Robotic process automation is the latest weapon in the war to drive down costs, improve efficiency and stimulate innovation. Organisations worldwide are putting together teams dedicated to analysing all processes and identifying the tasks most suitable to RPA.
Procurement is an area ripe for this type of innovation. Tasked with providing strategic insights and uncovering areas for innovation, procurement officers also have to deal with unskilled, repetitive, time-consuming tasks that prevent them from focusing on what they do best.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
RPA (robotic process automation) is the new recruit. It’s the fresh-faced employee, ready to be tasked with all the annoyingly mundane, repetitive tasks no one wants to do but are, nonetheless, absolutely vital to an organisation’s day-to-day running.
RPA is a type of software that mimics the actions of a human being. It carries out particular tasks within a process, tasks that don’t require much knowledge, understanding or emotional intelligence. Filling in text fields, unpacking forms and filing the information in a finance system, finding a vendor’s ABN and checking if they are GST registered – these are just some of the tasks an RPA can perform, faster and with more accuracy than a human.
Basically, it does the grunt work better so humans can focus on what they do best.
How can RPA benefit your organisation?
Purchase request to purchase order
The process request to process order workflow is a perfect example of where RPA can improve efficiency. This process involves a series of simple tasks that, when performed by humans, is prone to delays and errors.
Upon receiving a purchase request, software robots will quickly and accurately assess it, notify the relevant department head whose approval is needed, and then process the request to raise a purchase order. Automating these kinds of tasks improves efficiency, removes the chance of human error, and allows the human who would normally do it to focus on more complex tasks.
Vendor registration is, obviously, a vital part of the procurement function in all organisations. It can also be one of the most time-consuming, particularly for organisations dealing with thousands upon thousands of vendors every year (universities, for example).
Vendor registration is not a complex task; it doesn’t require knowledge or emotional intelligence. But it is repetitive and takes time, making it vulnerable to human error. This task is tailor-made for an RPA makeover. Software can do it better (faster and without mistake) and free up humans for more complex activities.
Putting human power where it is most useful
In order to see this potential realised, your procurement officers need to be putting their effort and energy where it is best utilised. Organisations cannot afford to have valuable employees on three figure salaries sitting around doing simple, unskilled tasks that a robot could do.
Accuracy and efficiency
Robotic process automation isn’t only about letting humans focus on what they do best; it’s also about using software to do what it does best. And in the case of RPA, that’s simple, repetitive tasks. Not only can robots do these activities faster than us, they can do it with more accuracy.
Humans get tired, lazy, bored. Our attention wanders. We make mistakes. With the right testing and training, and a small amount of governance, robots can be trusted by an organisation not to make the errors their human counterpart might. It’s all about horses for courses; leave software robots to do what they do best so we can do what we do best.
RPA takes the pressure off your workers (some of it, anyway). Nearly every organisation we speak with reports bigger workloads; in procurement particularly, the role has expanded while the hours have not. The reality is that every time RPA takes over a given task, employees celebrate.
There are too many processes that make up the procurement function requiring specialised knowledge and emotional intelligence to have staff committing hours upon hours to basic data entry. RPA can free up their workload for the tasks only humans can do, while reducing their stress and improving their mental wellbeing.
The benefits of RPA reach beyond the shareholders, the C-suite and the customers; it makes your employees happier and better at their jobs.