Most industries have certain repetitive, mundane digital tasks which they must perform. While previously these jobs needed to be carried out by a person, today they can be automated by “bots”, rule-following algorithms designed to carry them out without requiring constant supervision and specific instructions from humans. This is what is known as robotic process automation (RPA) — and it can be a game-changer for businesses.
But, as great as RPA can be for businesses, how do you measure their effectiveness? After identifying the particular business process that can be streamlined through RPA, it’s essential to be able to gather the right data to confirm whether you made (or would make) the right decision proceeding. This is especially true in scenarios in which you might face doubters internally regarding RPA implementation.
The easiest metric to gauge success is Return on Investment. This can be determined easily by looking at the salaries of the people previously carrying out the work and the amount of time they were spending carrying out the task. Post-automation, you can compare this to the cost of the RPA solution adoption, combined with the cost of whichever people are needed to manage the new processes.
But cost-saving through ROI is far from the only meaningful metric you can use to consider success. Here are six more:
How productive is it? Anyone running a business knows that, while the two might be correlated, hours spent don’t necessarily equal productivity. A person can be at their desk for twelve hours a day and still be unproductive or find that productivity sharply declines after a certain point. RPA makes things easier since bots carry out repetitive, rule-based digital tasks the same first thing on a Monday morning as they do late on a Friday evening. Measuring productivity through daily throughput, i.e. whether processes are running more frequently or faster than they were before, can tell you whether RPA systems are working effectively.
How consistently accurate is it? Human error is a real thing. Humans, regardless of the industry or job they’re performing, are not always perfectly consistent. They make mistakes, even when they know how to perform a certain task. One of the big promises of RPA is that it improves consistency. A bot doesn’t perform its role differently because it’s hungry or nearing the end of a work shift. Consistency is therefore a useful metric to measure. Are there more or less errors, and improved or deteriorated outcomes compared to how things were before the adoption of RPA? Is there more consistency to deliverables? This will provide you with valuable data points.
How compliant is it? Regulatory compliance requirements change depending on the industry. However, most industries have these requirements, which must be adhered to at all times. Failing to do so, whether for reasons of willful disobedience or simply oversights, can result in fines or other punitive measures. Because rule-based bots may be made to follow regulatory rules as standard, and will not overlook these steps, RPA can help increase regulatory compliance. This can be measured accordingly.
How does it affect reliability? As noted, consistency is important. While you can look at the metrics mentioned above, consider also the flipside to this: Have you reduced downtime as a result of RPA? After all, the fact that bots don’t take breaks for reasons like sickness or vacation can have a significant impact on businesses and their output.
How does this affect the satisfaction of employees? Skeptics about the impact of automation on businesses often frame it as being about replacing humans. In fact, bots promise to carry out the “dull, dirty, dangerous” jobs, freeing up humans from tasks which may be extremely repetitive or unpleasant, and allowing them to instead focus on other tasks that can be far more meaningful. While not immediately measurable, RPA impacts might therefore be found in macro trends regarding employee performance and satisfaction, potentially indicated through metrics like staff turnover. This kind of analysis would need to be backed up by in-person surveys. Nonetheless, it could provide an important (and, in some cases, surprising) additional benefit to RPA.
How do these employee changes affect the business? Employee satisfaction is crucial. It can also have other tangible benefits for businesses. Reducing the number of people who need to work on repetitive, rule-based digital tasks means that those same employees could potentially be reallocated to focus on other, higher priority initiatives for a business. These may be areas that can benefit from more strategic or creative skills that are simply not necessary for the tasks RPA systems can perform. You might consider measuring the number of employees who are reallocated due to RPA, or improvements in some of these other initiatives that may not have otherwise happened.
It’s all about the data
RPA has myriad potential benefits in the workplace. As someone installing these systems, however, you should be able to ask and receive answers related to the tangible benefits of their usage. If the systems are effective enough, their creators should have no trouble providing you with the kind of responses you’ll need to make an informed decision.