With pandemic-related disruptions largely behind us, businesses can at last survey the landscape they face in 2023 and beyond, with a reasonable level of confidence.
Yet that landscape differs in significant ways from earlier years. Companies have greater difficulty balancing their books; more employees expect permission to work from home, and are increasingly willing to leave jobs that are unfulfilling; customers expect online service that is both highly responsive and personalised; and rapid innovation, more than ever, determines business success.
Rather than focusing on these and other issues piecemeal, many companies are finding solutions that can address all of them at the same time. One such approach involves robotic process automation (RPA), a type of software that observes individual (often administrative) processes until it can perform them autonomously. Examples include data entry, document scanning, general accounting procedures, and generating tailored responses to basic customer communications.
RPA is also adept at higher-level functions, such as analysing entire processes to find and correct inefficiencies. It is particularly useful for businesses that have undergone a merger or acquisition, if the new entity has partially overlapping processes that are carried out on incompatible software systems. In such cases, RPA can combine the relevant data streams into one, more manageable, set — and then maintain that set faster and more accurately than the most experienced employee.
Although the gains in efficiency enabled by RPA are impressive, such an operational upgrade also brings benefits that are arguably even more important. By automating repetitive tasks, companies can assign more creative work to their employees, who will in turn be more engaged in their jobs, more willing to come to the office, and less likely to quit. This increased capacity for in-house creativity can in turn lead to greater innovation, even as the company saves money on administrative work.
Customers with online queries will likewise appreciate the tailored responses that a well-trained chatbot can deliver, as well as the instant recommendations that the company can give to those browsing its wares on its digital store.
RPA also delivers other important benefits, albeit with less fanfare. Because the AI software that powers it is both reliable and customisable, RPA is an excellent tool to help businesses comply with local regulations. Companies that use this technology well can largely stop worrying about non-core operations, and focus almost exclusively on making their core products and services better.
It’s no wonder that increasing numbers of businesses are turning to RPA to help launch their post-pandemic operational strategies. And with software quality only getting better over time, RPA’s advantages will surely multiply in the years ahead.
Of course, the benefits outlined above follow from a few crucial assumptions — among them being that RPA is implemented smoothly, both at a technical and cultural level. Moreover, as with any other tool, RPA must be used skilfully in order to maximise its effect. For these reasons, all organisations looking to embrace RPA are advised to do so with the help of an experienced guide.
Grant Thornton is a leading business advisory firm in Thailand, offering Audit and Assurance, Talent Acquisition Management and Executive Recruitment, Advisory, Business Consulting, Tax and Legal Consulting, Japanese Business Practice Consulting, Business Process Outsourcing, and Business Risk Services.