The problem with any kind of economic hardship is that marketing people will appear immediately and try to blindly persuade decision makers “this will help!”. Of course, the reality is much less black and white (no software is an actual vaccine), more akin to a few dozen shades of grey. In this post we will try to present our opinions on RPA in the context of 2020 pandemic of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Let’s be real.
Every tool comes with a cost. Licenses themselves are thing and usually do not come free – and even if they somehow do, you still need to devote time to testing and implementation. There is an initial investment and omitting it is simply unfair. This rings true especially for companies that do not have dedicated RPA units or technologies in place, as they need to start from the ground up.
Having said that, in a lot of cases RPA automation will actually have a relatively fast ROI (return on investment), and some benefits that might be tempting specifically in the current economic situation.
1. Work from home effectiveness
In certain positions and cases working from home might be less convenient than a dedicated office. Imagine having 3 kids and 2 pets around, then connecting remotely to a machine physically located in the company headquarters you used to attend. Both human attention as well as data transfer delay will suffer ever so slightly. Sometimes this is not an issue (a programmer does not really care from where a merge request is being sent), but for many there is a loss in productivity.
Since the whole point of Robotic Process Automation is to get rid of the mundane by clicking & typing faster than any human could ever do, individual employees with robotic assistants made to help them could regain the precious few % of effectiveness lost by working from home. Firing up a software robot to format data is a great moment to change your cat’s litter, and later on you can focus on other work without dying of stink in the process.
2. Reducing layoffs
The whole point of RPA is not to replace, but rather aid humans and put them into roles more creative than processing repeatable paperwork. RPA will not directly save jobs – if a company suffers huge losses due to COVID-19 (best example: anything related to tourism), robotic workers will not bring millions in revenue or somehow fund the employees’ salaries.
What said robots can do, however, is enabling your most important human resources to stop worrying about the process-related tasks and actually put full focus on transition to a new world. A digital, remote, hard-times-based world. There is no guarantee that they will come by great ideas and save their employer from bankruptcy, but certainly the chances of this happening are much better if they devote all their working hours towards the goal, not just some.
3. Savings and cost-effectiveness
Speaking of the devil (money), a big elephant in the room is that there are very few companies where everything is perfect – if any. There are always ways to cut some costs and become more cost-effective in select areas, and RPA does help here. The money saved can be put towards digital transformation, increased marketing spent, new product lines or simply covering the employees’ salaries.
Robotic Process Automation for an average company saves 25.000+ man hours each month. That is a lot of cash burned and translates roughly to $ 878.000 that can be saved, or 30 to 200% (depends on company size) ROI increase. Don’t take our word for it – this data is based on reports by Gartner and McKinsey, to well-established industry leaders in market reports and trend analyses.
4. Working at scale
Shockingly absent from many recent articles is the simple truth that many companies actually benefit from the pandemic. Not only mask and antibacterial gel makers – industries such as furniture, online services, remote conferencing tools and others see unprecedented growth, often in triple digits percentage. The Guardian recently cited the growing stock prices of Zoom and a revenue increase of at least 85% in less than a month (!) – source.
A sudden influx of hundreds of thousands of customers can be quite tasking for invoicing, customer support and other document- or message-heavy departments. Automation can really solve some problems here, taking off as much work from the already red-hot-from-overdrive staff.
G1ANT and COVID-19
How does our tool, G1ANT RPA plaform, fit into all of this?
We’re going to give it to you straight – we see the current situation. Our company, thankfully, has not been affected too much, but we do see some industries and customers really struggle. Some of them were on the verge of implementing RPA (be it with our or other tools) right before the coronavirus outbreak, and are now faced with a heavy decision on whether to invest and save slowly over time, or put the money aside in case the crisis lasts longer than expected. They often have to choose between robots and human workers, and this should not be the case.
To address this we currently have a special programme of elongated invoices for the license cost – in short, it amounts to “pay once the crisis is over”. We also provide our analysts free of charge to calculate the ROI for automation, and then try to raise it as much as possible.
We are currently working on extending the Recorder module, which allows business people (aka the guys who know what and how needs to automate) to teach robotic workers on what to do without coding. This eliminates the now-remote communication with IT and drastically lowers the barrier of entry.
Trial licenses can be extended from 30 to 60 or even 90 days, and our support & RPA developers are fully ready to debug and help deploy robotic workers remotely – both fast and securely.
We’re quite far from saying ‘RPA will save your business during the pandemic!’ or ‘Our tool is the knight on white horse you have been dreaming about!’.
Rather, much more down to earth, our point is that we will gladly talk with you, see the areas and processes you can automate and together calculate the ROI. Then, based on actual data and numbers, you will be able to make an informed decision whether now is a good time to dive into further company automation (to save money over time and cover the crisis losses this way) or to keep more budget internally for the time being. In either case, we will understand and support you – our goal is not to sell licenses, but rather to solve your process challenges and help you automate.
Stay healthy and carry on!