“The foundation of an RPA project is a robust governance network whose implementation will require a holistic approach of an experienced solutions provider. Such a provider will have to carefully plan, clearly communicate, and thoroughly test all changes within this framework,” says Tim Hood, Associate Vice President, Hyland, in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.
ET Bureau: Do you think intelligent process automation can play a significant role in any business element other than customer experience?
Tim Hood: Yes, absolutely. It is the next step in the evolution of business process optimization and outsourcing, where virtual software assistants and digital workers, with varying intelligence, replicate human paths of actions and automate repetitive tasks.
Irrespective of the level of intelligence, robots are already providing important automation capabilities. At its most basic level, desktop automation enables some tasks to be carried out, but it’s limited in its functionality. However, robotic process automation (RPA) takes this further, with the help of multi-skill robots and their ability to work autonomously in the background. The most advanced and smartest type of automation is intelligent process automation (IPA), which enables companies to handle and use even unstructured data. IPA extends automation solutions by adding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). These technologies are commonly used in process automation, where large amounts of data are gathered, analyzed, compared, or structured.
Automation is one of the most common goals of digital transformation. In particular, the implementation of a content services platform in tandem with RPA, empowers efficient, error-free business automation and is widely regarded as a highly effective productivity automation strategy.
ET Bureau: While automation of manual processes in several industries has already become a regular sight, how do you think RPA can help in the back office processes?
Tim Hood: There’s no doubt that enabling staff to focus on creative and productive tasks, rather than slow, manual, repetitive jobs, is positive for employee wellbeing, productivity, and work quality.
However, a prerequisite for efficient, error-free business automation is clean, easily understood structured information. Therefore, before implementing robotic process automation, it is important to consider how to automatically capture information coming into your organization, from the start.
A content services platform provides capabilities that simplify and improve how you interact with information at every stage of the content journey, by providing relevant data directly to your RPA solution, creating true, end-to-end automation.
ET Bureau: In your opinion, what processes can best be handled by AI?
Tim Hood: While administrative tasks may repeat themselves frequently, almost every repetitive and time-consuming process is a good candidate for automation. As a result, opportunities for productivity gains in other areas, from finance and human resources to customer service, purchasing, or logistics, could be ideal.
In human resources, for instance, the recording and administration of working times and absences take time. In addition, payroll accounting, including the deduction of taxes, is extremely time-consuming. Electronic personnel files may be commonplace, but these records are often managed manually. With RPA, the ‘virtual employees’ take over, pull up the employee’s master data, store the attached documents, check the file format, request the sender to resend the file in the correct format, if necessary, and upload the document to the e-file.
ET Bureau: Intelligent Document Processing has already taken over some processes in the back-end business, but do you see any shortcomings?
Tim Hood: In my experience, there’s sometimes a gap between expectations and end results. This may be due to a misunderstanding of the concept of RPA and its implementation pitfalls. One of the common misconceptions is that RPA will dispel all risks by removing any human interface. Although RPA reduces compliance-related risks, it may still raise risks involved in its implementation. These could be due to execution inconsistencies by humans, high reliance on their diligence and attention to detail, as well as existing manual workarounds. Long-held ‘flexible’ practices may inadvertently create gaps, errors, and conflicts, and as robots are programmed to do everything exactly as prescribed, human-caused problems can lead to tasks running consistently wrong or elements may be left undefined.
Understanding and foreseeing the risks, as well as extensive mapping, and know-how analysis, will help mitigate such issues.
ET Bureau: If you had the power to completely robotize a back-end business operation of a company, what would your strategy be? Which part of the operations lends itself best to be automated?
Tim Hood: Communication and planning are key factors for success.
The process should start by exploring all relevant processes, performing the right process analysis, and identifying all variants. These are followed by open and honest communication with employees, as well as their appropriate training.
The foundation of an RPA project is a robust governance network whose implementation will require a holistic approach of an experienced solutions provider. Such a provider will have to carefully plan, clearly communicate, and thoroughly test all changes within this framework.
With an ecosystem that includes RPA, process orchestration, low-code capabilities, and integration with line-of-business systems, an intelligent automation platform empowers staff to focus on high-value work by removing slow, manual and repetitive tasks.
Although all administrative business processes can be automated, not every single process is suitable. Often, only the most time-consuming employee activities are worthwhile RPA projects.
ET Bureau: What is your perspective on robots taking over human jobs? Do you agree with the generally discussed ethical issue?
Tim Hood: It’s an illusion that a virtual workforce will replace the human workforce. RPA is simply a method to make certain human tasks easier or superfluous, and increase productivity and efficiency as a result. By taking over repetitive, time-consuming, and boring tasks, robots allow humans to focus on tasks that require human attention, like handling exceptional cases, unlocking creative potential, and improving collaboration.
Robots act solely based on their programming, so they can perform repetitive tasks more efficiently, consistently, and more accurately than humans. Optimizing processes in this way will drive better customer services, customer loyalty, and increased customer lifetime value.
Tim Hood is the Associate Vice President for Hyland in EMEA and a strategic technology professional with more than 20 years of experience supporting senior executives with enterprise-wide digital transformation programs. Having worked with both direct and channel customers across five continents, Tim’s knowledge of the sector is both rich and diverse.