How business processes can be automated

Ravi Kethana
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In a challenging economic environment, business process services (BPS) providers need to adopt innovative and cost effective practices to handle large volumes of transactions. Taking cue from the manufacturing sector, robotic automation could be an alternative approach to ensure business process improvement as it mimics emulates behavior and reduces human intervention. The software robots perform a wide range of activities including simple and complex data entry, rules based decision making and simple judgment driven tasks. This results in significant increase in task level productivity, accuracy and throughput in a non-intrusive and cost effective manner. At the same time, the exponential growth in processing power and the resulting reduction in cost has made robotic process automation viable for large scale deployment in BPS.

Robotic Process Automation is scalable owing to its ability to learn with experience using artificial intelligence to handle end to end processes in an integrated way, enabling Straight Through Processing (STP). Some of the possibilities of introducing process automation in a BPS environment include simple and complex data entry, judgment-based analysis, code based analysis and statistical analysis.

Automation also facilitates software robots to learn and build knowledge base to expand its coverage. Automation of processes that require certain amount of human judgment and decision making, learning and creating memory map in the form of knowledge model forms the brain component. Here, intelligence is built into the robot to make simple alterations when some underlying elements change using machine learning and artificial intelligence. Much akin to human beings, the robots go through a learning curve, and learn from experience. Consequently, the need for human intervention for decision making is greatly reduced.

To achieve sustainable and incremental benefits, a phased approach to implementation of robots with built in toll gates have to be employed. By studying and analyzing each sub-process of a business process, automation can be carried out. A Proof of Concept implementation of the automation can be done on less complex processes. Based on the results, the robots could be deployed in processes that involve complex calculations. Their collective intelligence from processing could be streamlined to study pattern identification, and provide actionable insights.

For instance in document processing, a set of arm components could be deployed at every step of the process including input check, extract check, and reconciliation check, which were generally done manually. Thus deployed arm components develop intelligence and automatically do the data processing & automated checks from end to end without requiring manual intervention.

Another crucial usage of software robots would be desktop automation, which helps in improving process efficiency by simulating STP with minimal inputs from processor. It involves mashup of all the required information from multiple sources to a single screen with limited manual intervention, thereby increasing productivity and effectiveness of the whole process.

Robotic automation could bring a radical change in a BPS landscape. With in-built machine learning component, automation could become the central part of a process and help meet specific needs of business processes.

Published in collaboration with Tata Consultancy Services‏

Author: Ravi Kethana has over 23 years of experience spanning across industry verticals such as Telecom, Insurance, Banking & Manufacturing.

Image: People walk past clocks at Reuters Plaza in London. REUTERS/Jon Jones.

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