Recently, plunging into the trend of innovative news, along with high-profile headlines about artificial intelligence, machine learning, ICO, crypto-tales about blockchain, more and more research and analytics on the issue of Business Process Automation have come across. I think the question is worth our attention as well.
Business automation is a partial or complete transition of stereotypical operations and business tasks under the control of a specialized information system, or hardware and software complex. As a result, the release of human and financial resources to increase labor productivity and the effectiveness of strategic management. This is the introduction of a software system that performs standard procedures using modern actual algorithms. We are talking about drawing up and writing out documents, controlling the execution of accounting, warehouse operations. Thanks to such innovations, the level of the whole enterprise’s work is improving. The key to the success of a business process are certain indispensable components. First, data and information are required for each step of the process. Secondly, an algorithm is needed — a process — which people or software (in the case of automating a business process) could follow. Finally, a result must be defined in order to achieve which efforts are made, time is wasted and data is used. It is important to recognize the importance of all these components of business process automation and take the time to select and formalize each of them; since only by founding the proper basics one can count on the correct and excellent result.
For the first time this term was used by Frederick Taylor and Henry Gantt — mechanical engineers and management consultants — in the 20s of the twentieth century. Initially, this term was tied to production. In the early 80s, based on the work of W. Edwards Deming and Joseph M. Juran, a new concept of the business process was developed and the theory found support with technology. For example, completely new ways of interacting, setting goals and achieving results have emerged thanks to the advent of typewriters, copiers and personal computers. The Internet has also become one of the main factors for developing new approaches to business process management (BPM) and developing the practice of automating business processes. The theory of business process management has been around for almost a hundred years, and it continues to evolve, so it can be useful to every business to achieve relevant goals by organizing and dividing processes into different stages performed by people and solutions for automating business processes. Since the industrial revolution and the emergence of manufactories, business automation has been leapfrogging in every industry, direction, and task. Mechanisms and button controls instead of manual labor, forms for filling out documents and telephone communications — all for the good of progress. In 2016, they put a completely different meaning into the concept of automation than 100 years ago. Globalization and virtual platforms, accessible even from a mobile, like Worksection turned “mechanization of production” into “digital enterprise management” (Digitalization of business). Understanding what business automation is and what it gives, the following positive aspects of use should be noted:
· the exclusion of routine and monotonous manual labor;
· information is processed and transmitted much faster;
· in a single information space, individual units or the entire enterprise are serviced;
· programmed reports and documents are compiled automatically;
· the convenience of operating with databases increases, and the work becomes more accurate, complete and consistent;
· Units or the whole organization is reduced to a single complex, which combines regular standardized workflow and information and regulatory framework.
It is advisable to carry out automation if there are prerequisites for the transition, or if this process is unavoidable for internal or external reasons. It can occur at different levels:
· Supporting procedures. The procedure for performing standard operations is changing, for example, creating accounting and warehouse documentation, reports, statements, introducing amendments and updates in accounting.
· Functions. It is about the formation of solutions to which uniform rules apply: the creation of warehouse requests and supply chains.
· Business. Implementation of electronic document management. A system of analytical indicators is used. In one information space for documents, executors, deadlines and control actions are assigned. Events relating to various products and projects are connected in traceable logical chains.
Thanks to this, control can be carried out at any time in order to obtain detailed information regarding the planned or done work. Available analytics, which judge the profitability and effectiveness of transactions.
Already today there are many examples of processes for the successful execution where the use of automation of business processes is appropriate. Activities in areas such as finance, human resources and marketing can be divided into various processes, some of which can be automated. For example, due to the automation of business processes for hiring employees and their adaptation at the workplace, processes for purchasing requests and orders from customers, excellent results can be achieved in improving the quality of work performed and reducing transaction costs. To get a positive effect, it is necessary not only to spend money on new equipment, but also to introduce the right changes into the workflow. In addition to hardware and software adjustment, organizational reforms are purely underway. In many ways, their nature is influenced by the goals and objectives of the company. The management should appoint a responsible person who will cope on their behalf with the following tasks:
· analysis and formulation of tasks in a special headquarters;
· project budgeting;
· implementation of the developed measures;
· drawing up job descriptions for the team;
· transfer of information to the databases of the new platform;
· elimination of deficiencies identified during implementation;
These are just general responsibilities. There is no single list suitable for each company. In some cases, non-standard actions arise that contribute to the achievement of the intended result. Automating business processes also helps groups of people better coordinate their efforts, so disorganization can be excluded from the equation. Finally, business process automation can guarantee higher accuracy. All these advantages are the reason that more and more entrepreneurs, department heads, as well as small and large companies are using automation of business processes in their work.
All these advantages are relevant for every organization that wants to remain competitive and developed. Every business in mind has competitors striving to conquer the current market, and the approach to managing work in the company can be a decisive factor in the competition. Often, thanks to automation of processes business will succeed and will balance on the brink of existence. As already mentioned, business process management systems are designed for people who want to fulfill their role in the company as efficiently as possible and feel their contribution to the process of achieving both local goals and key goals of the company. The point is not only that the system provides visualization of the process of achieving the goal and coordination of work, but thanks to the automation of business processes, manual repetitive and tedious work is significantly reduced. Therefore, the use of technologies to automate business processes and the new advantages that they offer to business are one of the key factors for business success in the modern rival world. Companies that rely on traditional business management styles are not mistaken; but these traditional approaches are often not effective enough to cover the vast business environment that surrounds companies. It is here that a conflict of limitations of the selected technology and new business requirements arises in connection with the need to adapt to a changing business environment. Those who want to succeed should consider overcoming this dilemma by changing the approach to business management and, if necessary, replacing the technology used. Automation of business processes is undoubtedly the right step towards growth and success in the digital age and the introduction of a business process automation system will mean positive changes and positive results.
Despite the huge number of advantages, this approach has its weaknesses. The production system will become much more complicated and there will be a lot of new elements that company employees may not be familiar with, so you will have to spend time training them. In addition, the equipment will require greater reliability. Difficulties may arise when transferring information to a new database. This procedure requires increased attention, since the smallest error distorts accounting. The constant support of specialists is important. The staff should have a programmer with special knowledge. For example, if bookkeeping is automated, then he should be aware of the current legislation in this area. It is worth noting that these inevitable difficulties are temporary and more than pay off for the benefits that automation ultimately brings. Over time, the imperfections in the information and financial bases are smoothed out, and employees become accustomed to the new work order. The main tasks of business automation are the following:
· effective support for the operational activities of the enterprise, organization of accounting and control;
· preparation of any documents for partners, including invoices, accounts, reconciliation statements and business proposals;
· quick receipt of reports on the state of affairs in the company for any period of time;
· optimization of staff costs, increasing the efficiency of the use of working time by freeing employees from routine work;
· minimizing the negative impact of the “human factor” on the most important business processes;
· safe storage of information;
· Improving the quality of customer service.
Automation can significantly improve the quality of management in a company and the quality of its product. For the enterprise as a whole, it provides a number of significant advantages:
· Increasing the speed of information processing and solving repetitive tasks
· Improving the transparency of the business and its technological effectiveness
· Increased coordination of staff actions and the quality of their work
· Ability to control large amounts of information
· Automation of manual labor
· Reduced errors and improved control accuracy
· Parallel solution of several tasks
· Quick decision making in stereotyped situations
As a result of automation of management, the head of the enterprise receives more information for the analysis of business processes in the form of detailed analytical reports and is able to manage the company efficiently taking into account external and internal indicators. Today, many sectors of the economy pay attention to efficiency from the introduction of automation of business processes:
1. Industrial enterprises. Orders, procurement of materials, production itself, packaging, delivery and reporting. Template and cyclic tasks.
2. Hazardous production and mining. Robotization and improvement of conveyor belts. Control of environmental pollution and consumption of natural resources.
3. IT companies. Task management between programmers, testers and sales people. Technical customer support and bug trackers. Admin panel of the Internet provider. 24/7 online resources.
4. Service companies. Individual services and telephone consultations requiring the implementation of a CRM system. Document flow.
5. The banking system. Maintenance of the customer database, an unbiased credit solution mechanism, online banking and protection against fraudulent transactions.
6. Analytical, legal and research centers. Monitoring and analysis of large updated databases. Statistics and sociology, search for precedents of law and insurance, meteorology and disaster prevention.
7. Security and movement tracking applications. Immediate notification of violations.
Amazon Web Services is the leader in the frequency of application — comprehensive business automation with a virtual infrastructure: from server generation to mobile applications. The second in applicability is a public offer or a virtual digital contract. You no longer need to send a fax with a signed document, scan and send copies by email. Access to the document and the history of its revisions around the 24 hours a day. Next come applications and programs for managing finances, analytics and company management. Interaction with clients is also with them: interfaces, weekly newsletters, notifications and other goodies.
According to research and consulting company Gartner, in 2018 the RPA (Robotic process automation) market grew by more than 63%, making it the fastest growing category of enterprise software. However, it is worth noting that the total market value of $ 846.2 million remains quite modest compared to other categories of corporate software with estimates of several billion dollars. As Gartner points out, RPA is increasingly used in companies and structures with a lot of obsolete infrastructure, such as banks, insurance companies, telecommunications companies, and utilities. The largest player in this fast-growing market is UIPath, which received $ 568 million in investments last year, valued at $ 7 billion. One of the reasons it attracts so much attention is her incredible growth trajectory. In 2017, UIPath generated $ 15.7 million in revenue and increased it by as much as 629.5%, to $ 114.8 million last year. According to Gartner, thanks to this, the company took 13.6% of the market share and rose from fifth to first place. Last year, an equally significant Automation Anywhere market player attracted $ 300 million from SoftBank with an estimated $ 2.6 billion. At Automation Anywhere, revenue grew 46.5% from $ 74 million to $ 108.4 million, and the company’s market share in the RPA was 12.8%.
RPA Market Leaders
So far, all companies seem to be winning, as the RPA market is rapidly gaining momentum. In fact, the growth performance is impressive: NTT-ATT with 456% and Kofax with 256% are two striking examples. But even with these growth indicators, market share begins to break up into much smaller parts. While the RPA market is still in a development phase, at some point, fragmentation at the bottom of the market may lead to general consolidation as leading companies try to buy back an additional market share. Despite the fact that the RPA market is still small, it is growing steadily. By 2020, RPA spending will reach $ 1 billion (according to Gartner’s forecasts), and by then 40% of large organizations will already be using RPA tools. Add to this the demand for AI and ML that integrates with RPA solutions — and you will have an idea of the growth prospects in this direction. They are endless. Automation of workflows will change the understanding of the next phase of digital transformation, as this automation provides other benefits for customers arising from higher quality and reliability of services, reducing the time of production and creating attractive offers. In addition, what does Gartner predict for the prospect of economic growth?
1. AI will turn RPA into IPA
The increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) is already a reality, and this is happening, not least due to the RPA. AI is becoming increasingly important, and RPA will integrate more closely with AI, which will lead to the creation of a completely different technology — intelligent process automation (IPA). Estimates show that in the coming years more than 40% of enterprises will create high-tech digital workers based on IPA. The global RPA market is expected to reach $ 1.7 billion in 2019 and $ 2.9 billion in 2021.
2. Centralization will conquer chaos
In 2020 and in the coming years, enterprises will intensively use automation centers in order to comprehensively solve the problems of change and risk management, control, audit, and security. These trends will lead to increased requirements for corporate information regulation (IG, Information Governance), because of which enterprises will be forced to increase investments in the creation of automation centers built on the principles of unified software.
3. Sales of RPA licenses will fall, and consulting revenues will grow
In the coming years, RPA license sales will decline and license sales will not be the main source of revenue generation. An increase in the number of RPA manufacturers will lead to an increase in free pilots, which will affect the volume of licenses sold. On the other hand, it is expected that consulting companies will increase revenue, the main sources of which will be the design and documentation of processes, as well as pilot implementations.
4. Autonomous robots give way to non-autonomous
Non-autonomous (attended) robots, i.e., robots that operate with the participation of humans, will be used in 2019 more and more, and will replace autonomous ones, i.e., those that perform their work without operational interaction with humans. According to Guy Kirkwood, UiPath chief evangelist, the share of industrially used autonomous robots, previously 70%, will be 54% in 2019, and will go down to 50%. This forecast is confirmed by the experience of many industries. Thus, we have a clear signal that customers are ready to implement even more non-autonomous robots.
5. Government agencies will begin to apply RPA more widely
The days when applying RPA was a privilege for global and private companies have passed. In the coming years, the number of RPA applications in budgetary bodies will increase. The scope of application will expand more and more as government authorities see the impact of the RPA on the quality and responsiveness of their services to the public.
6. The involvement of employees in the use of RPA will increase
As companies adopt emerging technologies, the number of employees using RPA in their daily work will increase. This will lead to an increase in the involvement of employees in the digitalization of the processes of their enterprise and business.
7. Maximum attention to working with unstructured data
RPA providers will continue to enhance the functionality of working with unstructured data, since extracting information from them provides many advantages. Arrays of texts, images, e-mail — this is a gold mine containing important information, and many organizations are well aware of how to capitalize on this. This forces RPA vendors to incorporate OCR and AI technologies into their products in order to extract the necessary data from invoices and orders, and then transfer this data for robotic processing. It is believed that this is very effective and radically reduces the return on investment.
8. The labor market is awaiting change
Automation affects staffing requirements and employment. Forecasts confidently show that in the medium term at least half of the jobs can be eliminated thanks to the introduction of automated processes. Nevertheless, recent trends revealed that employees can interact with robots as part of automated processes, and that the digital economy will stimulate the creation of jobs for designers and other specialists in the field of RPA and AI, whose tasks will be to solve business tasks, improving user interfaces of robots, setting up chat bots, etc.
9. Investments required to establish centers of expertise
Experts predict that by 2020, more than 40% of enterprises will have automation centers and will invest in centers of expertise or centralized coordinating centers. Centers of expertise will be responsible for the analysis of automated technologies and identify from them the most relevant business tasks facing them, while introducing the best business practices, integration solutions and common technical policies.
10. Dissemination of chat bots
Interfaces for voice communication will become more common and accessible, and this will mean another wave of spreading RPA. In 2019 and in the coming years, we will witness that products that support voice communication with users will become the industry standard. The distribution of chatbots will stimulate the development of cognitive technologies, which, in turn, will actively influence the creation and development of the corporate knowledge bases needed by voice robots to formulate complete and informative answers to clients.
More than 150 years ago, the French writer Victor Hugo briefly and accurately described the reality that today is faced by business in an attempt to assess the prospects that automation of business processes brings and how it affects the business. “The future has several names. For the weak, it is impossible; for the fainthearted, it is unknown; but for the valiant, it is ideal.” (Victor Hugo, Les Misérables). With the proliferation of smartphones and devices with the ability to access the Internet, new opportunities and new problems appear. There are ways to handle tasks that were previously performed manually. Automation of business processes based on artificial intelligence today uses data and analytical information for effective customer service. The issue of process automation is gaining increasing relevance. Technical and digital revolutions in the world affect the state of the labor market. Human resources specialists say that such an active innovative transformation can lead to the disappearance of a number of professions.
Indeed, in professional circles there is an opinion that the automation of processes will “eat up” some professions or even lead to mass unemployment due to the disappearance of some of them. However, there are statements that these are fictitious opinions that do not correspond to reality. It turns out that if we automate certain business processes, we will create a pool of unemployed people. People who are not just unable to get a more prestigious job, but who will not find application for their professional skills. It may seem that there is some truth in this, but this is only with a first, superficial look at the problem. Automation of business processes is a very correct way to improvement and development. Ask yourself what are we trying to upgrade? We are talking about tasks that are cyclical, routine, not requiring a creative and intellectual approach. Nevertheless, a person is not a robot; it is a creative person with his own experience and outlook on life. He wants to realize these creative needs, only then he can live in harmony with himself. Optimistic experts consider the automation of business processes as a way to prosperity, the evolutionary improvement of society and living standards. The fear of being left without work arises from the incompetence of a specialist, and uncertainty about their knowledge, skills and abilities. When a specialist is not able to think strategically, when he is used to acting like a robot, then yes, unfortunately, he will remain overboard. Automation of processes is a natural stage in the development of society. People who act and think in a stereotyped way will be forced to think about their own effectiveness, they may have to learn new professions and learn new skills.
If we talk about business, then automation will allow the most high quality and quick to perform routine actions. However, do not forget that doing business is also a creative process. Sometimes a specialist needs insight, the ability to study and analyze the situation, make the right decision based on his professional experience or even intuition. At such moments, no smart system or super-complex program can replace a human being. Do not forget that every system has a professional who monitors its condition. He prescribes and calculates the algorithms of the program and sets it up for a specific business. If you automated a business process, this does not mean that it will work without failures. You will have to monitor the performance of the system and constantly maintain it. Automation of business processes is a tool that helps to develop a business, rather than destroy it. Thus, in 5–10 years, we will become witnesses of business process execution scenarios in which robots (RPA programs) will independently receive source data, including, if required, directly communicating with a client, counterparty, colleague in a chat or voice . Having received the data for processing, the robot will be able to independently decide which process should start processing it, and if the robot does not know the data processing scenario, it will be able to ask its human colleague for clarification and receive an answer, remember how to develop such scenarios in the future. RPA will be primarily used in routine work. However, in the future, technology will be enhanced integration with artificial intelligence. This will allow robots to make independent decisions, which brings singularity perspectives closer.
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Sergiy Golubyev (Сергей Голубев)
EU structural funds, ICO/STO/IEO projects, NGO & investment projects, project management, comprehensive support for business