Maintaining efficiency and productivity is a key goal for any businesses. In a small business, it can even be the difference between making a profit or not.
Many larger businesses have realised significant benefits from implementing a technology solution called robotic process automation (RPA). Often, smaller businesses believe solutions like RPA are only accessible for large organisations with big budgets. However, the truth is that any size company can benefit from RPA and, in fact, the return on investment can be incredibly strong for smaller businesses with fewer resources.
RPA takes over the tasks that were historically done by admin staff. This can include managing invoices, bills, and paperwork, making sure forms and contracts were sent to the right people for approval (and chased up again), and even processing HR tasks like leave requests.
RPA is a software solution that automates these rules-based tasks so that they require minimal human intervention. For example, when an invoice is received via email, the system automatically checks to ensure it matches an existing purchase order, that it hasn’t already been paid, and that the amount is under a pre-set limit. If there are no discrepancies, the system automatically approves the invoice for payment, sending the information to the business’s finance system and archiving the invoice appropriately. If there are exceptions, these are flagged to be dealt with by a person.
This process means that most invoices can be managed from beginning to end without human intervention, leaving just the complex or non-conforming invoices to be managed by staff members.
But RPA really starts to shine when services all customers; both internal and external. Simple tasks, like user password resets, can be handled more efficiently by bots, which can also respond to requests outside of business hours. And, by working with an operator in a contact centre, bots can help aggregate information from many different data sources, helping the operator have more meaningful conversations with customers by retrieving and presenting client account information from many line-of-business systems, simultaneously.
RPA solutions benefit the business as well as the individuals working within the business. Some of those benefits are:
1. Less paper
Paperwork can easily be lost or damaged, leading to errors and missed deadlines. Dealing with a huge pile of paperwork that never seems to shrink can also be demoralising for staff members. And, the time it takes to physically distribute that paperwork to people who need to action it can be significant.
2. Fewer errors
Manual data entry and document management can lead to costly errors. Duplicate invoice payments, incorrect payment amounts, or even payments made to the wrong accounts can all take time and effort to fix and, sometimes, it’s impossible to recoup that money. With an automated system, these errors become a thing of the past.
3. Faster payments
When admin and finance staff are wrestling with piles of invoices, it can take a long time for each invoice to be paid. Automating the invoice management process can mean you pay suppliers sooner, avoiding late payment penalties and, potentially leveraging on-time payment discounts. This can also help improve your relationships with suppliers, which can help you negotiate better deals moving forward.
4. Clearer processes
When processes are managed manually, there are often bottlenecks. This is often an overworked manager or staff member who struggles to find time to deal with all the tasks that are piling up. Or someone who leaves paperwork on their desk for days or weeks when all they need to do is sign it off. Using automated processes means documents, including important invoices and contracts, are more likely to be dealt with on time. This is because the person in question receives an email requesting an action, which the person can normally do straight from their inbox even on a mobile device. So, it takes less time to approve invoice payments or leave requests, or sign contracts, making bottlenecks disappear. If the person doesn’t complete their action within a set amount of time. The system will automatically remind them until it’s done; no one has to chase them.
5. Happier staff
When staff members don’t have to spend time chasing each other, looking for lost paperwork, and deciphering handwritten documents and forms, they are more likely to enjoy and be engaged in their work. Furthermore, they’re less likely to have to spend time rectifying errors and doing repetitive, tedious tasks, which will contribute to a happier work environment.
6. Increased productivity
In many small businesses, these tasks could take up almost all of the admin staff’s time. By automating them, your staff will become free to contribute more meaningfully to the business’s growth. They will have more headspace for strategic problem-solving and more time to do valuable work. And, with systems that digitalise previously paper-based tasks, your employees can be productive from anywhere, not just when they’re in the office. Being able to approve an invoice or sign a contract on the fly saves valuable time and keeps projects moving.
The productivity benefits alone can deliver a strong return on your business’s investment in RPA. Add to that the value provided by paying invoices on time (no late fees, possible discounts), using less paper (and less physical storage space), and renewing contracts, licences, and accreditations on time, and that return soon adds up.
There are a variety of RPA tools available to suit different business needs. The solution you choose will depend somewhat on whether you need to customise workflows to suit your unique requirements or can use the solution out of the box. Your return on investment will also depend on your ability to fully leverage the RPA solution you choose across your business.
It’s therefore important to work with a knowledgeable partner who can help you choose a solution that matches your budget and requirements and then help you get maximum value from your RPA solution. Konica Minolta has helped hundreds of Australian small businesses achieve excellent outcomes using RPA. To find out how we can help your business, contact us today.