New Zealand businesses are on the road to recovery from the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis but they, like corporates around the world, are having to change their operational practices.
One key trend seen globally is that businesses have shifted their focus towards implementing new digital solutions such as automation and artificial intelligence to improve their performance. McKinsey has reported that even before the pandemic hit, 92 percent of companies thought their business models would need to change, given digitisation. We are quickly seeing that Robotic Process Automation is becoming the fastest-growing form of digital transformation due to the speed with which it can be implemented, especially when adopted as an as-a-service model. More on that later.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, can be defined as the structured use of software technology to automate business processes. Order management, customer service, accounting, and data compilation are all examples of the kinds of functions that can be managed by an RPA program. RPA interacts with software the same way a person does to help them get on with their jobs.
Despite the reluctance that all too often surrounds technological innovation, some of the most effective RPA implementations make it possible to achieve cost-cutting without reducing staff numbers.
When implemented in a smart and sustainable way, RPA can be used to free up your team so they can spend more time adding greater strategic value for your company.
Rise of the robots? Not really
RPA robots offer a number of advantages. They work with a high degree of speed and efficiency, completing tasks around the clock in a fraction of the time required for a human worker to finish the same job.
However, in situations where a judgement call is needed, or past experience is a necessary element in decision-making, it’s still essential to have a level of oversight from a person in the company.
For this reason, it’s best to think of the robots deployed through RPA as individual members of your team. They can report to human workers as part of a traditional organisational chart, and can be given tasks that are appropriate to their capabilities.
Way more than just cost reductions
Robotic Process Automation is highly variable in nature, but for businesses that adopt it, the return on investment goes far beyond the increased effectiveness of your existing team.
When implemented correctly, RPA generally leads to:
- Opportunities to eliminate redundant steps or streamline workflows that are identified when existing processes are examined prior to RPA implementation.
- Improved quality and process outcomes, potentially resulting in fewer returns, greater customer satisfaction, and increased referrals.
- Stronger staff morale and reduced turnover, as repetitive, low-impact tasks are taken off team members’ plates.
- Greater profitability or innovation, as team members can allocate greater portions of their days to higher-value or mission-critical activities.
The implementation of RPA in the workplace can not only improve business processes through increased efficiency and accuracy and a more detailed audit trail, but also have a positive impact on employees. A Deloitte study reported that more than 80 percent of organisations implementing or scaling RPA indicated that their workforce was happier.
How to transition to RPA?
In-house or RPAaaS
The rate at which you transition to Robotic Process Automation will depend on whether you pursue in-house implementation or decide to work with a partner that provides RPA as a service (RPAaaS).
Choosing a partner enables you to start small with one process, test the waters, and confirm there is a return on investment before expanding to other processes and departments. You could activate automation in weeks instead of years, at smaller incremental costs, with less risk.
Hire a specialist
The automation of what are often long-standing business processes requires only a mindset of change and a willingness from your team to work with experts such as Canon’s.
Canon and Converga both have more than 22 years’ experience in New Zealand. Canon acquired Converga in 2015, and together they present a powerful combination of capability to deliver solutions to enable digital transformation to clients under a single business entity, ‘Canon Business New Zealand Limited’. Canon partners with technology provider UiPath to offer their RPA as-a-service solution.
Because the scope of processes can be small or large – or anything in between – implementation times and the resources required vary from company to company; there’s no ‘one size fits all’ model.
Start your RPA with one task
Although RPA implementations can be complex – spanning multiple job roles and departments – adopting this new technology can be as straightforward as starting with a simple process, in a single business unit, then scaling as value is measured, realised and delivered.
This approach can minimise the need to align with company capex budget cycles and lengthy approval processes, meaning businesses can focus on immediate savings and faster time to value, resulting in easier internal adoption.
So where to from here?
Canon’s RPA-as-a-service model can help your business bounce back from the impact Covid-19 may have had on its operations. Whether this involves enabling your remote workforce, digitising your supply chain or taking your customer service to the next level to improve referrals, for example, Canon will help deliver a greater return on your investment.
RPA isn’t something to be feared. As with all new technology, business leaders must be careful to separate the facts from the fiction in order to evaluate its potential advantages and disadvantages. Some leaders would be wise to streamline existing operations before pursuing RPA, while others stand to benefit right away from cost-savings, greater efficiencies, improved morale, and more.
The global research and advisory company Gartner, in a report titled “Lessons from China: Business Model Resilience in the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Outbreak”, said chief information officers “must take both short- and long-term actions to ensure the success of leveraging digital giants and automation. This will be crucial for their companies to enhance business model resilience during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.”
With the end of the pandemic still uncertain and the possibility that it may strike again in cycles, Robotic Process Automation can enable companies to navigate their way through any future impacts of this or any other such crisis.
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