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Does anyone care to understand robotic process automation?

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New research from Redwood Software and Shared Services Link reveals that limited understanding is hindering the potential of the robotic process automation 

Robotics and automation specialist Redwood Software has  launched new research in association with Shared Services Link, the online community for finance, shared services and outsourcing company.

The Power of Robotics in Shared Services report surveyed over 100 shared services professionals, revealing that 67 per cent of respondents plan on using robotic process automation in the next 12 months. 

However, varying definitions of the term has led to confusion regarding what can be achieved. Some findings of the survey are: 

  • 97 per cent are confident that robots can automate manual data entry tasks; 
  • 52 per cent agree that they can “understand basic finance processes”; and
  • 51 per cent believe they can “replace human activity to be performed by robots end to end”.

For the 27 per cent of respondents that are currently using robotics, the greatest reported benefits are:

  • improved process efficiency – 84 per cent; 
  • improved accuracy of data – 75 per cent; and
  • improved productivity of full time employees. 

The research reveals the key perceived advantage of releasing this FTE capacity to be “more time for value-adding activities”, with 72 per cent planning leverage existing investment in ERP to drive further automation in the next twelve months. 

For those who have reservations about implementing robotics: 

  • “not sure on return on investment” is the most common response 42 per cent; 
  • 36 per cent report that they “don’t have the technical expertise to implement them”; and
  • while 31 per cent fear that “robotic process automation will lead to jobs loss in general”. 

Neil Kinson, chief of staff, Redwood Software says: “When we talk about robotics, we are no longer talking about plugging in ‘dumb’ machines to mimic human activity at the user level, but integrating smart technology with built-in understanding of the end-to-end process and best practice.

“Businesses are also right to be looking towards their core enterprise resource planning and sub-systems as they integrate robotics, to scale robotics without the overhead of managing desktop sessions, maintain integrity across the entire process, and deliver the most comprehensive audit trail.

“However, for as long we remain fixated on the idea that robots replace humans – rather than re-imagine processes – businesses will be led to miss the true potential of robotic automation.”

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