When people think of robots, they often think of machines equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities that will, at some point, have the power to rise up and overtake humans as they learn and grow. Sci-fi narrative aside, what many people don’t realize is that robots have been around for a very long time, and often not in the way that they think. There are different types of robotics technologies, some of which are the moving robots that Amazon uses to staff their distribution centers or are the helpers currently roaming the aisles of some Target and Lowe’s stores.
However, physical robots deployed in the blue collar workforce are not the only ones enabling businesses. There are other, much less conspicuous robots that many organizations are already using to exponentially increase staff productivity in white collar roles.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is where software robots interact with existing business and web applications to automate processes within a company’s walls. With RPA, employees have much to gain, including the freedom to focus on productive, rather than repetitive, tasks. Now, as these robots get smarter and easier to deploy, mundane work like reconciling spreadsheets of financial data or filing HR paperwork, will be a thing of the past. This will help foster successful employee engagement strategies by allowing employees to focus on actual data analysis to make the strategic decisions that benefit customers and companies to increase topline growth.
Manual work is torpedoing productivity
From finance to billing to IT, employees across all departments are plagued with a slew of manual, repetitive tasks. On average, managers spend two full days per week on administrative activities and, in the U.S., approximately $575 billion per year is spent performing administrative work. Millennial employees would rather make $40,000 per year doing a job they love as opposed to making $100,000 per year doing something boring. There is inherent risk with that much manual work, and those risks range from process delays to unnecessary burden on employee time, to ambivalence, boredom and disengagement that leads to errors, mistakes and job hopping. Not only that, but when employees are short on time, they are less likely to foster ideas and make decisions that can affect the overall health of the organization.
As brands look for new ways to gain a competitive edge and increase customer and employee loyalty, it’s more important than ever to implement the right technology to free employees from the more boring, mundane aspects of their jobs, and many are finding that freedom in robotics.
A new breed of robots is flattening the learning curve
With the help of robotics, brands are paving the way to change how employees work. According to a recent report, 70 percent of IT decision-makers say that robotics has become more important in the last year alone. In the midst of this increase, some robotics solutions have become “plug and play,” where instead of having to be created from scratch they are pre-built and have best practice process knowledge and can easily be configured by business users. This makes them more accessible, easier and faster to deploy and cost-effective.
As robotics become more mainstream, by 2020 robotic process automation is expected to alleviate employee duties in shared service centers by 65 percent. Not only will this increase speed, efficiency and accuracy, employees will finally have the bandwidth to generate ideas that benefit both the customer and the bottom line.
One area where this is abundantly clear is for financial professionals. There is a 93 percentchance that their roles will be automated in the next 20 years, but while many accountants fear that this will relegate them to the unemployment line, automation is actually good news. Most accountants are mired in ERP processes, such as invoicing or manual reconciliation or data entry, all of which prevents them from using financial data to make strategic recommendations about the business.
With RPA, robots will perform the manual, repetitive tasks, alleviating the burden of processes such as revenue recognition, finally allowing finance teams to move closer to the 80/20 model, where 80 percent of time will be spent on analysis rather than manual tasks.
How robotics technology can deliver real value
However, to get those benefits, companies must have the right strategy in place. According to Gartner, by 2019, only 50 percent of organizations will realize the impact of process automation in the form top-line growth. Why? Because too many companies will erroneously focus on labor and headcount reduction. Unfortunately, that mentality only limits the power of RPA. The true benefits are realized when robotics strategies are mapped to business outcomes and overarching goals.
Robotics allows companies to achieve benefits that they could not otherwise have imagined because they are constrained by thinking in a world where mundane human effort is a given, yet which constrains innovation. Also, by optimizing how employees work, companies can truly empower employees to move beyond the mundane and elevate their roles into strategists who bring greater value to the brand.
For companies to stay ahead of the competition and keep employees engaged and excited about their roles, implementing the right RPA strategies will be critical to future success. By staying ahead of the curve and implementing RPA early, companies will finally free employees from the manual tasks that plague productivity and allow them to make forward-thinking decisions that will ultimately benefit the bottom line.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors