RPA: Which processes are best suited?

The global market for process automation is growing by 40% a year – according to an estimate by management consultants Deloitte. Robotic Process Automation is becoming increasingly important. Many decision-makers are unsure which processes are best suited for the use of automation technologies. Learn in which departments and for which tasks process automation makes the most sense in this article.


RPA: Basic requirements for process automation

Not every process can be automated. The following prerequisite must be met by every process you want to automate:

1. Repetitive:

Only manual and repeatable processes can be automated.

2. Rule-based:

Without a certain structure that organizes the process, automation is hardly possible. This is because RPA software itself follows predefined rules to handle the process.

3. Digitized and structured

The data that is processed as part of the process must be available digitally. At least the scan of a document must be done manually.

4. Standardized:

Processes that are subject to continuous change are not suitable for automation. Every change to a process would necessitate a change to the robot logic.

Favorable conditions for process automation

Based on the above requirements, it is possible to identify which processes are not suitable for automation.

  • Measurability

Processes with clear metrics allow you to precisely plan the investment in RPA technology in advance and determine the success of the measure afterwards. Especially for the first deployments of RPA in the company, you should choose processes for which clear key figures are already available.

  • Error rate

Robots do not make mistakes. By their very nature, their use is particularly promising in areas where people make a lot of mistakes. These are, for example, the processes in which data must be transferred manually.

  • Compliance

All processes that involve sensitive personal data are fundamentally exciting for RPA. By replacing human employees – for example in the plausibility check of personal data – they eliminate data protection problems in this area.

  • Validation

Data validation is the core competence of every robot. The comparison of two data sets is fast and guaranteed to be error-free. Processes that involve complex validations are therefore predestined for process automation.

  • Volume

The more frequent a process has to be carried out, the more suitable it is for automation: The return on investment increases.

  • Timing of the processes

Many processes take place outside of regular business hours or are ongoing. For the company, such working hours are not only expensive, but also placing an unnecessary burden on employees. This includes, for example, processes in administration and/or customer support.

5 Examples of business processes

Invoice processing

Accounting involves many time-consuming, error-prone processes that do not directly contribute to business success. One example is invoice management:

  • Invoices come by mail, e-mail or other channels
  • They must be assigned to the correct order
  • The invoice is then sent to the department for validation, if necessary.

Thus, a lot of time passes from invoicing to payment, during which several employees are unproductive. Since invoicing is a rule-based and repetitive process, it makes a good use case for process automation.

With RPA, you create simple rules that automatically route invoices to the right person for confirmation. Then, the software automatically verifies the invoice and matches it to the correct purchase order.

In case of errors, the software automatically forwards the invoice to the responsible employee for review.

Payroll

Another example of resource-intensive data-related processes in accounting is the monthly recurring salary payments.

Employees in payroll accounting must

  • Check master data and keep it up to date
  • Reconcile and check timesheets
  • Instruct the transfer of wages

Payroll is rule-based, repetitive and resource-intensive and RPA can greatly simplify this process. Employee master data can be reconciled and synchronized across systems, and validation of timesheets and remittance can also be automated through RPA.

Information management in the onboarding of new employees

Both recruitment and onboarding are cost-intensive. Onboarding new employees is therefore key to successful recruitment. In addition to an introduction to the corporate culture and the technical aspects of the respective field of work, however, onboarding essentially consists of explaining processes and structures.

  • How does the intranet work?
  • Where do I store a file?
  • How do I name the file?
  • Where do I find the vacation request?

This part of onboarding can be easily automated as part of process automation. One approach is a dialog-based knowledge database in the form of a chatbot that new employees can approach and ask questions like a colleague from HR. This relieves the burden on HR staff and gives them room to focus on important factors in onboarding.

Customer service

Customer service is a business area that relies on time-intensive manual labor. Customer service employees talk to prospective customers, solve problems for existing customers and are available to answer questions. However, not all customer support is the same. We can distinguish between two types of inquiries:

  • Standard inquiries from interested parties or customers that are easy to answer and whose answer can in principle also be found or could be found in a FAQ.
  • Individual questions that require an individual solution

The first category of inquiries takes up the largest share in customer care. Here, companies can relieve the burden on their customer support through process automation and at the same time improve service quality across the board.

  • Studies show how the use of chatbots on the website acts as a filter. Customers with a question ask the bot. The bot can answer the vast majority of questions immediately. Then the customer is satisfied and no employee has invested working time in the case.
  • If the chatbot does not know the answer, it forwards the request to the customer service representative. The customer does not receive his answer immediately, but still faster, because the customer service is less burdened overall

Draw and forward contracts

Contract management is time-consuming and complex because several decision-makers usually have to sign a contract:

  • The sales department concludes a contract with the customer
  • After the customer’s signature, the sales department forwards the contract to the first person in charge.
  • The latter then forwards it again, and so on.

The result: signing the contract takes a long time and the lead time increases

With a robot, this process can be easily automated. As soon as a contract is signed, it is automatically forwarded to the next person in charge. This significantly shortens the turnaround time and saves working time for all decision-makers.

Document storage

What applies to contracts in particular can also be applied to document storage. Modern knowledge workers spend an average of 25 hours a week on administration-related activities that have no direct connection to the value-creating processes at the core. This includes searching, finding, editing and storing documents across the .enterprise.

With an automated document repository, documents can be automatically filed in the right places and found there. With a chatbot, employees find necessary documents via simple dialog.

Inventory

In modern e-commerce, retailers often have to keep track of a broad portfolio of products across different channels in different markets. On the one hand, constant availability of all items must be ensured, and on the other hand, data from sales and the warehouse must be evaluated for further planning.

Without automation, this process is time-consuming and error-prone. However, it can be standardized to a large extent and follows simple rules.

  • If the stock level falls below a certain value, an order is automatically triggered with the supplier. Alternatively, the software sends automatic notifications about low stock levels
  • Automatically analyze demand on a daily basis to adjust and optimize inventory levels according to market conditions
  • Avoid inventory errors

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Conclusion: These processes are suitable for automation

More efficient processes mean lower costs and fewer errors. RPA is therefore most worthwhile for companies in processes that are executed frequently and are highly error-prone.

The good thing is that companies can also address individual processes in individual departments on a small scale and quickly achieve results without first initiating a time-consuming and cost-intensive transformation of entire business units.

The more experience you gain in the company, the easier it will be to implement further automation projects in the future.

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