Robot-supported process automation in medium-sized companies? For a long time, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were hesitant regarding automation. That seems to be changing now. In 2021, almost three-quarters of German companies will rely on process automation with the help of software robots. The Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) recognized the relevance of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) even earlier and is promoting the digital transformation of medium-sized companies with a particular program. Now at the latest, it is time to take action so as not to miss the jump on the train of the digital age. But how?
Automating processes is considered an essential element of a successful digitization strategy. Technological progress is now so mature that routine procedures can be replaced. Robotic Process Automation is the entry into the digital age for companies.
But what is Robotic Process Automation? RPA is best described as configured software that automates and gets tasks done. Activities that humans would otherwise perform are now done by RPA software. Software technology typically replaces repetitive tasks, data entry, correspondence handling, and other standardized processes. According to McKinsey & Company, RPA will be the second most crucial disruptive technology after mobile internet or wireless technology.
That doesn’t just sound like hype. To establish digital technologies, such as the automation of processes using RPA, more quickly in medium-sized companies, the BMWK is funding “Digital Now!” until the end of 2023. “an investment program especially for medium-sized companies. One of the aims is for smaller companies to quickly benefit from digital technologies – such as RPA – which large companies are already eagerly doing. They are already talking about managing their “digital workforce” in software robots (RPA bots). At the same time, some midsize companies are still wondering what they can do with RPA and what it will bring
The RPA Early Adopters
Although RPA can be used in almost any industry globally, the largest and earliest adopters are banking, insurance, telecom, and utilities. These companies traditionally have many legacy systems and choose RPA solutions to ensure integration functionality. Larger companies are, therefore among the first to take the next digital leap with an “RPA concept” for the following reasons:
- They have mature core business processes and legacy systems, which means they know exactly what needs to happen at each process step and what outcomes need to be achieved.
- Fierce competition from other companies within their respective industries forces them to free their employees from repetitive tasks so they can focus on more value-based work.
- Larger companies are more financially able to invest in the latest technology solutions.
However, the increasing number of RPA vendors in the market over the past five years and the scalability of the solutions suggest that the initial barriers for small and medium-sized businesses have been significantly lowered today.
Why Is Robotic Process Automation Relevant For SMEs In Particular?
It’s time that small and medium-sized businesses recognize the advantages of RPA for themselves because the relatively easy-to-use and inexpensive technology pays for itself quickly. This is particularly interesting for smaller companies with a lower ability to invest. In addition, when automating, RPA accesses software applications and documents like a human via the computer screen. This means companies don’t have to interfere with or change their existing IT landscape, which puts many off. RPA is also referred to as a “non-invasive” technology. Another advantage of RPA is that it drives digitization in the company by optimizing and automating processes and routines. And how important it is
Midsize Companies Will Appreciate RPA For The Following Six Reasons:
- Short implementation time, quickly available (“non-invasive” technology)
- Quick to learn, easy to use
- Relatively cheap, fast amortization (within a few months)
- Process optimization increases productivity
- Drivers for digitization in the company
- Increase in process quality and stability (promotion of independence and resilience)
Status Quo: Where Does The Middle Class Stand With RPA?
In summary, robotic process automation is moving up the agenda of midsize companies. Some already have multiple “bots” deployed, that is, RPA robots that run processes automatically. But they are still in the minority. The larger the number of employees in a company, the more experience the company has with RPA. According to IDG Research Services, only 2.5 percent of small and medium-sized businesses have more than 20 automated processes on average. In companies with more than 1,000 employees, 4 percent already have more than 20 automated processes.
But RPA is now also on the agenda of companies with fewer than 500 employees: At the time of the IDG study, almost 14 percent of them had already started or completed an RPA pilot project – and around 27 percent are considering an RPA pilot project shortly after. Companies with 500-999 employees stand out particularly positively regarding RPA plans or pilot projects: Around 22 percent of them have already started or completed their first RPA projects – and another 30 percent are planning to introduce this software technology. Robotic process automation is also increasingly gaining a foothold in medium-sized companies.
RPA In The Enterprise: Where And How To Start?
Automating a process always starts with the process itself. Before thinking about automation, you must understand the process, preferably at the deepest level.
- How does the process work?
- What software applications does he access?
- What data does it need or process?
Companies can collect this information themselves or with external support. Larger companies often use professional business process management (BPM, Business Process Management), supported by appropriate software. In such cases, the processes are already modeled. This is helpful, and a great starting point, but initial process documentation in Word or Excel is also sufficient to start process automation. It should always be checked first whether a process has optimization potential before attempting to automate it.
First Assessment Of Whether A Process Is Suitable For RPA:
- The process is rule-based
- The process rarely changes
- The process works with structured data
- The process runs frequently
- The volume of the process is high (e.g., several invoices to be processed monthly, possibly with an upward trend)
- The process is error-prone
Not all of these criteria need to be met, but the more there are, the easier and faster automation will be, and the greater the value automation will bring to an organization.
Once the processes have been collected, they can also be put through their paces. Many RPA service providers offer a discounted proof of concept. In this first project, external experts work with the company’s RPA managers to automate the first process. This approach provides the company with valuable initial experience and helps it create a well-developed business case.