Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology enables companies of any size to vastly improve the productivity and consistency of their repetitive manual processes. 

One of the most common concerns with RPA is the impact it will have on the workforce. Despite concerns, in many cases, RPA will not displace human employees but enable them to make more valuable contributions.

So it’s not an equation of RPA vs human but one of RPA + human.

Harnessing the power of robotic and human workforces has immense benefits throughout all areas of the business, from Human Resources and Finance to Procurement and Customer Service.

Let’s explore avenues to reduce human error, reallocate mundane tasks, and leverage an RPA solution in a coordinated, strategic way.

Types of Automation: Unattended and Attended Bots

There are a few ways that a software robot can be set up to assist your workforce, with two overarching approaches: unattended and attended automation.

Unattended Automation

The employee designs the tasks and decision trees but once established the repetitive nature of the tasks only requires human intervention when there is a change to the process. Unattended automation is best suited to simple, repetitive processes and requires strong controls.

Attended Automation

An employee (or team of employees depending on the number of robots) manages the robots’ daily/weekly/monthly tasks within a command center. The human designs the process flows and decision trees for the robot. The human delegates and prioritizes tasks on an ongoing basis, monitors processes for issues or improvements, and escalates to the appropriate party if human action is required.

Attended automation can be further broken down by two methods:

  1. Robot Helper: In this method, each employee is provided with a single robot to assist in repetitive and process-heavy elements of the workload at their discretion. The Robot Helper approach is great for a small organization or one that wants to ease into automation slowly
  2. Captain and Crew: This is where one or more employees manage the group of robots on behalf of their team or department. The Captain and Crew approach provides the largest potential scalability.

With either the unattended or attended approach, employees are challenged to think critically about the processes in place and how to automate the steps in the most efficient manner while maintaining key controls.

Organizations can choose the scope, pace, design, and management of the RPA system based on existing automation technology, digital transformation goals, and capacity to govern the ongoing application of robotic automation.

RPA Implementation: Convergence of Bot and Human Worker in Practice

There are many different ways an RPA bot can be integrated with human staff.

Below are some examples.

People and Robots Splitting Task Responsibility

Every repetitive task or business process is typically built with rule-based elements, making them ideal candidates for workflow automation But these types of candidates often still require some kind of human input or review for analysis, approval, and control purposes.

RPA can effectively work in tandem with humans to record and process online orders. With 24/7 processing capability, the robot can efficiently compile sales order data and report to the sales team for price and discount approval. The robot can also flag new customers for a “better experience” follow-up. Once the sales order is reviewed and approved, employees can initiate automated order processing and invoicing tasks for the robot to pick up and complete.

This basic example can be extrapolated and applied in many industries.

People and Robots Allow Each Other to Focus on Strengths

In many scenarios, quality of information and presentation are critical.

In Finance, for instance, investor reporting must be flawless; anything less is detrimental to brand. While a human has an analytical eye and can scan investor accounts for unusual activity that might signal an incorrect transaction, the same human will have a large number of reports to prepare.

RPA technology can prepare the all-important report once the numbers are sound; applying the same formatting touches to each set of accounts means that the company logo is never left out or a client’s name is never misspelled again.

RPA will undoubtedly have an enormous impact in the coming years, but the workforce will also evolve to become more analytical, think more critically, and ensure a better customer experience.

For expert support on your RPA journey, contact CrossCountry Consulting today.

Editor’s note: Updated July 2022