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Mastering Efficiency: The Power Of Robotic Process Automation

Previously, we explored Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a technology to automate repetitive tasks with high speed and accuracy. It involves using software robots or “bots” to mimic human interactions with computer systems and is typically used to streamline business processes, reduce manual effort, and improve efficiency. By automating routine tasks, employees can focus on more complex work that will grow a business faster.

RPA is particularly useful for tasks that involve repetitive data processing, are data-intensive, and have defined inputs and outputs. It’s ideal for processes that are rule-based, repeated at regular intervals, or triggered by specific events, and require a sufficient volume of work. Examples of processes that can benefit from RPA include invoice reconciliation, data consolidation for reporting, and automated approval flows.

BCD Meetings & Events (BCD M&E) has been actively developing and deploying RPA solutions. We caught up with Chris Clark, Senior Manager of Business Automation, to discuss what the team has learned over the last couple of years about RPA.

What do you look for when attempting to automate a process? 

When we’re exploring a suitable process for automation, we consider a few key factors. First, the quality of the process itself is crucial, as automating an inefficient process can lead to wasted resources. Then, we evaluate the potential impact of the process, determining if the expected benefits outweigh the time and effort required to implement and maintain automation.

We also consider factors such as consistency, the number of systems involved, complexity, and stability in the decision-making process. Robotics thrives with repeatable consistent processes, and some systems do not play nice with the technology, increasing complications. There is also a correlation between the number of steps or decision points in a process and the difficulty of automation. Processes that are subject to frequent changes, involve high levels of subjectivity, are lengthy and intricate, or have low volume are not be ideal candidates for automation.

Are there any significant drawbacks of RPA? 

The biggest drawback is that RPA won’t apply to every process, which can be difficult to understand as a stakeholder with a challenging manual process looking for relief. Additional potential disadvantages include development time, maintenance with technology and business process changes, and additional cost depending on the tools required to automate. These can all be limited with the proper process vetting and communication strategies throughout the automation project lifecycle.

What are some potential use cases for RPA in the Meetings and Events industry? 

RPA can provide many great benefits for meetings and events by automating away non-value-added work from planners and back-office teams. For instance, RPA can efficiently handle data extraction and transformation, saving considerable time on manual data processing and providing quick insights to key event personnel. This technology can automatically populate templates with that extracted data, resulting in even more time savings. It also improves decision-making by automating alerts and approval flows, and speeding up processes for event staff and back-office teams.

RPA ensures data accuracy by swiftly identifying discrepancies between data sets, eliminating human errors associated with prolonged data entry. All of this reduces manual workload, helping to boost employee satisfaction by allowing event professionals to focus on building meaningful connections with clients and attendees.

How has BCD M&E used RPA? 

In the second half of last year, the business automation team at BCD M&E deployed a dozen business-facing automations between North America and the UK, saving thousands of hours of manual work. In 2024, we are focused on expanding our services across regions and lines of business, looking to more than double our 2023 output.

Is it difficult to implement and maintain these automations? 

It can be, absolutely. This highlights the importance of selecting the right projects for automation. Implementation and maintenance should be a part of the business case study for any proposed automation project. The world of business and technology changes rapidly, and nobody knows what the future holds. But by combining due diligence in the project selection process with sound, scalable development processes, you can help mitigate the challenges.

Are there any developments in RPA we should be aware of? 

An exciting trend is the use of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to round out service offerings. As AI continues to take center stage in the world of technology, service offerings will become more blended. By incorporating elements of ML and AI, RPA solutions can learn from data patterns, make intelligent decisions, and adapt to changing circumstances. Providing more efficient and effective automation solutions for businesses.

Can you explain the difference between RPA and AI? 

RPA focuses on technology copying human manual action based on logical decision making and preset parameters. RPA technologies can only do what they are programmed to do and cannot iterate or self-improve. AI refers to computer systems that can mimic human cognitive abilities, such as learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. A rapidly growing branch of AI, Generative AI, is about training models to generate new and original content, and its use alongside RPA solutions will be exciting to explore.

It has been an eventful couple of years, and we have learned a lot when it comes to RPA. While RPA can automate many tasks in the meetings and events industry, it’s not a substitute for human interaction and creativity. RPA should be used to improve efficiency and free up time for our employees, our greatest asset, to focus on strategic planning, networking, and delivering exceptional experiences for attendees. We look forward to continuing the discussion around business automation.

Originally published July 9, 2024 7:00:00 AM

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