When robots move into the office…

…then it’s all about the application of robotic process automation, RPA; a new technology which promises advances in efficiency in administrative functions and in service processes supported by computers.
In manufacturing today the use of robots is normal. There are assembly lines on which human beings no longer work. In office environments this is currently not the case. Computers and the ERP systems underlying them are naturally to be found everywhere and in decades past these have led to many successes in office rationalization. These computers are still being used by humans for manual, analogue administrative tasks as a rule, which are in part executed digitally in computers but still initiated by people.
Should one now wish to rely here on robotic support, one has to look very closely at the person and their work on the computer in order to see exactly what they are doing. Is it really necessary that each individual work step is completed by human hand? Generally speaking, areas of work which are simple and repetitive are quick to identify, such that they can be supported by complete automation – through RPA: continuous process automation by means of software supported by robots.

Buch von August-Wilhelm Scheer

Today there are already plenty of application scenarios – purchasing systems for example – in which standardized and rules-based operations for ordering, delivering and invoicing are the norm. If RPA is in use here, a human need only intervene in complex individual cases and the human effort required is significantly reduced. This type of mass-execution of procedures, which constantly repeats itself, is found in many companies and also banks and insurers. One can even imagine the use of RPA in the maintenance of computers or entire server parks. It is not for nothing that we speak here of an attack on the long tail of IT applications. This opens up completely new areas for the digitization of company processes and entire business models.

In order that the use of such software robots works and really can reduce the burden of routine tasks, it is, as already mentioned, necessary to find out in detail exactly what an administrative worker is doing and which individual processes they are conducting. Based on this so-called “desktop activity mining” granular process models are created. And by the way, this step alone can already lead to process improvements – long before RPA is brought into use. In so doing, for example, best practices can be determined by comparing multiple workstations conducting the same tasks, which then leads to new, more efficient standards for all involved.

Naturally, an RPA system is one which needs to be developed. Using desktop activity mining, a reliable model must be generated in order that it can be completely automated and then executed by the use of software robots. If this process is combined with continuous process mining, as known also from the business process management approach, then continual improvement of all process steps can be guaranteed.

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