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Ready or not… Robotics Process Automation

Guest Author

Shared services centers are, by definition, characterized by process-driven, repetitive tasks. Pioneering organizations are already showing what automation can do to make them more efficient. New opportunities are round the corner.

Robots are nothing new in factories. But over the past two years, many services-based businesses – and service teams – have made the connection between single-task robotic desktop automation and much deeper robotic process automation (RPA).

Research shows almost half of shared services centers (SSCs) have implemented RPA at some level. We're seeing a slew of case studies shared via solution providers, conferences and online forums such as the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON).

It’s still early days. And reported "failure" rates of 30% to 50% show RPA needs to be implemented carefully; and not oversold. In the dash for results, mistakes are easy to make.

It’s not the “robots”

The technology is the “easy” piece. Software agents will repeat tasks indefinitely at low cost and without errors. How those tasks are designed, and whether the organization is prepared to adapt to new ways of working, are bigger questions.

Many providers (at least in the early days) sold business units on the idea that they didn’t need the IT department – they could make quick decisions, automate a process with next to no overhead, and get quick results. But IT does need to be involved - at the very least for governance access to systems. And when (not if) things go wrong, IT is a key ally.

Seeing is believing

Taking a more considered approach helps secure the benefits – and also shows more clearly how RPA can evolve. Research shows that before adoption, automating procure-to-pay is the most common objective for practitioners. RPA test sites broaden their horizons: accounts payable becomes a prime target. Post-implementation? They’re more likely to see full-blown financial analysis as RPA-ready.

Where’s the catch?

The first hurdle is budget. Management needs to be convinced on returns. Process standardization and resource allocation are always factors. Then change management becomes key. But our data does not show fear of job losses to be a significant factor. At a recent RPA conference, 54% of the delegates we surveyed intend to redeploy FTEs into higher-value work.

What’s next?

SSON Analytics’ Intelligent Automation Universe shows how RPA is delivering in finance and accounting, HR, procurement and customer service – a breadth of use-cases that highlights how far RPA has progressed. But it’s just the start. Applying cloud and artificial intelligence technologies pushes RPA’s potential even further, with SSCs playing a crucial role.

Find out how organizations are leveraging new technologies in our report Delivering on the promise of Digital Innovation.

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