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From buzzword to workshop - what is RPA and how can you use it? Part 1 of 3

RPA or Robotic Process Automation refers to the automation of frequently recurring processes in an organisation. This can be done either by setting up standalone workflows that are triggered by, for example, someone applying for something or pressing a button. But RPA can also involve automating directly in an application's user interface, i.e. letting the computer click around in the application itself to perform routine tasks. In a series of three blog posts, we'll take a closer look at RPA and how it can be used to create value in our customers' businesses.

Three benefits of RPA

More comprehensive automation solutions are achieved through systems integration, but this is often a larger and more complex project than using any of the RPA tools available today. A good way to get started with automation is to build standalone flows yourself, then test automation of interfaces and perhaps finally - after carefully evaluating the benefits of automation - implement a heavier automation solution that integrates at the database level.

There are three main benefits of RPA:

  • Quality improvement.Once the regulatory framework is in place, it is implemented according to the book, without all the mistakes associated with human behaviour.
  • Speed. The RPA workflow can rattle through an almost unlimited number of cases compared to a human processor.
  • Relieves staff.It is common for RPA to be introduced to relieve staff so that they can focus on more value-adding activities, such as personalised care and new situations for which they do not have a clear set of rules.

In this blog series, we'll follow Finance Manager Olle's journey from not knowing much about RPA to becoming an avid user of it. Olle is a fictional character (any resemblance to yourself or anyone else you know is entirely accidental and random!), but in creating Olle we've been inspired by many different customers who have wrestled with similar issues.

RPA as a tool in the fight against errors

Olle is 57 years old and has worked with finance all his working life, initially as a controller but in recent years as a financial manager. His work revolves around invoice processing, accounting and tax rules, but above all around finding discrepancies and preventing errors in reporting. This is something Olle can really get to grips with. How can otherwise well-educated and competent colleagues report so badly?! Even Olle, with his angelic patience, sometimes gets tired of explaining why you can't report coffee bread as office supplies, even if it is consumed in the office.

It was in the context of such an outburst that Olle's wife Eva-Stina, not without some concern for Olle's blood pressure, made a suggestion. Eva-Stina also works as a financial manager, but has a different mindset than Olle. She could have been called an Early Adopter if it wasn't a term that has been misused too much by the marketing department of Olle's company. Eva-Stina suggested that Olle take a look at "RPA" to see if it could make his life easier. Olle almost exploded.

Not only do you have to put up with creatively accounting colleagues - now you have to get to grips with an incomprehensible combination of letters, which also seems to be about robots! What does this have to do with economics?" thundered Olle, but soon came to his senses when he realised that Eva-Stina might have a point after all. His experience and gut told him that it was best to find out more about this, if only for the sake of the house.

It was a sceptical, but actually also a bit curious, Olle who finally started looking into RPA. What made him want to try it out was the possibility that it might relieve his workload, reduce errors in accounting and, in the long run, even lower his blood pressure.

Three insights on RPA

Olle, analytical as ever, quickly noticed three characteristics of RPA:

  • RPA has a misleading name
  • Start at the right end
  • Optimise the process before you automate

The first thing Olle noticed was that RPA has a misleading name. It's not about robots at all, but about automating rule-driven flows. Instead of forcing the creative colleagues to book things correctly, Olle can define the rules from the beginning and then they are just followed! Already here, Olle's blood pressure dropped a few notches.

The second thing Olle realised was that you have to start at a good end. It's not always the most obvious workflow that is best to start automating. The third insight was that it is best to review and optimise the process before automation is put in place. Automating a faulty or inefficient process only makes the problem worse.

Olle had no idea how much use he would get out of this! In the next blog post, we'll follow how Olle got started with RPA and why he would later be so pleased to have taken this step.

Don't want to wait? Register today for AddPro's webinar on RPA! It will tell you everything you need to know about RPA, and most importantly: how to get started with it quickly and easily!