The New Normal: How RPA Can Help Businesses as They Emerge from the Pandemic
There’s no doubt that the world of work has changed, and will continue to change, with the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath. While many will eventually return to the physical office in some form, the success of remote working is going to be a door that’s difficult to close for employers. A distributed workforce isn’t the only challenge companies face, either. From staff shortages to cost concerns, there are plenty of areas businesses will have to navigate as they adapt to the “new normal.”
Luckily, technology is here to help — particularly when it comes to RPA. What is RPA? Short for Robotic Process Automation, it refers to the usage of software-based “bots” capable of automating many of the high volume, but repetitive, tasks businesses have to carry out. Although that description might sound simple, RPA can help post-pandemic businesses in all sorts of ways.
Here are four key examples:
Many companies are in a tight spot coming out of the pandemic. Schemes such as furlough have helped many businesses stay afloat, without having to get rid of employees along the way. But a lot of companies aren’t in a position — and probably don’t feel confident — to splash cash right now. That might make them cautious about investing in RPA tools. However, the reality is that RPA can help save companies money by reducing operational costs in myriad ways — and, no, that doesn’t necessarily mean replacing human employees with bots.
By using RPA, companies can automate some of the mundane tasks that have to be done, but aren’t particularly rewarding, and move the people who were previously doing them onto other value-add tasks. RPA can also help streamline processes within the company, as well as helping reduce errors and improve compliance in relevant industries.
Attended automation for remote workers
No employee wants to feel as though their boss is constantly looking over their shoulder as they work. With that said, one of the good things about being in a physical office is that there’s always another person available to help if you run into problems. That’s not so easy if people are working remotely. While companies trust their employees to do their work to the best of their ability (otherwise they wouldn’t have hired them), there are certainly scenarios in which it’s useful for remote workers to have extra support — whether that’s in order to achieve regulatory compliance or simply to offer the best possible customer service.
Fortunately, RPA can be a boon here as well. Attended Automation, which is also referred to as Robotic Desktop Automation, refers to RPA bots which sit on users’ desktops and monitor their actions. They can then chime in and make context-relevant suggestions or recommendations for anything from job training to ensuring that certain policies are followed and adhered to. Attended Automation bots will continue to play an ever-larger part of the daily workflow of human workers.
Helping businesses to scale
Many businesses have found one of the bigger challenges of the pandemic to not be government-imposed shutdowns, but rather being able to scale effectively. At various times, customer demand has declined and, at others, maxed out. At the same time, there’s been a major labor shortage in many sectors which has made it difficult to deliver what customers are asking for — even when they’re ready and willing to hand over money to get it.
Coming out of the pandemic, some of this flux will hopefully settle. Nonetheless, the challenge for businesses of having to pivot to not just fast-changing markets, but also variable customer demands, is a big impediment to success. RPA tools can help make companies more agile, by allowing them to rapidly scale as required. RPA bots can assist with seasonal periods of peak activity, while also being scalable the other direction if volume diminishes at some point. This agility is a big selling point of RPA — and with good reason, too.
Aiding organizations in the big pivot
No employee likes carrying out tedious, repetitive tasks. Workplace satisfaction comes from doing jobs that workers view as meaningful. Post-pandemic, there have been plenty of reports about employees reevaluating their working arrangements and, potentially, being more picky about where they work. At the same time, businesses are having to pivot and adapt to new customer requirements in the post-COVID world.
So why not embrace both and a) give employees a more rewarding workplace environment and b) use them to carry out greater “value add” jobs by freeing them from the drudgery of repetitive tasks? Incorporating RPA tools can help achieve both of these. As businesses are rethinking what they do for the 2020s, RPA will play a significant — and very valuable — role in this transition.
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