In the pioneering days of task automation, RPA use cases were limited to simple office suite oriented use cases that helped simplify spreadsheet and accounting software use. The current wave of RPA adoption has successfully targeted back office use cases such in finance, accounting, and customer service. But it’s the next wave of use cases, and the use of automated bots designed by skilled RPA developers, that will really change the game for vendors such as UiPath, Automation Everywhere and Blue Prism.
Alex Lyashok, president and CEO of WorkFusion, sees the next wave supporting the creation of bots that are smaller, much more nimbler. These bots will augment what people are doing on a more granular and interactive level, rather than the replacement of an aggregate processes. “If you don’t put a bot and a human into one workflow together, you end up with a choice of either automating very simple pieces of work or doing so much redesign to completely remove the human from the process that the project becomes too large,” said Lyashok.
In fact, McKinsey has recommended that automation experts should shift their focus away from the discovery of cost reduction opportunities for bots and instead focus on improving end-to-end customer experience through customer service RPA use cases. This approach is known as automation experience design, and it can help companies benefit from RPA in ways the go beyond saved labor and cost reductions. This shift in focus allowed Carter Bank & Trust, a relatively small bank with about $4 billion in assets and 100 branches, to quickly scale to over 200 bots.
One early RPA use case success for Carter Bank & Trust was developing an app to automatically confirm receipt of important customer messages. For example, Carter Bank & Trust has many commercial customers that they want to ensure that people are only cashing the checks that they write to reduce fraud. They use an automation process called positive pay in which the customer submits a file of all checks they have written that is submitted to the bank. In the past, a human had to copy that file into the system, ensure that all the data was in the correct format, and then notify the customer that it was received.
The bank programmed a bot to monitors the secure file transfer system, checks for errors, uploads it into the positive pay system, and notifies the customer of receipt. If a problem is discovered, it can also send an alternative notification indicating the problem so the customer can submit a new file. At the end of the day, the deployed robot automatically generates a report of all files received, along with any missing or problematic files a human may need to investigate.
Another RPA use case lies in automating important tasks at the end of the day when employees are just getting ready to go home. For example, every bank receives a notice from the Automated Clearing House indicating which checks have cleared and which have not. These are sent out at the end of the day, as late as 6 pm, indicating which checks will be returned the next day.
When a check does not clear, it may be a result of fraud, insufficient funds, or other reasons. This banking RPA use case allows the information to be scrubbed, error correction applied, and then a hold on those funds can be placed. The RPA robots reduce fraud and eliminate the poor customer experience that occurs when a customer gets an overdraft fee for spending money they thought was available.
“Those are the kinds of things you can’t have people do in the middle of the night,” Speare said. “You could, but it would be a really boring job, so why not just automate those things.”
One of the key benefits of RPA is its ability to reduce errors, improve efficiencies, and in some cases, increase safety.