Robotic process automation (RPA) is a natural fit for banks, insurers and other financial services institutions (FSIs), because of the numerous repetitive tasks these companies’ workforces perform. Shifting those tasks away from humans can result in significant efficiencies, which in turn would help FSIs and insurers comply with increasingly stricter regulatory demands for auditability, security, data quality and operational resilience.

RPA also enables the flexible workforces that are essential in a digital marketplace, which I’ll discuss further in a later post.

How does RPA mesh with business process management software (BPMS)? RPA complements, rather than competes with, BPMS initiatives, which tackle the automation challenge through a top down, information technology (IT) approach. BPMS, which is part of the core IT tool set, often supports productivity through desktop acceleration, application connectivity and workflow management.

As Accenture notes in its report, Robotic Process Automation, RPA initiatives are not designed to improve clerical staff’s productivity. Instead, they replace clerical staff who spend an inordinate amount of time completing bulk, routine, repetitive, rules-based tasks that are initiated by a digital trigger and supported by digital data. Typically, a small group of five or 10 people handle those tasks, which does not justify large IT, or even BPMS, projects to automate. Robots often can perform these tasks much faster and more accurately than humans.

One example is updating customer information. A robot also can process customer applications and move them along to the next step, and of interest to insurers, handle claim payments. Another process that is ideal for RPA would be one in which information must be copied, pasted and moved between different systems or even reconciled among different systems. Because of its flexibility, RPA can efficiently handle tasks that involve interacting with multiple systems.

Accenture research shows that by adopting RPA, FSIs could expect to cut costs 80 percent in the operations currently performed manually and reduce the time needed to perform tasks by 80 to 90 percent. Insurance company pilot programs have demonstrated that RPA can reduce processing time 40 to 80 percent, Accenture points out in another report, Insurance Robotic Process Automation.  In addition, any organization that adopts RPA can expect a significant improvement in the quality of work due to the elimination of human error from the process.

One concern occasionally raised about RPA is fallacious, I believe: RPA is not a platform for rogue IT risk. That’s because RPA is normally housed, monitored, licensed and controlled by IT or a centralized governance body. In addition, RPA does not generate new data.

To learn more about RPA programs, download Robotic Process Automation and  Insurance Robotic Process Automation.

Next time: Getting started.

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