The strategic role of automation: Why business executives should pay attention to RPA?

The strategic role of automation: Why business executives should pay attention to RPA?

Why should business executives pay attention to robotic process automation?

Many business executives can relate to frustrations that come from painfully inefficient implementation of strategy. When speaking of this problem, managers most often refer to a lack of technological readiness and staff resistance to change. Another popular topic for discussions is the growing necessity for continued digital transformation. Producing digital services is rarely straightforward, as standing technological integrations rarely serve the purpose. On this basis, robotic process automation provides an excellent tool to improve the technological agility of knowledge-intensive organisations. Next to that it helps to allocate human resources to have more productive tasks.

Agile businesses operate cost-effectively and react quickly to change

Mikko Kosonen, the president of a Finnish public fund Sitra, sums up the value of a company to be agile and capable of being able to identify and implement change. Additionally, company value is dependent on the organisation’s ability to implement change cost-effectively. It is generally recognised that friction to change increases as an organisation grows bigger in size. This organisational stiffness relates to staff attitudes, as well as heavy and incompatible legacy IT-systems.

In an agile organisation, the company management is able to initiate cross-organisational strategic programs quickly and cost-effectively. An example of such a program could be changing the company structure from functional to customer-led. The decision to do so, may arise from a will to increase efficiency and avoid internal competition. The transition to a customer-driven structure requires all information related to the same customer to be collected quickly and flawlessly. Unfortunately, the different functions rarely use compatible systems, and building an integration is both slow and costly.

Robotic Process Automation provides a fast and efficient way to automate computer-based routine tasks and helps to allocate human workforce to more productive tasks. In many cases, RPA can be used to replace or push back expensive integration projects – for a tenth of the price of a traditional solution. Implementing automation technology doesn’t require any changes to existing information systems or security policies.

RPA reduces friction to change

Our experience shows that the use of RPA can positively influence both technological agility and staff attitudes towards change. Negative attitudes are reduced by the experience that implementing change no longer means a disruptive amount of extra work. For this reason, company management may earn their staff’s support more easily and be able to create cultural flexibility for change. In this case, the company culture becomes supportive of learning through trial and error, and the management can experiment with new business models quickly, cost-effectively, and almost risk-free. Digital workers can be exploited to implement changes involving IT-systems within days, and get comparable results almost immediately. Organisational changes require less commitment from employees, while deploying RPA is quick and easy.

On the other hand, software robotics support strategic change by shortening technical set-up times. Set-up time refers to the length of time, from the moment of decision to the moment when the required information is available for use, in the desired location. Compared to traditional IT reforms, RPA set-up times are just tenth of the norm. In addition, and partially for the previous reason, the costs are also a tenth of what companies traditionally pay for these changes. New strategic opportunities arise, when large-scale organisational changes can be implemented up to ten times faster and cheaper than before.

RPA as part of the digital strategy

In addition to strategic agility, automation technology can support the implementation of a digital strategy. Many companies look to create competitive advantage by offering effective and comprehensive online services. However, creating a digital service is often slow and difficult, if it requires manual integration between IT-systems or implementing entirely new systems. Under these circumstances, offering the service only adds to the employee’s workload and quickly causes internal resistance. With software robotics these integrations can be set up in days, while guaranteeing the accuracy and safety of the transfer.

Processes supporting digital strategy are an obvious area of application for robotic process automation. Organisations pioneering the use of RPA have reportedly achieved up to 35% higher productivity by automating IT-routines. On the other hand, short process-specific projects can generate measurable results very quickly. RPA provides company management with an excellent tool to deliver the objectives described in their digital strategy, and helps to enhance the functionality of digital services.

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