The Latest Trends in RPA and Automation
By Ray LeBlanc
Posted in Customer Engagement
Recently my colleagues and I attended a number of RPA and AI conferences, and we presented at the Automation Innovation Conference in NYC in December. I thought I'd share some of the key, top-of-mind topics we heard at these events.
Where to Start
Organizations are still challenged in knowing where to start on their automation journey. Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, was often referred to as "the gateway drug" to automation, given it's relatively quick to implement and has a fast time to value. However, RPA is still being implemented in silos for narrowly focused use cases. Only a small percentage of companies have been able to scale the solution across the enterprise for an impactful ROI.
Automation comes in many forms, with new solutions being developed at break-neck speed. Organizations should have an overall automation strategy that ties together their ecosystem of automation technologies. Companies already deploy many tools to automate interactions (web-self-service or IVRs), and processes (BPM/workflow solutions, WFM for forecasting and scheduling, etc.).
In his presentation, Unleashing the Power of Automation Across Your Organization, Verint's Craig Seebach, vice president, workforce engagement strategy, discussed connecting the dots of your automation ecosystem and challenged session participants to figure out how they are going to take all this powerful technology and do the right thing with it.
How do you build management processes around your automations so you know you are doing the right things? Are you measuring to make sure you are achieving what you think you are? Are you measuring your customer experience to make sure you're not harming that in your efforts to drive down costs through automation?
What to Automate
As Craig stated, organizations need to "do the right thing" with their automations. This developing theme, what "should" we automate, not just what "can" we automate, was a concern regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) we heard at several events. Responsible AI that can be trusted is key. AI can be a more involved, costly endeavor with uncertain outcomes as the space is still evolving.
As such, organizations need to be judicious in deciding where and how they should apply AI. A hyper-focused use case with clear and measurable outcomes should be crafted for initial AI deployments. When it comes to RPA, the use cases are far more numerous. Read the Executive Perspective, 50 Sample Processes for RPA.
Where to Automate
RPA and AI adoption vary by industry and functions. Financial services providers are the predominant adopters of RPA, primarily in their finance and accounting functions. Healthcare is an up and coming industry in these areas. RPA and AI are not envisioned to replace access to caregivers but to streamline processes such as scheduling appointments, pulling patient histories, and analyzing symptoms and histories against large databases of medical information. Government agencies will also likely be exploring RPA as a solution that could be funded by the Modernizing Government Technology Act. Read the CustomerThink article: Why RPA Is the Government's Favorite Automation Tool.
Most organizations are implementing automation technologies such as RPA to reduce costs and to augment their human workers -- not replace them. Yes, there will be some jobs that will be eliminated by RPA and AI technologies, but the majority of roles will see a portion of their tasks automated. Check out this fun tool from Bloomberg to see the impact automation might have on your role.
For example, RPA can automate many of the repetitive, mind-numbing, error-prone, rules-based tasks performed by contact center agents and back-office processors, such as cutting and pasting data from one application or system to another, searching for data from multiple sources and populating a form, extracting data from Excel spreadsheets and creating invoices or orders for each line in the worksheet. This will free up organizations to not only handle higher volumes of work, but to focus employees on more complex, challenging work, thus increasing job satisfaction.
As Craig stated, automation can help you balance the two contrary requirements that are placed on your organization every day: do a better job of serving your customer and do it at a lower cost. However, to gain the optimal value from automation, organizations need to think through their automation strategy, connect the dots of their automation ecosystem, and thoughtfully decide where and how to apply today's automation solutions.
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