad campaigns is one of the most obvious use cases for RPA in marketing, but it’s far from the only one. Take back control of your marketing strategy by offloading this and the following manual tasks to the bots:
- Consolidate lists and enrich data with Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
- Audit and monitor multiple campaigns at the same time
- Ongoing technical SEO reports
- Monitor social media channels
As we saw above, sellers would rather skip data entry so they can spend more time selling. In the same way, marketers of all stripes would love to cut out keystrokes so they can spend more time promoting the brand to their audience. Gil Allouche of metadata.io nails it when he says, “RPA… takes the robot out of the human so that they can interpret insights and turn them into impactful campaigns.”
Examples and uses cases of RPA in IT
RPA examples keep proliferating across the enterprise, and IT is no exception. Every department in every company is generating more data than ever before. And IT is often tasked with transforming all this data into a consistent format that can be easily analyzed for valuable insights.
It’s the ‘easily’ part where a lot of teams can get bogged down in manual processes. Many businesses produce far more data than any team could ever hope to investigate without the help of technology. Once again, RPA can come to the rescue.
Here are just a few of the IT tasks that can be entrusted to RPA:
- Producing accurate reports from data warehouses or data lakes
- Data formatting, deduplication, and extraction
- Data validation and migration
- Software installation
- Password resets
Just as we’ve seen with HR, finance, sales, and marketing, launching RPA in IT promises to reduce manual labor and human error at the same time. For another example, think back to our exploration of RPA for HR. Before HR onboards a new employee, that employee needs a computer, plus peripherals like a mouse, headphones, keyboard, and one or more monitors. It falls to IT to prepare all this hardware with the right software, so the new employee is ready to go on Day 1. How can IT organize data from multiple systems to ensure every new employee gets the right equipment as quickly as possible? They don’t assign this task to a human employee. They train a bot to do it. And as repetitive, mundane work and human errors go down, employee satisfaction goes up.
How enterprise automation and RPA can work together to power your digital transformation
The RPA examples we’ve shared in this article are only a taste of what it can do for the modern enterprise. However, the last use case we shared hints at a deeper challenge for RPA. Even in this simple instance of IT applying RPA to an event triggered by HR, different teams, applications, and data sources come into play. In this scenario, we’ve exceeded some of the initial criteria for a successful RPA roll-out: simple tasks that are tightly defined.
This is where enterprise automation comes in. Imagine that each department in a company is a different two-dimensional layer. When arranged next to each other, they form a three-dimensional business. In this analogy, robotic process automations unfold within each layer, but it’s enterprise automation that connects the actions of different bots across multiple layers.
While a task within one department is a good candidate for RPA if it’s based on digital data, repetitive, and obeys a clear set of rules, the requirements for automating workflows across the enterprise go deeper:
- Ability to monitor the enterprise for specific business events, and to trigger certain actions once those events take place
- Ability for any employee to access actions and data within their preferred business communications platform
- Single source of truth for IT, so they can monitor all integrations and automations to ensure security and compliance
- And finally, API connectivity across the company’s entire ecosystem of applications, systems, and databases
For an example of enterprise automation coupled with RPA, think of a toy manufacturer that produces sets of interlocking pieces that can be assembled to create a wide variety of different models. They sell direct to consumers both online and through stores all around the world, and they also resell their sets through wholesale distribution channels. Their sales team has a global presence, their marketing team oversees everything from packaging design to billboard campaigns, and their finance and procurement teams have to keep track of dozens of suppliers.
Now think back to our earlier analogy, of each 2D department layered together to form the 3D business. Within each department at the toy company, they may have multiple RPA tasks running at any given time. But they can only achieve lasting results and sustainable profitability by connecting each of these RPA tasks into one cohesive whole.
That’s the promise and potential of enterprise automation.
By applying enterprise automation to knit together different RPA tasks, the toy company can:
- Automatically generate purchase orders for new packaging, labeling materials, and ingredients for the right pieces based on sales trends and forecasts across their full product line
- Onboard new hires, set up their workstations, and automatically schedule video intro calls with their supervisor and co-workers, and on-site tours with the factory plant manager
- Ramp up bids for location-specific ads across multiple channels beginning 90 days before they open a store in a new region
And where data sources, departments, and processes meet, that’s where you’ll find Workato.
Related: A guide to evaluating RPA and iPaaS
Adopt enterprise automation with Workato
RPA had to walk so that enterprise automation could run. Automation tools can take many forms, and while there isn’t one enterprise automation platform that can be everything for everyone all the time, Workato comes close:
Workato offers tens of thousands of pre-built automation “recipes,” hundreds of pre-built connectors, enterprise-grade governance and security, a machine learning solution that helps employees build better, more intelligent automations, and much more.