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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for Strategic Transformation?

We’ve had robots for ages!

Put simply, Robotic Process Automation (RPA)is a type of software that provides ‘virtual FTE’. So rather than the automation seen in industry, with rows of robotic arms welding car bodies, assembling circuit boards, or moving deliveries around a warehouse, these robots are instantiated purely in software. Like their industrial counterparts however these software robots replicate the work of people who would otherwise perform the tasks being automated.

In the RPA environment, those tasks are the operation of existing business processes and existing application software in order to achieve a business outcome.

Allianz provide an account creation example where a manual ‘as-is’ process (figure 1) is automated using RPA (figure 2).

RPA focuses on automating business processes with software ‘robots’ mimicking exactly what a human employee would do (e.g. by logging into a system, entering data, copying and pasting data between systems, etc.) in the business...

What are the benefits?

In its explicit focus on business process and the drive to analyse, model and automate those processes, RPA links to a focus on Business Process Management and that area’s focus on process as a strategic business asset. There are several clear business benefits specifically provided by RPA:

  • robots work 24X7

  • improved responsiveness (robots are faster than humans and can operate at all hours)

  • highly scalable allowing addition of more robots during peak hours

  • higher accuracy at lower cost

  • full audit trails for processes help achieve compliance and reduces business risk.

  • licenses for robots are a fraction of the price of employing someone

  • frees staff to work on more value added activity

Moreover, in contrast to business change programmes which require traditional system integration projects, RPA provides a comparatively straightforward route to automating business processes across multiple functions and which use disparate existing systems. RPA:

  • executes existing business process with existing applications

  • robots work with existing IT architecture

  • infrastructure sits with existing IT infrastructure and is governed by IT

  • robots can however be controlled by suitably trained business teams

So RPA provides a neat way to drive automation in business processes. RPA delivers several accuracy and cost benefits and should cost less than a change programme based on integration of legacy systems.

Bring on the robots!

The use-cases for RPA are unarguably extensive (see table 1).

Finance and Accounting

Sourcing and Procurement

Regulatory and Compliance

Financial Risk Management

Cyber Risk and Resilience

  • Manage incoming vendor invoices

  • Process vendor payments

  • Validate sales orders

  • Create and distribute customer invoices

  • Process customer payments

  • Maintain master data

  • Audit expense reports

  • Systematic vetting of contract details Extraction of key data and metadata

  • Automatic evaluation of orders and routing to appropriate teams for exception resolution

  • Data entry validation for tax and licencing forms

  • Periodic attestations renewals

  • Review of waiver requests

  • Reconciliation of trade requests with pre-authorisations

  • Processing of new affiliation and interest disclosures

  • Registration of gifts and entertainment in central register

  • Evaluate credit limits

  • Aggregate and segment data for standard reports

  • Complete timeliness, accuracy and completeness checks and remediate where needed

  • Examine system logs to identify suspicious or illegal activity

  • Check customer documentation and enter in to account opening systems

  • Compile information into standard reporting formats

  • Reconcile recorded data across operational and risk systems