1. What is RPA?
The expression Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is on everybody’s lips in both the public sector and other sectors with large volumes of manual data entries.
The word robotic refers to robots in software able to replicate the tasks solved by an administrative employee. The software is suitable for repetitive tasks, and it can be used within the framework of existing systems. It can also be used for standardising tasks and ensuring that a process is carried out homogenously every time. The software is also able to carry out the tasks in a fraction of the time it would take an employee.
Process automation is not expensive when taking into account the benefits gained in terms of efficiency and quality in solving the task. In addition to financial benefits, implementation of process automation also frees time to solve other tasks and consequently makes it possible to improve the service experience and have time to create closer contact with either citizens or customers.
2. Which benefits can I achieve with process automation?
A long list of areas and work tasks can be automated with benefit. But the scope of benefits also depend on what the situation is like in terms of data and processes within the areas you are considering to automate. And the benefits will go beyond improved citizen service and optimisation of response times.
You will also gain benefits in terms of improved work processes and employee competence lift:
- A prerequisite for a successful process automation is optimised processes and systems, and you will also achieve insight into which of your processes are more business critical
- You will gain control of your data and ensure that the data quality is satisfactory in areas of data optimisation. It will provide you with an opportunity to structure data and optimise both related processes and data
- Tasks which may be considered trivial can be handled by automation software. The content of the tasks will thus be lifted from being monotonous to adding value to the continued development of the systems and to the everyday of the employees
- You will gain insight into the organisation’s readiness, both in terms of competences and processes. All processes will be mapped, requiring overview and openness. It also requires discussions on how processes should be designed and whether any competences require a lift
- Process automation will result in a competence lift in your employees. It is necessary to consider whether the organisation possesses the necessary competences and to identify the competences already present in the organisation to be applied in the future automation work
- As an increasing number of processes become automated, there will over time be a need for fewer people to handle the same number of tasks. This can be a benefit if you have a lack of staff or is considering moving employees to other tasks
3. What are the direct benefits of process automation?
Process automation has the following positive effects on case handling:
- Freed resources
- Increased process quality
- Reduced process complexity
- Reduced lead times
- Reduced need for custom developed complex system integrations
- An opportunity for further process optimisations
As cases are developed, you will gain figures enabling you to benchmark your figures for case handling time in initiatives with process automation. Below, you can read the first figures from Trelleborg municipality.
4. What have others done?
Trelleborg is a Swedish municipality, which has seized the opportunities to be found in digitalisation to be able to provide their citizens with the best possible service, also in the future.
- 44,000 citizens, a number which is increasing and includes also older citizens
- Increasing need and requirements for the services provided by the municipality
- Need to think out of the box to maintain current service levels
In cooperation with Valcon, Trelleborg municipality reviewed which of their administrative tasks were best suited for automation, and they were positively surprised by the potential in RPA. For Trelleborg municipality, automation has meant a reduction of no less than 60% of their administrative costs. “It has been something of a revelation how quick the implementation was,” states Annikki Tinmark, head of the social services department in Trelleborg municipality, and the employees all agreed that the automation process has been surprisingly quick and painless. There is no doubt that this is just the beginning of the journey for Trelleborg municipality as they have realised the major potential in automating processes which do not require personal interaction with the citizen.
The processes initially identified as being relevant for automation were in the social services department and the labour market administration, and they included applications for homecare, payment of sickness benefits, handling of taxes and duties as well as unemployment benefits. The two departments were able to realise impressive savings in administrative time of no less than 21% and 85% respectively.
5. Which work processes can be automated?
- Time consuming
- Tasks which do not require a personal assessment
- Tasks which do not require personal interaction with the citizen or customer
- Standard handling of rule-based processes across systems
- Customer service centre support
- Automatic replies to e-mails
- Case/project creation
- Data checks across systems
- Reporting (across systems)
- Standard letter forwarding
- Automation of finance processes
- Automation of HF processes
- Automation of processes related to outstanding amounts
- Competitive intelligence
- Automated data collection
6. What should you consider before getting started?
When considering automation, you should take into account:
- The area should have a clear business potential
- You must be able to achieve a clear strategy for realising benefits
- Some areas may be more suitable than others – think in terms of robust operations from the beginning
- Does the area have sufficient volume? Prioritise suitable processes
- Develop processes and prioritise – this can take place in an agile and iterative development process
- Involve your employees – strong need for change leadership
7. What will it look like in the future? Governance and maintenance of the processes
Implementation of automation will provide an opportunity to gain control of your processes. If it has not already been done, it is recommended to document your processes down to the minutest detail. This will also make it easier to change the processes in connection with e.g. changes in legislation.
You can begin by only automating a few areas. Once you have gained experience from this process, you can always expand to more areas. As you begin to have more and more automated process, you will be able to organise the automation solutions in a control centre which maintains the processes and updates the automation solutions.
8. What will process automation mean to your communication as manager?
Your employees may find it an intimidating thought that their work is to be done automatically by robots, and it is therefore important that you view the RPA project as an organisational development project. Your communication should explain what the RPA project will mean to the individual employee. You must take into account that the employees who used to handle these tasks may not necessarily think that “new is wonderful”.
You should also remember that those employees are often loyal employees who take pride in ensuring that the systems have run satisfactorily for a number of years. Employees who appreciate order and predictability and who do not like change. To accommodate the concerns of your employees, you can explain them that the automation software is a means to reducing case handling time, and the citizens will consequently receive a better service experience, and that quality will not suffer as the system will be set up according to the same standards as they have in their current work processes.
Finally, it is also important to explain to the employees in question that their knowledge and competences will not become redundant as the systems will require continuous maintenance and development.
9. What will process automation mean to as manager?
- You should focus on work processes characterised by routine or large volumes and which therefore involve a large number of employees
- You should take the initiative in changing work processes to realise benefits
- You will meet resistance to the unknown in your organisation
- You will be faced with concern from employees afraid of being made redundant
10. What is a good tip for my communication?
- Make sure to explain what the word robotics means – that it is not actual physical robots but rather software able to assist in solving tasks
- Listen to your employees and make it clear that you understand their concerns
- Accommodate your employees’ concerns, and be open about the project
- Avoid creating a situation of winners/losers with respect to your employees
- Explain that, at the end of the day, the winners will be the citizens as case handling times will be shorter, and the quality will remain the same
- Make it clear that you will still need the competences and knowledge of your employees, not only in the set-up phase but also in the development and maintenance of the automation solution
- Clarify the opportunity to free resources for focusing on more value-adding activities, which result in more satisfied employees and more personal contact with the citizens