Robotics Process Automation — A new colleague!

Please welcome a new colleague to the corporate workforce… the SW robot!

This new work mate will work alongside us and help us out with repetitive boring tasks so that we can focus on more advanced cognitive tasks.
 These SW robots have capabilities that will complement some of our human behavior in a positive way. Here is an example…

One of the best sides of human nature is the willingness to help each other out, this however have a dark side… or rather an unwanted effect…

It has a tendency to embed inefficient behavior!

Let me give an example… a typical example is a manual connection between a local sales office and a central order-handling function. The local office send a request for order change in many cases via an excel template that is attached to an e-mail (not so uncommon as you might think).

Missing or faulty input data in this process triggers costly and time consuming activities, but “fixing” this where it’s discovered (namely at the central order desk) prevents a “first time right” behavior and drives hidden costs.
 A SW robot on the other hand returns faulty input and request it to be corrected at the source which drives first time right principles (process adherence).

SW robots also log statistical data such as number of errors in the workflow, number of processed events etc. This can then be used to trigger traditional process improvement initiatives.
 The best result you get when you combine robotics with a “smarter input data interface” that prevents sending faulty or missing input data in the first place.
 In the case described above it would be a web based request interface that recognizes if data is missing or in the wrong format and don’t allow the requester to send the incomplete request in the first place. 
For most of us this is a natural part of today's web-shops when we register delivery address, name, e-mail address etc.

SW Robots — Long vs short term perspective

Short-term horizon:

These new SW robots will help us be more cost efficient, reducing cost for repetitive tasks, but also quickly start off the journey toward a considerable faster and more responsive value chain.
 For most incumbent companies this is a very attractive tool that efficiently will kick-off the journey toward a fully digitalized value chain that is the norm for the digital native companies.

There is however a couple of pit falls for the incumbent (digital immature) company when introducing this capability.

One… It’s easy for management to get too exited over the possibility to drive down cost quickly so they lose sight of important additional benefits for the digital transformation like improved data quality, and process robustness and improved speed (service level toward the customer).

Two… The company recognizes the importance of utilizing these new technologies and do support implementation of RPA, but management looses interest once the first few robots have been implemented and think ”now we done that, on to the next task”. 
 However to become a leading digital company you need to ensure that you maximize the utilization of these new tools so that they help you as much as they possibly can to become competitive.
 Avoiding these pitfalls is key to successfully reap the benefits from an RPA implementation.

Mid to long term horizon:

It’s imperative that we understand how to best work efficiently together with these “new colleagues”, we need to learn how to best utilize the robotic capabilities in relation with the human capability to optimize the balance between speed, cost efficiency and flexibility.

The SW robots are here to stay and we need to quickly learn how to maximize the effect of these, companies that don’t will soon see them selves be bypassed by competition in both speed, responsiveness and cost efficiency in the value chain.

This (fairly) new tool should be quickly adapted in to the company’s toolbox as a natural asset in the transformation to become a leading digital enterprise.