We explained Robotic Process Automation before. RPA has a fancy name and a growing number of providers however few people I have spoken to could pinpoint exact areas where RPA can be applied.
So we prepared the most complete list of all RPA use cases/application areas and categorized them to in 5 buckets:
- Common business processes and activities
- Activities in commercial functions
- Activities in support functions
- Industry specific activities
- RPA applications for personal use such as digital assistants
Common business processes and activites
Every business needs to sell to survive. issues in the operations side of selling can result in customer complaints or selling at reduced prices due to clerical errors.
Automating complete sales operations process eliminates these errors and provides fast service to your customers. Since automation processes sales faster than manual processes, customers will receive invoices earlier, leading to earlier payments and improved cash flow.
Since procure-to-pay process involves extracting invoice and payment data from multiple systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), banks, vendors, logistics companies and since not all these systems provide easy integration methods they generally involve some form of manual labor. RPA bots can fill integration gaps. Since they work on the front-end, they can provide an easy way to automate integrations.
With a fully automated procure-to-pay, you can ensure that procurement best practices are followed and there’s a single source of truth for all transactions.
Here’s a case study on invoice processing which is one of the important activities of procure-to-pay process:
3- Customer onboarding
Most B2C businesses have a customer onboarding process that is critical to reduce churn and get customers to start using the product. Using OCR and cognitive automation, most customer onboarding actions can be completed instantaneously even in companies that rely on legacy systems, greatly improving customer experience.
Workfusion’s case study explains how they achieved Straight Through Processing (STP) in a major bank’s customer onboarding process and reduced onboarding time from 20 days to 5 minutes.
Other activities common to many business functions
We listed above some major end to end process where RPA can be applied but there are other use cases as well. RPA provides your teams a Swiss Army knife of automation and they should be using it as automation opportunities arise. Some other areas where RPA has been used are:
4- Data migration and entry
Legacy systems still perform critical functions at companies. For example legacy billing systems need to interface with other systems and such systems may not have the capability to pull relevant data from APIs. In such cases, employees manually migrate data using formats like CSV. RPA can prevent such manual labor and potential clerical errors it brings.
Furthermore such systems that keep data up to data enable improved analysis and decision making. We are living in a day when even marketing has 5000 applications to choose from. RPA can help integrate applications and allow for more holistic analyses.
5- Extracting data from PDFs, scanned documents and other formats
Screen scraping, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and basic pattern recognition technologies enable data extraction from almost any format, reducing the need for keying in data.
6- Periodic report preparation and dissemination
Every business requires regular reports to inform managers and ensure team are aware of their progress. Preparing such reports and sending them over every week or month is not labor intensive but it distracts employees. RPA solutions can easily auto-generate reports, analyze their contents and based on the contents, email them to relevant stakeholders.
For example, a report of a telecom operator showing areas with connectivity issues has different recipients based on its severity. CTO should be copied in reports with criticial issues and head of network should be copied in reports with major issues. RPA bots can analyze reports to modify recipients according to provided criteria.
7- Generating mass emails
Activities in commercial functions
Though sales personnel should be focusing on building relations and selling, in most organizations most of their time is spent on operational activities.
RPA offers a method to automate those activities:
8- Creating and delivering invoices
This is a case of data replication. Same sales data needs to exist in both CRM and accounting systems. Instead of manual data replication, bots can update accounting records, prepare and deliver invoices from the right email accounts.
9- Updating CRM
Updating interactions to CRM is time consuming and unproductive yet necessary. Because Salesforce acts needs to act as the source of truth regarding customer interactions. That’s why there are mugs, T-shirts and all sorts of memes about “If it is not in salesforce, then it doesn’t exist.”
There is an emerging class of solutions that allow companies to integrate their email, call and other communication data to CRM. If you can not find a good solution for the CRM system you are using, you could write a simple bot to update your CRM records with customer contact data.
Customer contact centers rely on a number of different systems provided by a variety of vendors. Level 1 contact desks mostly process a high volume of simple repetitive tasks, an ideal match for RPA.
A customer rep needs to understand the customer’s intent, perform the necessary actions by switching between different systems and applications and inform the customer. This has several disadvantages, customer needs to wait while the rep is busy dealing with data, sometimes asking for information that had been asked before. This reduces customer satisfaction and increases call duration. It’s one of the rare examples of a company wasting its resources while creating dissatisfaction for its customers.
The solution requires identify frequent customer queries, examine customer rep actions in response to these queries and build RPA solutions to facilitate those actions. There can be a variety of solutions:
- Customer rep can launch a bot whenever several pieces of data need to be synchronized across systems. With the press of a button, the bot completes all actions in miliseconds. This is a simple RPA implementation that can be programmed within hours and create value quickly.
- A dashboard can be created for common queries. Customer rep will fill the necessary data to resolve the issues and bots will use that data in several systems to complete the transaction. Such dashboards will require more effort but still are feasible to create within weeks for most common actions.
These are the typical use cases where such automation solutions can be employed to automate high frequency/repetitive tasks:
10- Loading a detailed customer profile customer including her previous interactions with support
11- Getting detailed billing data. Whenever you call customer service regarding your most recent payment, you need to stay on the line for a minute or two while the customer service rep scrambles to pull your record and understand it. With an RPA bot programmed to retrieve that data, your payment data can be invoked in seconds with a single click from the rep.
12- Updating user preferences and other user information
13- Resolving simple but common customer issues. For example, resetting a broadband customer’s connection to the server can fix some simple connection issues. This can be done without switching screens with a simple RPA bot.
14- Automating multi-step complex tasks that require little decision making
Some legacy systems force customer service reps to complete numerous steps to complete some common tasks. If these steps do not require human judgement, they can easily be automated, saving significant time.
Activities in support functions
L1 Tech support
Without increasing automation capabilities, IT support teams can find themselves overwhelmed with simple yet time consuming queries. This not only results in slow service but also demotivates most support personnel who do not enjoy repetitive tasks that do not challenge them intellectually.
Bots can automate various complex system administration tasks around IT applications and infrastructure, including taks such as:
15- Regular diagnostics: It’s painful to hear the same problem from multiple people. And that’s exactly what happens when a system has a catastrophic failure. As teams work to resolve the problem, they also need to deal with calls of colleagues asking when the system would be up. Regular diagnostic work by bots puts tech support teams one step ahead of all other teams and lets them respond to possible failures before they can be noticed by regular users. This improves both user satisfaction and saves support personnel from wasting time on calls about problems they already know about.
16- Regular testing
18- Opening up internal tools to customers or employees
Almost all customer service or tech support departments have internal tools with advanced functionality. They rely on service reps to use those tools and serve internal or external customers. Especially if those tools are in legacy systems, it is difficult to expose them directly to customers or employees without training. However RPA offers a solution.
Frequency of usage of most functionality follows the pareto principle. A few functionality are quite commonly used while the rest are almost never used. After identifying the popular functionalities of an internal tool, it is possible to write simple web interfaces that complete those functionalities with the help of bots. This saves users time while reducing burden of support teams.
19- Software installations
20- Financial planning
Financial planning involves the unexciting exercise of processing and merging financial statements from numerous departments in a Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) system which can be at least partially automated.
Extracting data from bank statements for reconciling records
22- Daily P&L preparation
Large financial services companies, especially those in the trading business, track P&L and risk exposures daily. While some companies have automated these processes, there are still companies that rely on excel, legacy tools and manual effort to complete these reports.
UiPath reports that they worked to automate daily P&L preparation for a financial services company. Resulting RPA installation reduced handling time from 60 minutes to 20 minutes, increasing accuracy of reports.
23- Candidate sourcing
Companies relying on legacy HR systems can use bots to automate aggregating CVs, assessment results and interview notes using bots. However, most modern HR systems take care of these functionality reducing the need for custom solutions
24- Employment history verification
This process includes numerous routine steps such as arranging interviews, maintaining records. UiPath provides a case study where they rolled out an automation program in 8 weeks, reducing 40% of the manual labor.
25- Hiring& onboarding & headcount reduction
Especially for growing or shrinking firms hiring and firing brings significant burden on HR and other support functions like IT, security, facilities management. While it is costly to build a solution that encompasses all these functions and completes the necessary tasks for new or leaving employees, RPA bots can be deployed relatively fast and effectively. Automating part of the process and measuring its progress on the RPA bot management module brings speed and transparency to the whole process.
A UiPath case study highlights how they reduced onboarding time from 30 minutes to 3 minutes with a scalable solution.
26- Payroll automation
Payroll function requires repetitive processing of payroll taking into myriad regulations and company rules. While modern payroll software provides a good solution for this process, some companies rely too much on legacy systems to be able to make the switch to a modern payroll software. They can rely on bots to increase automation in the payroll management process.
A case study from UiPath claims to have achieved 85% faster payroll processing with no manual errors. Implementation took 7 weeks and reduced manual effort to 25%.
27- Absence management
Your personnel will be notoriously bad at recording their absences and vacations. Personnel can be genuinely confused about or unaware of the absence management system. Second, they will not want to learn or remember how to use the system because once they do that, they will be required to fill in all their absences and no one wants that.
The problem is that while it is not ethical to hide someone’s absences, it is also not a major crime like embezzlement. It is something that can easily be forgotten by the absentee, therefore easily forgiven.
Easiest solution: Let people decide their vacations as long as they get their work done. It’s called unlimited vacation policy and could increase autonomy of your team while saving them a lot of bureaucratic hassle.
Slighly harder solution: Set up a simple RPA bot to cross check absentee reports against time logged in the corporate network and let your teams fill in the absences they had. You could also use another simple bot to simplify filling in absence information so your personnel does not forget to notify the system when they have an absence.
A real life example is provided by UiPath. They rolled out automation for handling sick certificates in SAP in 3 months for a German HR services provider. RPA roll-out reduced manual effort to 5% of pre-automation levels and reduced processing time by 80%.
28- Employee data management
HR departments routinely get requests on personnel data which is constantly changing. Setting up bots for auto updating personnel data from forms or email can ensure that HR can access fresh and correct data.
29- Expense management
Though there are sophisticated dedicated expense management solutions, most companies still use outdated systems that require employees to provide details on their expenses. Most of those details such as expense amount, date or location are already available in the receipts provided by employees.
An OCR capable RPA solution can extract important fields from receipts automatically, allowing employees to waste much less time with expenses. This can also save them from carrying around receipts as simply taking pictures of their receipts would be enough to extract the relevant data from receipts and fill important fields in the expense form.
30- HR virtual assistants
Putting all of these services together for employees is also possible. A chatbot that authenticates customers and serves all their HR related needs would help HR departments to focus on higher value added activities. Such a bot could help employees register sick leave and vacation time, request information about their work contract and submit expense reimbursements.
LarcAI published a YouTube demo of such a HR virtual assistant.
31- Updating inventory records
Inventory management typically involves reconciliation across multiple systems as companies find it challenging to bring all inventory management features under one system. RPA bots can automate such inter-system reconciliation and communication with ease.
32- Issuing refunds
Process of issuing refunds is far less optimized than more frequent processes at a company, leading to significant delays and customer dissatisfaction. This is a concern because customers requesting refunds are already dissatisfied customers and making them more dissatisfied can lead them to share their complaints with others, hurting your company’s image.
UiPath worked with a credit reporting firm for 8 weeks to automate parts of their refund process, reducing manual work by 90%.
33- Updating vendor records
Vendor master file is important to keep up-to-date to ensure that different departments or units can coordinate their spending. Updating such files with bots can relieve procurement professionals from simple tasks to focus on managing vendor relationships.
Industry specific processes
According to our experience and research, financial services including insurance and BPO seem to be the top users of RPA technologies
WorkFusion provides numerous banking case studies:
34- Know Your Customer (KYC)
While dedicated KYC solutions are emerging, if your company does not prefer to use one, it is possible to use RPA bots to automate portions of KYC process. For edge cases that require human intervention, case can be forwarded to an employee.
35- Loan processing
As with most document processing tasks, this process is also suitable for RPA automation
36- Trade execution
In cases where legacy systems are not capable of storing complex limit orders, RPA bots could help. However, this is more of a band-aid case as in the long run, moving to a sophisticated and capable trading system would probably be a good investment given how it could improve trading and reduce the load of traders. To be honest, even in 2000s I was surprised that humans were still keying in trades and engaging in day trading in banks. Given the richness of data and speed of machines, it is very surprising that humans are still working on this in 2018.
37- Logistics – Trade Finance
Trade finance involves multiple parties coordinating and insuring the delivery of goods and payments. Banks and companies communicate through letters of credit and other documents which need to be processed. WorkFusion provides an example where they mostly automated a trade finance application without writing an extensive rule set, relying on workers of the process to train the cognitive automation tool.
38- Claims processing
Claims processing is at the heart of every insurance company. Since customers make claims at a time of misfortune for them, customer experience and speed are critical in claims processing. There are numerous factors that create issues during claims processing such as
- Manual/inconsistent processing: Claims processing often involves manual analyses completed by outsourced personnel.
- Input data of varying formats: Customers send in data with various formats
- Changing regulation: No insurance company has the luxury of not accommodating to changes in regulation in a timely manner. This requires constant staff training and process update.
These lead to human biases in claims processing which can lead to losses, customer dissatisfaction and lack of visibility in a crucial process.
RPA bots can deal with all these issues. Essentially, bots take in unstructured data in forms, extract structured data and process claims based on pre-defined rules. This approach takes care of all major issues with manual claims processing:
- Claim verification can be automated with rules
- Bots can deal with various data formats to extract relevant data
- Rules can be changed with regulatory changes, without any need for training, immediately ensuring compliance.
39- Appeals processing
After claims are processed, some claims results in appeals which is another process that can benefit from automation. Workfusion claims that they automated 89% of appeals processing with a 99% accuracy rate.
40- Responding to partner queries
Numerous industries such as telecom or insurance rely on independent brokers to sell their products and services. It is crucial to serve these partners in a timely manner to maximize their sales. South African insurance company, Hollard mostly automated responses to partner queries by building bots that interpreted incoming email and resolved simple inquiries while passing complex ones to humans.
LarcAI details its implementation at Hollard where they achieved 98% automation and reduced cost per transaction by 91%. LarcAI partnered with UiPath in this implementation and UiPath team details their achivements on this case here.
41- Product categorization
Global retail companies need to harmonize SKU data from multiple markets to be able to look beyond numbers to insights like “What is our toothpaste market share in Eastern Europe?”.
Traditionally these tasks required employees to manually match SKUs to categories in complex spreadsheets. Since this is a task that does not directly impact customers, fault tolerance is not very high and RPA bots can be used to automate the process saving thousands of hours of work. Everest Group’s report provides details on a specific example.
RPA applications for personal use
WorkFusion posted a few ingenious RPA demos built with RPA Express. These can give you ideas on how RPA can power your business processes. Some of the applications are:
- 42- Transferring business cards to Salesforce
- 43- Pulling data from multiple websites to identify best deals on auction websites
- 44- Daily briefings based on calendar and assigned tasks
Other hackathons resulted in interesting projects:
- 45- Automated receptionist for welcoming visitors to enterprise campuses, built for P&G hackathon
For more on RPA
To learn more about RPA, you can read:
If you are ready to start automating with RPA, feel free to use
- the best guide on selecting the right RPA software.
- Once you choose the RPA software you will work with, we have an in-depth guide for selecting an RPA implementation partner and the comprehensive list of all RPA implementation partners.
If you need more help on using RPA to transform your business:
We relied on a few reports as well as our experience while compiling this list. These reports were helpful: