Robotics Process Automation is not an end in itself – it is a transitional technology which, when coupled with others, helps FS enterprises transform their business. This is what Accenture calls Intelligent Automation.

My thanks to Lanil Mulgirigama for his contributions to this piece. Lanil is a key RPA subject matter adviser to Accenture’s FS clients in the UK.

There is a great deal of discussion about the benefits of ‘attended’ versus ‘unattended’ robotic process automation (RPA).  Some of this discussion focuses on a misunderstanding of the basic terms; all automation is attended to some degree or another, for every solution involving software bots there are always controllers, exception handlers, and people watching the overall operation.

RPA’s immediate predecessor – robotic desktop automation (RDA) – augments the processing power of one PC and one user, and is a clear example of attended automation; the employee gives the automation bot a clear command. The classic deployment is in a front office environment, such as the contact centre of a bank or an insurance company, enabling the employee to avoid having to access multiple systems to address a customer query.

With RPA, however, the bots are more sophisticated and are able to replace, rather than merely augment, the capabilities of team members. The actions of the automation robots are self-triggered and can operate on a 24/7 basis. In practice, this means that RPA can be owned and led by the business unit that requires it, rather than by an IT function. This helps customers to open bank accounts, manage insurance claims or process payments. As such, RPA has enabled a transformation in the execution of both front and back office activities within the financial services industry.

This does not mean, however, that RPA solutions can simply be implemented, switched on and forgotten about. In fact, the structure and support of a business process – and the people involved in the RPA solution – become more, rather than less, important; it takes active management with skilled team members and effective training to optimize RPA solutions. 

RPA is an evolving technology and in most cases there will be both attended and unattended solutions in use. Attended solutions automate some repetitive tasks whilst still requiring a good degree of human interaction so as to not affect the customer relationship. Unattended solutions, however, require less human interaction by automating a much higher portion of the workload.

The real challenge lies in creating an architecture which allows both types of solutions to complement each other. An IT department that can work closely with the process team and provide immediate support when required is preferable. When attended and unattended automation solutions are properly understood and integrated, organizations can realize significant gains on their RPA investments within a relatively short time. 

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