One of the first steps in your Robotic Process Automation (RPA) journey includes selecting the best business process or processes to automate in the initial stages of your journey.
When choosing the right process for your organization’s RPA program, the goal is to look for characteristics that will generate the best results at speed.
First, let’s look at which business processes can be automated and then move onto the most common types ripe for automation.
WHICH BUSINESS PROCESSES CAN BE AUTOMATED?
Operations that tend to have these characteristics and are commonly suitable for automation are generally back-office processes in Finance & Administration, Human Resources, IT, Procurement, and front office processes such as customer service and support.
THE MAGIC 8
Below we outline eight of the most common back-office processes that are suitable for RPA:
1. Invoice ProcessingOrganizations of all sizes and industries deal with sending and receiving invoices. It is a critical operation for most finance departments as it relates to the overall functionality of companies.
Challenges:Invoice processing often carries many challenges, including the disparate formats in which vendors can submit the invoices: paper copy, email, fax, PDF, MS Word Doc, etc. This forces finance analysts to manually transfer the data from various sources into the company’s unified financial database system, therefore making it a time consuming and error-prone task.
RPA Solution:Organizations can set up RPA to automatically process invoices upon receipt, whether they arrive electronically or in paper formats (using OCR). The software robots can automate the data input, error reconciliation, and even process certain decision-making required throughout the invoice processing, which minimizes the need for human intervention. Robots won’t ever lose track of a form or make a calculation error, reducing the time needed for exception handling.
The overall process typically can be performed end-to-end from receipt to payment in a matter of minutes.
2. Sales OrdersSales operations are a crucial part of any business, and includes tasks like data entries to Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) accounting updates, etc.
Ensuring data consistency across enterprise systems has never been an easy task. Sales reps often need to spend a significant amount of time entering data into the CRM system and the ERP system. Perhaps even a third or fourth proprietary application that connects in between those systems. Financial and accounting analysts would then have to replicate the data and enter it into another system or module. These types of processes generate opportunities for data duplication, errors, and hinder staff productivity.
Software robots could perfectly perform the operational sales activities from end-to-end, automating tasks such as sales order entry, invoicing, etc. Robots can help maintain a clean database, improve customer experience, and of course, increase your sales employees’ satisfaction. RPA helps remove all the time-consuming tasks that took away precious time from your sales team’s main goal – prospecting and generating more business.
3. Accounting Reconciliation
Reconciliation is a crucial responsibility of the accounting department, where employees verify records and balances for accuracy by comparing the different sets of documents from varied formats and sources.
Challenges:Reconciliation might be one of the most tedious yet essential tasks that the accounting department needs to do, as the process can be tedious and sometimes heavily manual. Still, it is critical to secure the reliability of the records.
RPA solution:RPA bots can automate data extraction from various documentation sources such as bank statements or bills, increasing the chances for accuracy in the comparison process when finding and approving matching orders. Software robots can also reconcile purchase orders with delivery notes, which ensures compatibility of orders and deliveries.
4. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Data Entry
ERP journal entries are among the most common processes back-office staff spend most of their day doing. No matter if you are a business analyst in finance and accounting, HR, or supply chain. Chances are, there is a good portion of your day spent in entering data into an ERP system, the likes of Oracle, SAP, NetSuite, MS Dynamics, etc.
Challenges:Data entry to ERP systems is often time-consuming and error prone. Analysts need to gather data from multiple sources and applications and update the ERP workflow. If data is entered incorrectly, it might cause serious problems that lead to a ripple effect.
RPA solution:With RPA, organizations can automate entire workflows of ERP data entries, from data gathering to logging, updating, processing, and validating data. It can maximize productivity by reducing transaction times from hours to minutes, freeing up valuable time for analysts to focus on strategic work. Software robots will also minimize errors and maintain clean and organized data for better business intelligence and compliance results.
5. Systems Queries
Data queries across multiple portals and applications are common processes that employees must perform to gather data for a specific transaction.
Challenges:The process for systems queries is often a manual process that analysts must do when compiling data for specific transactions. Organizations tend to maintain various data housing systems from commercial enterprise applications to legacy custom-developed applications that can be cloud-based or on-premises. These applications would usually lack integration with each other, making it a very time-consuming process for your staff to complete.
RPA solution:Automation can provide smooth data integration between your information portals. You can use software robots to link all your applications and provide staff rapid access to gathered data. RPA can also be used to provision data from servers such as a SQL database by executing a query to extract data and write it out into the output panel.
The HR department is usually responsible for time-consuming tasks, repetitive, and highly reliant on manual-driven processes. Payroll is one of those processes that are rule-based and repetitive. It also requires a large volume of data entry efforts.
Challenges:Payroll faces many challenges related to the standardization of processes due to local statutory and compliance requirements. It is also bound to data inaccuracy issues that can cause delays in payment and employee dissatisfaction.
RPA solution:RPA can verify employee data consistency across multiple systems, validate time records, load earning and deductions, run batch extracts or event benchmark market data for new hires and terminations. It can also automate paycheck creations, administer benefits and reimbursements. Robots can take care of most payroll related transactions from end-to-end to avoid inaccuracies and delays.
7. Employee Onboarding
The process of onboarding and setting up new hires is labor-intensive for HR and IT analysts. This process includes various transactions such as creating new user accounts, email addresses, profile creations, access rights, mailing lists, IT equipment requests, and training and induction schedules.
Challenges:With the plethora of activities involved in the employee onboarding process involving diverse systems and parties to orchestrate a smooth onboarding, the process can be time-consuming. It can often lead to delays for the new hire to be 100% equipped from day 1, reducing productivity and ROI of overhead expenses.
RPA solution:With the rule-based and repetitive nature of employee onboarding activities, it is a prime candidate for RPA to automatically trigger a pre-structured onboarding workflow once the new user account is created. Robots can act based on rules and triggers that employees assign to the new hires’ profiles. Software robots can also be configured to send out notifications and documentation via email to new employees.
8. User Termination
Exit management involves various activities to ensure that the leaving employees’ accesses are properly removed, and their entire know-how and data trail are organized and safely stored. This process requires IT and HR to go through multiple systems to deactivate credentials and gather termination records into the system.
Challenges:As with onboarding, employee exit management requires multiple parties and systems to come together and perform the necessary activities to ensure that the exit process is consistent and error-free. To avoid audit flags or security leaks, as is the case of other manual procedures, errors cannot be ruled out.
RPA solution:Organizations can implement RPA to ensure an organized exiting and de-provisioning process by automating ERP user termination activities. Consolidating leaving employees’ input and feed to downstream systems, perform exit surveys, produce exit records, send out notifications to relevant stakeholders, and process final payments.
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