What is automation through RPA and how can it help us improve productivity?

What is automation through RPA and how can it help us improve productivity?

Miguel Ángel Gombau, Tech Marketing Manager at SNGULAR

Miguel Ángel Gombau

Tech Marketing Manager at SNGULAR

March 5, 2024

Learn about some cases of automation with RPA as support for teams and individuals, to enhance business efficiency and simplify repetitive tasks.

Currently, efficiency and productivity are more than just business goals; they are imperatives to maintain competitiveness in an ever-evolving market. This has led to process automation becoming a key driver for achieving these objectives, allowing organizations to optimize their operations and unleash human potential for tasks of higher strategic value.

In this sense, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has emerged as a disruptive technology that is transforming the way business tasks are performed. By combining the power of automation with the ability to mimic human actions in digital environments, RPA offers an innovative approach to simplify and streamline a wide range of business processes.

For years, there have been solutions in the market mainly aimed at the IT area, called rule management engines, which serve to define very simple information exchange processes, streamlining decision-making in the company. From that seed and depending on the number of layers and functionalities we put on that rules engine, we will achieve more advanced and higher-level solutions.

In the case at hand, if we add a small software robot installed on a computer to that core, an RPA, we will obtain a new system that is capable of establishing interactions with its IT environment in a similar way to how a human would do it.

However, being able to emulate us does not mean that it does the same things, because said RPA must be programmed according to the established rule management, we must tell it what work it has to do and, specifically, what steps it has to take. That is, it has its obvious limitations.

In any case, this type of solution allows us to automate processes that previously only a person could do, such as interacting directly with office applications, with our email, with web pages, with forms, with file systems, and with a multitude of connectors and very wide utilities, which will give us a very large range of possibilities when automating our processes. This is because, in the end, the daily life of workers goes through the computer and through the different programs they have in the company.

When does the acquisition of an RPA apply?

Well, initially, this depends a lot on the amortization horizon that the company has, but in processes that involve 50 hours of work per year or more, automation begins to be very interesting.

Another scenario in which an RPA is ideal is one in which there are processes of very low qualification, which have a high degree of human error such as, for example, the typical data dump to the CRM where it is necessary to "type" a lot of data and it is very easy to make a mistake with a phone number or with a letter from an email, which facilitates having poor quality data.

It also applies to processes that were not previously carried out due to their disproportionate cost. Imagine that, due to our business typology, we need to access a website to see five or six thousand different records. Paying someone to extract that information is prohibitive, so something that would be very good for our company, we stop doing it because we cannot afford it. With a robot we could do this kind of thing.

And, finally, the most common context for an RPA, which is that of processes with a high volume of data and very repetitive, ultimately, all that work that is orchestrated in a rigid way and for which it is not necessary to think much.


Adjusting expectations

What can and cannot be done with an RPA? An RPA does not replace people, it only takes care of the worst jobs, those in which the employee does not feel fulfilled because he only follows a sequence of steps.

A robot does not think, its work has to be one hundred percent defined. Every intersection, every small decision that has to be made in the process has to be contemplated because, otherwise, it will not work.

RPAs also do not perform magic, and achieving it through the configuration of complex processes can have a really prohibitive cost. On the other hand, its maintenance over time is similarly complicated, if the context for which it was developed changes, something very common in VUCA environments.

This technology also causes a false need to apply it in all company activities. We must avoid obsession with automation. Let's always look for processes that have a significant workload, not those that we want to automate because we do not like them, but that barely represent a few hours per year. We should not apply them to everything, only to what really makes sense.

We must consider that these solutions must be maintained over time and, given that certain interactions with other systems change frequently, someone will have to update the robot and provide it with new instructions.

On the other hand, it must be taken into account that each robot scales up to 24 hours. What does this mean? Well, we will be able to give it all kinds of tasks, define different processes and make it work on all of them sequentially, but always with a 24-hour work buffer. If this is exceeded, we will need to hire more robots to perform the additional work.

This ties in very well with this other point. In the end, if we also have processes that have to be run in parallel, we will need more than one RPA, since it, like a person, accesses a computer and can only fully focus on one task at a time.

Finally, as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, we do not have to automate one hundred percent of a process necessarily. We have to do it in what gives us a good return on investment. Let's not go crazy. Let's not try to get rid of all the work we have been doing for years in one fell swoop. Let's go with common sense and criteria and only if the investment gives us a return.

Some practical examples

With all these aspects clarified, let's present some specific scenarios in which RPAs can be deployed, to spark your imagination a little.

One of the most common is the presentation or collection of documentation, such as Social Security reports or Treasury receipts, on official portals. In reality, these are trivial tasks that do not require more than five minutes each, but are distributed very often throughout the year. With an RPA, it would be as simple as implementing a process that collects these documents every week or every month, and then automatically sends them to the list of clients requesting them or, even, uploads them to portals where contracting with them is managed and thus have everything updated. This is an administrative task that does not generate value and that I have released in this way.

For the Human Resources Department, one of the most tedious tasks it can face is locating candidates and maintaining its database. This collection is fed into successive selection processes, but, due to staff turnover, it frequently becomes outdated. Well, RPA technology makes it easy for the robot to go to websites, social networks or specialized portals and constantly monitor changes, in order to keep our list up to date and incorporate new candidates that fit the profile we are looking for.

Another classic in the HR area is employee onboarding. When a person joins a company's workforce, countless processes within the company are triggered. It is necessary to create an email for them, provide them with a welcome pack, give them access to certain systems, create their contract and upload it to the Public Administration, etc. A whole sequence of steps that can be automated.

Changing focus. If clients send orders in PDF format, we can train the robot to process the document, extract the information it contains, enter it into the ERP, and notify the Operations department, initiating the work. All this very mechanical process, with an RPA can be left without human intervention, or limited only to those cases where there is a special situation.

Within the area of Administration and Finance, RPAs can also be equally useful. As with orders, invoice management can also be automated very easily. And speaking of mechanical processes, it is very common for administrative personnel to enter the bank every day to download the statement of movements, pass it to standards and reconcile it with the ERP. Bank reconciliation meets all necessary requirements to be "robotized".

Notices that arrive at the company are not always treated efficiently, and sometimes there is not even any record of their receipt. Whether they come from Public Administration portals, where you have to access with a certificate to download them and thus be able to decide if it is something important or purely informative, or from client portals, where RCPs, orders, contracts, etc., are launched, it is easy to train a robot to connect regularly to these portals, and if there is relevant information, notify it to the appropriate people.


Infinite possibilities

I do not want to end this post without mentioning that RPAs are not only applied and exclusively within the HR or Administration scope, although they are the areas that usually get the most out of them. However, the list of possible scenarios is endless. With this, you can get an idea of how to apply RPAs to improve our quality of life and make us have time to dedicate it to things that really generate more business and allow us to improve the company's profit and loss account at the end of the year.

At SNGULAR, we are not only your technology provider, but also a reliable partner committed to helping you meet and exceed your ever-evolving expectations.

If you are interested in improving the operation of your company, we can help you develop unique solutions to meet the specific needs of your business. We work with you hand in hand, strategically using technology to optimize your processes and take your company to the next level.

Miguel Ángel Gombau, Tech Marketing Manager at SNGULAR

Miguel Ángel Gombau

Tech Marketing Manager at SNGULAR

Experienced Engineer and Marketing Manager, with a demonstrated history of working in Enterprise and Corporate Business, Solutions, Technological Innovation and Strategic and Digital Marketing.

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