RPA Overview, RPA today, and RPA for SMB
In this blog we will discuss the benefits of robotic process automation, as well as RPA for small business, and RPA for mid-sized business.
To date, a majority of digital transformation projects, and especially RPA, have primarily been completed at large enterprises and Fortune 1,000 companies. These projects have often been deployed with giant consulting firms and involve enterprise software licensing and expensive pricing models. Digital transformation is not just for large corporations and Fortune 1,000 companies. Small and mid-sized companies or SMB’s can benefit as well. Gartner defines small businesses as those with less than 100 employees, and mid-sized companies as those with less than 1,000.
Processes that are a good fit for RPA include tedious routine tasks, such as copying-and-pasting and repetitive processes where the sequence of steps is always the same. Rule-based activities that are already formalized or can be easily mapped out can utilize RPA. Processes that involve using structured data including digital documents, which are ubiquitous in all businesses, are additional good targets. The most painful and time-consuming tasks, in addition to the ones above, make up the best types of processes to apply RPA. RPA can even be used in one-time situations when employees need to perform a large amount of repetitive work in one shot. An example of this would be creating thousands of documents for an audit request. Work like this may take a human employee an entire workday (or multiple workdays), while a developer can spend an hour on developing a bot, and a bot would complete the task in a few minutes.
Let’s take a further look at benefits of robotic process automation, what types of companies can benefit from RPA, what areas of a company can benefit from RPA, some specific examples of SMB processes that can be automated, and how an SMB can get started with RPA.
What types of SMB companies can benefit from RPA?
RPA for SMB can be applied across many different business verticals. RPA for small business, and mid-sized business can also be applied across many different sized organizations. Coming back to the types of SMB that can realize the benefits of robotic process automation the following is a partial list:
- Accounting firms
- Financial services companies
- Real Estate
- Property Management
- Legal firms
- Medical practices
- Healthcare companies
- Supply and Logistics
- Consumer goods companies
- Telecommunication providers
- Utility companies
- Energy companies
- Oil & Gas firms
- Educational organizations
- … and many more
If your specific business vertical is not on this list, it does not mean it is not a viable candidate for RPA. The benefits of robotic process automation can be found wherever there are repetitive rules-based tasks in high frequency.
What areas of an SMB company can benefit from RPA?
Every part of a business, especially in today’s information economy, can find benefits from robotic process automation. Every business no matter its sized has the following pillars, functions or departments that include Finance & Accounting, Sales & Marketing, Human Resources, Information Technology, and Operations. All these functions may have tasks and processes that can be automated with RPA. Whether a business is an owner operator one where the principal may be doing all the above, or if it is a mid-sized company and 50 or 100 people are doing them … the opportunity for optimization and automation is present in all these areas of a business.
Let’s examine just one department, Operations, across a few different business verticals. In an accounting practice, reconciliations, preparing data for audits, and invoicing all lend themselves to automation. In banking, operations related to accounts, loan processing, and reporting will benefit. In a healthcare practice, operations can use RPA for appointment management and maintenance of patient’s records. At an insurance company claim processing and calculating plans can use RPA. Within a supply and logistics company, delivery scheduling and asset management can use RPA. At a real estate management company, rental transaction management can be automated. One last example we can share is retail, where order and billing management can exploit RPA. Clearly, the benefits of robotic process automation are many. RPA for SMB is something that is increasing quarter over quarter.
What processes and tasks in an SMB can use RPA?
There are many processes and specific tasks that make good sense for businesses to automate and apply RPA. Here is a list, far from inclusive, of some common ones we find with Valenta clients.
- Invoice processing
- PO Processing
- Expense tracking
- Account reconciliation
- Payment processing
- Daily P&L
- Bank statement reconciliation
- IT backups
- Data migration
- Automatic software updates
- Automated server reboots
- Customer support ticketing
- Customer support call assistance
- Automated transactions
- Scheduling service calls
- Appointment scheduling
- Appointment or service confirmation
- CRM entry & processes
- Customer information updates
- Data entry in any department
- Data extraction in any department
- Data updates and validation
- Creating sales quotations
- Sending prospective customer follow-up messages
- Social media management and messaging
- Employee onboarding
- Employee offboarding
- Payroll automation
- Benefits processing
- Retirement account enrollment
- Report creation and distribution … in any department
- Many more …
If a specific process or task your business might want to automate is not on our limited list above this does not mean it isn’t a viable candidate. Any task with high frequency, and established stable processes, rules-based decision trees that can follow Y/N or multiple-choice logic is likely a suitable candidate to discuss. One of the best ways SMBs can experience the benefit of robotic process automation is by redeploying human resources that formerly were stuck doing repetitive and routine tasks on higher value and revenue creating work.
How to SMB companies get started with RPA?
Artificial intelligence and related areas of RPA (and IPA) are all new. It may seem daunting to start, but it really is not. There are quality consultants and managed service providers able to assist SMB customers. Larger enterprise and Fortune 1,000 are not the only types of companies that will be adopting RPA in the decade to come. One thing we provide to our SMB clients in our practice of consulting on RPA is providing low-cost, and sometimes free, operational analysis to identify if there is an opportunity. Secondly, we engage in proof of concepts / POC to test out RPA on specific tasks or processes. When we do a POC we always identify an automation candidate process that is taking a lot of time or that is particularly painful or annoying. Frequently companies have legacy software platforms that are central to their business … but are not user friendly. Processes involving these platforms are excellent places to start. Connecting with an MSPs is also a terrific way for SMBs to start their RPA journey. An MSP will provide RPA as a service in a SaaS model and offers considerable flexibility. After a set up fee all MSP providers (Valenta included) offer services on a month-to-month basis allowing SMB clients to scale up or down as they wish, and to completely outsource their RPA.
RPA and automation provide opportunities to reduce costs to a business and increase the productivity of their employees. Routine lower value work that was formerly done by employees can be replaced with higher value, more cognitive, and more revenue centric work. Robotic Process Automation is a beneficial tool that helps boost productivity, and achieve more, without having to expand the human workforce.
RPA for small business can be a real game changer and digitally transform SMB workflows. If you would ever like to discuss RPA and determine if it is a good match for your business, consultants and MSPs like Valenta are a super place to begin. We have a calculator on our website to help you determine if this is a conversation you want to start. Here is a link to check it out. Free Automation calculator. If you would like to get in touch with us on any of these topics, please reach out here. Contact us