While South African organisations have been incorporating robotic process automation (RPA) into their business processes and strategies, a significant gap has emerged between those embracing the technology and those still testing the waters. 

Larger institutions, such as banks and financial institutions, have already adopted RPA across the organisation with some even building their own platforms. While a few companies are doing this strategically throughout the business, others tend to focus on introducing RPA at a departmental level using a variety of tools and platforms.

And then there are those SMBs who are just dipping their toes into RPA by investing the minimum in licensing and only automating small areas of work since they would like to see the technology prove itself before allocating more resources to it and investing into the platforms. 

Some smaller companies are using a bot as a service model and rent these technologies to automate tasks without directly investing in a specific RPA platform or license. 

Dealing with difficulties

A degree of caution is understandable, given how costly the investment in RPA platforms can be. Companies need to come to terms with the limitations of the technology and finding the right processes to automate. It is the; ‘identifying, evaluating, estimating the value, and estimating the impact to be created’ part that is probably the most important to see sufficient ROI. 

Those organisations who are not experts in the field may adopt RPA but not see the true potential either because they are automating unoptimised processes or not picking good use cases for automation. Another common challenge is that businesses tend not to communicate and share the successes gained from automation between departments. 

This lack of communication could result in a lack of buy-in from those unfamiliar with the successes already gained by automating processes within the company. 

Targeting quick wins 

Decision-makers should focus on automating simple processes that typically involve large volumes of data capturing, manipulation, or transactions taking up a significant part of employees’ time to mitigate against these and other challenges. 

Processes that are typically prone to error because of data re-capturing are also good use cases. Furthermore, an organisation can consider setting up a centre of excellence to identify, adjudicate, and control which processes are automated. 

This centre of excellence will ensure the company does not waste any effort or resources in automating the wrong things. 

All about the training

Organisations must identify the employee groups most likely to be impacted by automation. These workers must be involved in discussions early to provide input on the role they will play in these initiatives. 

Change management becomes critical in this regard as it will also contribute to employees embracing the technology and being willing to upskill and reskill themselves where required. 

By taking these considerations into account, more effective process mining can be done to help identify opportunities for automation at various levels. 

These considerations can either be by having employees identify and explain processes which they see as being ‘automatable’ or by allowing RPA platforms to monitor user and server machines. In turn, they can then identify opportunities for automation using machine learning and AI.

These process improvements will allow for a more agile and competitive business as employees improve their skillset and ensure cost efficiencies throughout their organisations. Another benefit attributed to RPA is improved customer service and experience. 

Organisations cannot afford to lose out on these benefits as digitisation and globalisation continue to cause disruption and increased competition. Now, more than ever before, it is not the time to get left behind but to innovate, improve, and embrace the growth opportunities. 

By Wilhelm Greeff, Business Manager: Modern Workplace at Decision Inc. South Africa