Authored by Gwen LaPole
Companies across many industries have begun to focus on digital transformation and automation. As they’ve begun the process, they are asking what the technology really means for their company and how it can be leveraged to enhance their business.
One of today’s “in demand” technologies, Robotics Process Automation (RPA), is being used to optimize repetitive processes, reduce costs and increase productivity. When starting your ”automation journey,” it is important to fully understand the technology’s capabilities and implementation success factors, identify workflows (typically referred to as Use Cases) that can easily be automated across the organization and forecast a realistic return on investment.
What is RPA?
Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is sometimes referred to “software that automates software.” In general, if an employee executes a workflow with a computer/keyboard/system, then RPA technology may be considered to automate and optimize all or part of the workflow. RPA, also referred to as a “robot,” has the ability to move structured data, run applications, trigger responses and communicate with other systems.
There are two types of RPA robots:
- Attended: Represents an automated process that is integrated with, and dependent on, human interaction during the course of the process
- Unattended: Represents an automated process where the robot is performing the entire process without interruption or human intervention
What are the benefits of RPA?
RPA can be strategically incorporated to assist life sciences companies with fulfilling their business and operational goals and achieving the following benefits:
- Labor productivity: Employees’ time required to complete a task can be drastically reduced or eliminated depending on whether attended or unattended robotics is implemented, allowing them to repurpose their work to higher value-add activities.
- Cost reduction: RPA can help reduce the amount of time and financial resources needed for a manual/routine task. In order to see the most effective cost reductions, organizations should focus on selecting Use Cases that have a high volume. For example, accounts receivable invoice payment reminders, managing master trial data and processing data for pharmacovigilance cases.
- Customer satisfaction and loyalty: Automating processes through RPA can create a more streamlined and standardized customer experience. RPA robots have the ability to address previously painful and lengthy customer processes to create a more enjoyable experience.
While cost savings are often stated as a primary reason for implementing RPA, it is important for organizations to also strive for revenue-generating benefits.
What are the success factors of using RPA?
When preparing for and implementing RPA technology, it is essential that life sciences companies consider the following success factors:
- Business process engineering: Ensure business units have fully process-mapped the details of the Use Cases that are to be addressed by RPA technology. Alignment on the process’s current state is critical to an effective implementation.
- Use Case selection: Selecting the right Use Case for RPA technology impacts organizational adoption, ROI and overall effectiveness. Start by scanning the organization for potential Use Cases, then prioritize Use Cases using a set of scoring factors and select the Use Cases that will provide the most benefit and highest adoption potential.
- Rule-based or intelligent automation: When selecting Use Cases for your first ‘“wave” of RPA implementation, focus on the rule-based and standardized processes. Rule-based processes are defined with “if-then” logic and can be mapped using a decision tree. As your company advances in its automation capabilities, begin to challenge the implementation team with more advanced and intelligent processes for automation.
- Return on Investment: Keep ROI in mind when making your Use Case selection. The highest ROI comes from Use Cases with high volume, high manual error rates and movement of structured data. It is important to note that not all organizations are focused on cost-saving ROI, rather they choose to implement RPA technology to increase customer satisfaction through standardized processes or to minimize human errors and the required rework.
When getting started with RPA, the following actions will accelerate your organization’s implementation efforts:
- Integrate automation with your IT strategy. It is essential to understand both the business and IT strategies/visions and align the technology to make a positive impact across the organization.
- Implement ‘quick win’ RPA Use Cases. Start with rule-based processes that cross multiple systems, involve multiple resources, follow standard processes and utilize structured data. Use ROI modeling to identify which Use Cases will provide the highest return.
- Define license and implementation costs. Your company will need to identify its approach to implementation and whether or not you will need third party development/maintenance support. There are many RPA vendors in the marketplace, and it is important to find the vendor that best aligns with your organization’s objectives and budget.
Baker Tilly is prepared to assist your organization with its automation journey, no matter what phase it is in. Connect with us to discuss your organization’s interest in RPA and how the technology can fit within your business processes.
For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly specialists can help, contact our team.