In the digital age, small businesses are looking for ways to do more with less while competing with peers and enterprises. Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is providing an extra edge to reduce costs and processing time while increasing productivity and reducing human errors that inherently come with manual tasks.
Although RPA may be seen as an enterprise solution that is too costly for a small business, the opposite is truer today. Small businesses are now able to affordably adopt the technology as a means for major cost and time savings, operational efficiency, and cost-effective growth. But the journey from where you are to where you want to be with RPA must start with understanding what it is in plain language.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that lets you assign manual and repetitive tasks to software robots (bots). These bots are completely digital so you don't have to worry about the maintenance of an actual robot! The primary goal is to automate time consuming back-office tasks so that your workforce can devote more time to growing the business and improving customer service. Once you understand how RPA works, there are endless possibilities in how the bots can be used. Small businesses, in particular, can use them to their advantage because of their low-cost and low-maintenance nature.
Why Small Businesses Get the Most Benefit from RPA
Small businesses have a smaller, centralized workforce that makes for more well-defined processes executed by fewer employees so there’s less bureaucracy. They generally have one or two people that know and perform a process from start to finish unlike a large enterprise where processes may be spread across departments. These differences make it much easier for a small business to implement RPA and create a workflow for the bots than it is for a larger enterprise.
This difference also means faster ROI with bigger gains in a shorter amount of time such as lower operational and personnel costs. There are many more advantages to a small business that we’ll get into later, but overall it will position your business to be leaner, faster ,and more competitive with peers and larger businesses.
RPA development, deployment and implementation costs have significantly decreased in the last several years making them affordable for small businesses. The software-based technology is also relatively simple to implement into a small business.
It doesn’t matter what sector your small business is in or any of the specifics of what makes it unique. As a totally customized solution for your needs its adaptability, affordability and ease of implementation brings major benefits including:
- Dramatically reduces time and operating costs reductions from automating manual back office tasks
- Increases workforce productivity from recaptured manual process hours allowing for focus on more profitable, higher value work
- A continual cycle of efficiency because RPA bots can work 24x7x365, without taking breaks
- Increased business process speed with zero error rates
- Streamlined compliance tracking, reporting, auditability and security
- Ability to quickly scale workforce up or down to meet temporary/seasonal hiring at the or sudden spikes in demand at the click of a button
- Dramatically improve service levels and customer service
Rather than taking jobs away or reducing staff, RPA maximizes the ability for your personnel to engage in work that increases profits, grows the business, and improves customer service. The bottom line with RPA is that a small business can do much more with what they have by ensuring that the workforce isn’t spending half their time on repetitive back-office tasks. But the true beauty of RPA is understanding the many common small business processes that can benefit from RPA.
Common Small Business Processes that Benefit from RPA
Not only can RPA automate and improve countless common small business processes, but it can also quickly adapt to highly specific processes based on a business sector or need like healthcare or finance among many others. Just a few of the common business processes that RPA can tackle to increase accuracy, efficiency, steady business growth, and the bottom line include:
- Order to Cash where RPA automates the complete sales operation process by managing the structured data for faster invoicing, earlier payments, and improved cash flow
- Human Resources Management where it automates payroll, benefits administration, and compliance reporting while automating huge parts of the recruiting, on-boarding, and staff training data process, and much more
- Procure-to-pay process streamlining that automates business system integration by extracting invoice and payment data from multiple systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), banking, vendors, logistics companies, etc.
- Claims processing to automate administrative and customer service activities related to receiving, reviewing, analyzing and remitting claims
- Data migration and entry between current and legacy systems to prevent manual labor and clerical errors
- Data verification, extraction, and updates across HR, customer services, marketing and sales to accurately populate forms
- Contact center, Help desk, IT Helpdesk process automation and data retrieval, synchronization across systems, detailed customer profile loading, user preference updating, and many common remote customer equipment updates and diagnostics
One of the hidden gems of RPA is that it constantly learns and collects data as it completes the tasks that it has been taught. This means a lot of actionable data for improving business processes and business intelligence that will positively impact growth and forecasting.
The Bottom Line
RPA has the power to operationally transform a small business in ways that immediately impact the bottom line today and in the future. While this growing technology is now both accessible and affordable to small businesses, understanding the process of how to implement it is the next step.
With the right support, a small business can build and deploy RPA bots in a matter of weeks and see ROI in a matter of days. That takes an experienced RPA partner that can assess your business and help determine which processes will provide the greatest return through automation. In the next installment of this two-part blog series, we’ll look at the planning and implementation process of RPA for a small business.