A new report by Big Four firm, Deloitte, has found growing support and use of RPA – or the unfortunately named ‘Robotic Process Automation’ – with 67% of large corporates implementing such software internally.
While many law firms perhaps are not looking at RPA yet – although they may be using LPOs that do use this approach – there are some interesting parallels with doc review automation in law firms.
RPA is a software methodology for automating simple and repetitive tasks in a business, often around data entry that would otherwise be carried out by an office worker.
The report found that:
- 81% of business leaders now support the use of robotics in the workplace, up from 72% in 2017.
- 67% of organisations have begun implementing a strategy for RPA, up from 49% in 2017.
- 95% of organisations that have implemented RPA say the technology has improved productivity.
Interestingly – especially from a legal perspective – 93% of those that have implemented or scaled RPA say it has improved compliance.
It would seem logical that if you set up a process that must be followed to meet certain regulatory standards, or to meet a corporate protocol, and that process is then automated so that humans can’t skip steps, then that may be leading to higher rates of compliance.
More predictably, 81% agree it has reduced cost and 77% say it has provided better management information.
The research is based on responses from 530 business leaders across organisations with combined revenues of $3.5 trillion globally.
One other insight that was not expected was that only 5% of businesses implementing RPA are just doing so to reduce costs.
Instead they were doing this to improve the productivity of their staff, i.e. they were doing this to get them to do higher value work, produce more uniform approaches to data use and speed up the intake and processing of business information.
Challenges in Scaling
However, just 4% of organisations are now operating more than 50 RPA applications across the business, a negligible increase from 3% in 2017. Twenty-seven percent are either piloting RPA with under 10 RPA applications or have moved into full implementation with between 10 and 50.
Companies need to create separate RPA methodologies for each task that is automated, there is no ‘one size fits all’ system yet. This therefore appears to be creating a scaling barrier, just as many large law firms have started to use AI systems for doc review – but scaling it across the entire business is proving to be hard work for similar reasons.
Respondents cited the following as reasons for not scaling:
- process fragmentation,
- the wide variation of offline and online tasks involved,
- lack of a clear RPA vision,
- lack of IT readiness.
Justin Watson, robotics and cognitive automation lead at Deloitte, said: ‘[RPA] is increasingly becoming a fixture in the workplace, and the value which [it] brings is now being felt by the vast majority. The challenge now will be for [RPA] to be scaled effectively in order to truly show [its] worth in boosting productivity as well as reducing risk, increasing revenue and improving the experience of both customers and employees.’