What are the advantages and disadvantages of RPA?
When PSCU, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based credit union organization, focused on growth in recent years, the company saw robotic process automation as one of the tools that could help scale. Because of this, the company developed a strategic RPA plan, choosing Nice for its automation software and advisory capabilities.
PSCU, which implemented its first bot in September 2019, now has RPA that does four back office roles, said Molly Walker, the company’s business excellence manager who runs its RPA center of excellence.
The company currently has “a long list of use cases up the pipeline,” Walker said, adding that not only is the technology helping the PSCU keep pace with its growth, but it also offers other benefits.
It is clear that automation is becoming a mainstay in companies in various industries. Gartner predicted that 90% of large companies worldwide will adopt some form of RPA by 2022 and triple the capacity of their existing RPA portfolios by 2024.
Business leaders and business consultants said the benefits RPA offers are driving this growth. However, they also said that there are potential downsides to using RPA, especially if companies don’t carefully or strategically assess the automation projects they’re running.
These executives shared the following list of the pros and cons of RPA that CIOs and other IT executives should consider.
8 advantages of RPA
1. Efficiency gains. RPA can do tasks faster than humans and at a lower cost. As a result, organizations can expect productivity gains without seeing the reasonable increase in costs that would have occurred if they had hired new employees to do the same amount of work in the same amount of time.
“This is how bots work – it’s computer code, so it runs 365 [days,] 24/7, in contrast to us humans who have to take breaks. It’s hard to compete with him, “said Tony Abel, general manager of the Supply Chain Solutions practice and RPA head of consulting firm Protiviti.
2. Reduction of errors. “Computers do what they’re told. They don’t make a lot of mistakes like humans sometimes can,” Abel said, adding that the RPA software also provides a comprehensive audit trail so companies can see what was done and when.
Employees can often make quick adjustments within the RPA software, which is usually light and flexible, rather than asking IT staff to save time and resources on overhauling the underlying business systems – usually a more time-consuming, complex, and costly task.
Because RPA is layered on top of, rather than integrated into, enterprise systems, there is less risk of disruption or unintended consequences with new RPA deployments or changes to existing bots. Companies therefore have the option of using RPA to enable quick adjustments to processes and to further increase their agility.
4. Make better use of people’s power. With RPA, organizations can often shift employee attention from low-value tasks to higher-value tasks that provide a better customer experience and ultimately support revenue growth, according to IT consultants and executives.
Walker saw this change in her own company and said, “RPA helps us scale by freeing up our people to do more value-adding work.” For example, customer service representatives once spent a long time collecting and entering data for rate change requests. This limited the time they had to deal directly with clients in counseling sessions. But now RPA bots are taking care of that gathering and keying work, Walker said, giving staff more time to deal directly with customers about how PSCU services could meet their needs.
With RPA, employees can spend more time on consulting tasks instead of copying and pasting them.
5. Increased employee engagement. As RPA bots do the repetitive and sometimes mundane tasks within the company, employees can shift more time to more valuable work, which in turn often leads to more engaged employees, Abel said.
6. Improved customer satisfaction. According to Abel, customers can also benefit from organizations that automate processes as automation can result in a faster and better experience. For example, a bot can access and pull information in real time to answer a customer’s query, so the customer doesn’t have to be asked to stop.
7. Standardization of processes. Even when companies optimize their processes, they can rarely ensure that employees are following the prescribed steps every time in every single office location, said Kevin Martelon, process consultant and automation partnership manager at Saggezza, a global IT consulting firm.
Sometimes individual employees at different locations adapt the process according to their wishes. On the other hand, RPA performs its tasks exactly as it is programmed and ensures that a process is consistently tracked across locations every time.
8. Support business continuity. Organizations can use RPA to support their business continuity (BC) plans by creating bots that can take over tasks normally performed by outsourced services in the event that those services go offline, according to Martelon.
“RPA can act as a setback; it’s like buying a generator,” he said, noting that their presence can help organizations achieve BC goals as required by regulations or in their insurance policies, even if the Bots don’t take action.
5 disadvantages of RPA
1. Abrasion. While RPA bots don’t always crowd out workers, it is a possibility. Because companies can add bots to handle the increasing workload, they don’t have to hire additional staff to handle the growing volume of work.
“Vendors are pushing for RPA to eliminate boring and redundant work, but the reality is that there were people who made their living from it. So work is eliminated and jobs and hours are cut,” said Weilerstein. “It’s a real concern for people, and it’s also a matter of looks for businesses.”
2. Expansive technology. As companies add more bots to perform more tasks, they run the risk of creating an unwieldy collection that becomes more difficult and costly to manage and maintain.
“That can happen when you don’t govern it properly, when you understand who is responsible for what is not formalized [and] If you just build bots and throw them into production, “Abel emphasized the need for effective governance and an effective RPA competence center to avoid such scenarios.
3. Added complexity. Similarly, RPA can create layers upon layers of software if not effectively documented, managed, and managed, Weilerstein said. This creates complexity that could make it more difficult to achieve business improvements.
“RPA makes it easy for companies to deal with changing business processes, and that makes it easy for them to do it bit by bit rather than systematically updating the software. The problem with this is that when something goes wrong it becomes difficult to troubleshoot, to find out what went wrong, “said Weilerstein. “It’s all the levels that complicate the whole picture.”
4. Enlargement of problematic processes. According to experts, companies that do not first review processes and, if necessary, redevelop and optimize them before they are automated, run the risk of automating problematic processes. This means compounding inefficiencies, mistakes, and everything else that was wrong with the process in the first place. It also adds costs that negate the expected ROI and could introduce new risks.
5. Foiled transformation. Executives who view RPA as a point-by-point tactical offering rather than a tool that is part of a holistic strategy get limited benefits, according to Martelon. Business leaders who want RPA to support their digitization goals need to have a strategic plan for prioritizing their automation projects and understanding how those projects fit into their higher-level strategic visions.