RPA Today: What Are the Most Common Automated Processes?
As RPA becomes one of the most dominant forces in the modern economy, companies are looking for new processes to automate in order to improve efficiency, reduce costs and develop new sources of revenue. This has led to an explosive growth in the number and scope of tasks that are automated.
In June of 2017, the Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence (IRPA-AI) conducted a study of business and technology leaders in over 22 industries and 40 countries. The data showed that automation has become part of almost every process and industry in the world. However, some areas particularly dominated by RPA and make up an outsized portion of automated processes. [Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence Survey. IRPA-AI. June 2017]
This post will explore some of the most common automated processes and what the future of automation holds for enterprises across the globe.
First Candidates for Process Automation
It’s critical to select business processes to be the first candidates for automation that are the simple, repetitive ones. IRPA-AI recommends considering rule based processes that are labor intensive, standardized and with structured data. Processes that can be well-defined, utilize rote labor, doing repetitive tasks in very large volumes, like back office work, data entry, and certain help desk tasks are good candidates. In the IRPA-AI survey, companies who were “testing” or “thinking about implementing” RPA – i.e. those who are selecting their first candidates – identified the following as the processes to automate:
- Core Business Operations
- Self Service Operations
- Human Resources
- Training and Development
Top Five Automated Processes
The following processes have been identified by organizations who have already implemented RPA.
- Financial Operations – The repetitive processes of accounting, data entry and invoicing naturally lend themselves to automation. This is one of the primary reasons financial processes were the most commonly cited categories when asked both what processes were currently automated and what processes the company planned to automate in the future.  RPA can help companies automatically keep track of receipts, calculate taxes and pay invoices on time with minimal input from human workers. This can provide significant savings and improve efficiency across the organization.
- Human Resources – HR departments have to keep track of a wide range of data for personnel across the entire company. New tools allow HR workers to rapidly track timesheets, store documents, calculate benefits, and issue onboarding information to employees. This makes it one of the most common targets of automation, with over 15% of respondents reporting that they have automated processes in HR and 13% saying that they planned to automate HR processes in the future.
- Information Technology – IT may be responsible for delivering and supporting automation for business units, but many processes within IT itself can also be automated. Today, RPA can automatically diagnose and fix technical problems, track support tickets and even provide technical customer service such as password resetting and minor issue resolution. End-user automation tools can also automatically backup data, perform system maintenance and help the user when errors occur.
- Procurement – Requisition approvals, MRO re-orders and invoice processing can all be substantially automated using RPA. This can streamline the procurement process and reduce dependency on large staffs while improving service to business units. This has made procurement the third highest ranked process that companies plan to automate, according to the 2017 IRPA study. 
- Data and Analytics – An overarching capability of RPA is the automatic collection and analysis of data. In every area, automated tools can gather information about efficiency, issues and costs, allowing companies to iteratively improve processes and monitor performance. Many companies are realizing that this is one of the primary applications of RPA, allowing for more effective decision making guided by accurate information.
These are just some of processes that RPA is dramatically changing. As technological solutions continue to advance and a greater number of companies adopt these tools, an increasingly large portion of activities will be performed entirely through automation, dramatically reducing dependence on costly labor and increasing service efficiency. Those companies that continue to innovate and implement automation throughout their enterprise will be poised to capture a larger share of the market and meet business objectives in 2017 and beyond.