Practical examples of RPA
According to Gartner Research, Robotic process automation (RPA) has become one of the fastest growing segments of the software industry as a result of the technology’s ability to mimic tasks humans would normally be required to perform. Modern RPA applications have evolved significantly over the years, with improved tooling making it possible to find applicable RPA examples and use cases across a multitude of industries including banking, finance, healthcare and even IT operations.
In the pioneering days of task automation, RPA use cases were limited to simple office suite oriented use cases that helped simplify spreadsheet and accounting software use. The current wave of RPA adoption has successfully targeted back office use cases such in finance, accounting, and customer service. But it’s the next wave of use cases, and the use of automated bots designed by skilled RPA developers, that will really change the game for vendors such as UiPath, Automation Everywhere and Blue Prism.
Alex Lyashok, president and CEO of WorkFusion, sees the next wave supporting the creation of bots that are smaller, much more nimbler. These bots will augment what people are doing on a more granular and interactive level, rather than the replacement of an aggregate processes. “If you don’t put a bot and a human into one workflow together, you end up with a choice of either automating very simple pieces of work or doing so much redesign to completely remove the human from the process that the project becomes too large,” said Lyashok.
RPA use cases in banking
In fact, McKinsey has recommended that automation experts should shift their focus away from the discovery of cost reduction opportunities for bots and instead focus on improving end-to-end customer experience through customer service RPA use cases. This approach is known as automation experience design, and it can help companies benefit from RPA in ways the go beyond saved labor and cost reductions. This shift in focus allowed Carter Bank & Trust, a relatively small bank with about $4 billion in assets and 100 branches, to quickly scale to over 200 bots on top of the WorkFusion platform.
Matt Speare, CEO at Carter Bank & Trust, said this kind of strategy, “does prove that any size of organization can be highly effective by being creative in the way that they’re thinking about automating processes and leveraging all the capabilities of a tool like this.”
Speare expects this RPA use case in banking to save about $5 million a year while improving their customer service in the process.
Customer service RPA use cases
One early RPA use case success for Carter Bank & Trust was developing an app to automatically confirm receipt of important customer messages. For example, Carter Bank & Trust has many commercial customers that they want to ensure that people are only cashing the checks that they write to reduce fraud. They use an automation process called positive pay in which the customer submits a file of all checks they have written that is submitted to the bank. In the past, a human had to copy that file into the system, ensure that all the data was in the correct format, and then notify the customer that it was received.
The bank programmed a bot to monitors the secure file transfer system, checks for errors, uploads it into the positive pay system, and notifies the customer of receipt. If a problem is discovered, it can also send an alternative notification indicating the problem so the customer can submit a new file. At the end of the day, the deployed robot automatically generates a report of all files received, along with any missing or problematic files a human may need to investigate.
RPA use cases for financial transactions
Another RPA use case lies in automating important tasks at the end of the day when employees are just getting ready to go home. For example, every bank receives a notice from the Automated Clearing House indicating which checks have cleared and which have not. These are sent out at the end of the day, as late as 6 pm, indicating which checks will be returned the next day.
When a check does not clear, it may be a result of fraud, insufficient funds, or other reasons. This banking RPA use case allows the information to be scrubbed, error correction applied, and then a hold on those funds can be placed. The RPA robots reduce fraud and eliminate the poor customer experience that occurs when a customer gets an overdraft fee for spending money they thought was available.
“Those are the kinds of things you can’t have people do in the middle of the night,” Speare said. “You could, but it would be a really boring job, so why not just automate those things.”
One of the key benefits of RPA is its ability to reduce errors, improve efficiencies, and in some cases, increase safety. Houston Methodist Hospital has used the WorkFusion platform to develop several RPA applications, called bots, to improve patient care.
RPA examples in health care
“We take the mundane tasks off of our employees plate and we give them more time so that they can focus on meaningful tasks that can’t be done by a computer,” said Linda Kulhanek, CFO of Houston Methodist Hospital. “It makes them more efficient and more effective and we hope it’s bringing more fulfillment in the work that they do for our patients.”
They launched the program about two years ago and now have about 10 live bots that are delivering about $2 million in annual savings and they have another 100 ideas in the pipeline. They have found that RPA can improve quality while minimizing labor costs. There are estimates that 30-35% of the work in healthcare organizations is administrative overhead that does not add any direct value to patient care. “RPA is just really beginning to touch the tip of the iceberg on assisting us with minimizing the time that employees are spending on non-value-added activities,” Kulhanek said.
One RPA example helps to automatically confirm Medicare numbers against a federal database for every patient daily. This used to require a human to go through a database managed by the hospital, look up the number in the federal database, and then log the result in the hospital system. Now that process is automated, and those employees can spend their time on more important tasks. Kulhanek said, “This has never really been about replacing employees, but about making their jobs easier and more efficient.
Automating complex procedures
Another RPA example lies in orchestrating the complex workflows required for new billing procedures. In April, a new federal program was launched to help compensate healthcare providers for patients that do not have insurance. The Health Resources and Services Administration set up a new application process designed to take care of testing and treatment for COVID-19 patients.
It requires hospitals to set up a complicated new process for documenting specific information about the patients and their treatment plans, and then sending this to the HRSA in the appropriate format. “We can bill and be paid for those services instead of it being completely charity, so that’s been a big opportunity for us,” Kulhanek said,
With the rise in COVID-19, organizations are looking for opportunities to reduce human contact where possible. This is especially critical in a hospital setting where employees are most at risk for contagion. Another important RPA use case is to create applications that automate many processes that previously require human interaction, such as registering patients. This has helped the hospital address a growth in patients but can also help safely guide symptomatic patients.
“These types of tools are going to help us in addressing our customers new preferences that they’ve developed to have a fully touchless yet engaging experience from online scheduling to remote monitoring,” Kulhanek said.
The ability to automate repetitive tasks with RPA tools is having a significant impact on a variety of industries, including banking, finance, government and health care. These RPA use cases and examples demonstrate just some of the various ways organizations have leveraged RPA.