Why RPA is a game changer in the post-Covid era

Monica Spigner, Executive Vice President for Business Transformation at Teleperformance, explains the growing applications of robotic process automation in companies since the outbreak of the pandemic and provides information on the successful implementation of the technology after Covid

RPA will continue to play a role in strengthening the hybrid workforce.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the vast majority of companies in one way or another, forcing them to prioritize digitization. The use of new technology was critical to the company’s response. Robotic process automation (RPA) has proven to be a recession-proof savior for business continuity. Automation combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence enable more sophisticated solutions in all industries. With the influx of claims and inquiries from customers, business leaders grappling with the challenges of running a dispersed workforce have opened their eyes to the importance of change. They reached out to RPA to enable automatic processing of new claim types as new procedural codes are being created due to the global pandemic. It has increased the need for greater operational capacity as the resources are full and it looks like the use of RPA will continue after Covid.

It is estimated that the world has seen more digital transformation in the past few months than in the previous five years. Almost half of global companies plan to increase RPA spending in the next twelve months. In the face of the ongoing recession, companies should reassess their approach to integrating RPA and expand their automated support systems to empower a resilient workforce for humans and machines.

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Increase in employee productivity in the age of automation

During a pandemic, resources are scarce and margins are tight. The automation of manual tasks can be used to streamline the workflow for companies with low staffing levels and give companies the flexibility to improve scalability both up and down. Contrary to popular belief, RPA is not just a means of reducing headcount, but an effective technology to augment the skills of the human workforce and make their work more meaningful by handling more complex, value-added work.

Employees often spend valuable time on low-value, repetitive tasks like filling out forms, analyzing data, and writing databases. This has a direct impact on productivity and takes time for more meaningful work with customer contact. There remains some emotionally rewarding work, like handling sensitive calls to distressed customers that technology simply cannot reach.

In addition, RPA can be easily and quickly integrated into existing systems at minimal cost, so that the industry remains operational under all circumstances. Traditional companies in customer-facing sectors, including retail and banking, are often burdened with inflexible mainframe legacy systems, resulting in manual and labor-intensive processes, and can benefit most from leveraging the power of post-Covid RPA.

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Barriers to preventing organizations from making better use of automation

Worldwide, an amazing 30-50% of the first RPA projects do not get beyond the pilot phase or the proof of concept. Despite the transformational capabilities that technology brings, many companies struggle to take the holistic change management approach required to integrate the technology into the organizational structure.

Automation projects often fail after wasting too much time explaining and projecting what to do. In order to avoid that technical problems get lost during the translation between IT technicians and managing directors, it is important to establish clear lines of communication. Every company is different and requires close alignment with the people and current processes being monitored by effective leadership in order to communicate new initiatives. This will prove particularly important in the post-Covid era, when a more permanent virtual workforce will need consistent updates on process changes where RPA is being rolled out.

Effective implementation of RPA

To maximize the potential RPA needs to transform business processes, it is important for organizations to avoid jumping into automation without strategic planning. Executives should take the time to review their overall business goals before embarking on transformation journeys to ensure that the activities that support the program are generating the most value relative to the effort. This approach ensures that roadmap activities are prioritized given overall value versus benefit.

Asking the right questions is key, as well as understanding that certain tasks that require human touch should only be improved, not replaced. Organizations should try to select activities that, when automated, result in more efficient workflow. The key is to start from the bottom up and do the simplest, repetitive tasks first. By automating from the back office to the front, the most common points of friction such as email reviews, loan approvals, and form filling can be eliminated. The move to paperless paper leads to an improved customer experience so that more claims can be processed, errors reduced and costs minimized – which promotes customer loyalty.

Once implemented, RPA should be treated as an ongoing project so organizations can keep up with rapidly evolving regulations, market dynamics, and technological innovations. Consistent assessments and quality controls are needed to understand where to ramp up or down the automation and to carefully allocate resources to avoid getting too promising on delivery or to put undue pressure on teams alike.

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Future of work

Automation has now become an invaluable asset for unlocking critical agility, resilience, and cost efficiency as business leaders gain a foothold in unknown market conditions. After months of downsizing and restructuring, now is the time for companies to plan ahead and invest in RPA solutions to help both remote and on-site workers adapt. Amid these unpredictable labor market dynamics, RPA technology will help mitigate unexpected risks associated with hybrid workforce regulations and enable human employees to collaborate with data wherever they are.

Written by Monica Spigner, Executive Vice President, Business Transformation at Teleperformance

April 5, 2021