Robotic Process Automation in Shared Services

Shared services embraces RPA

Shared services functions across all industry sectors are undergoing many of the same, unrelenting business pressures.  While continuing to deliver cost savings and process efficiency, they are also expected to provide innovation and even transformation for their internal ‘clients’.  One powerful way Shared Services teams can achieve all these goals is by applying Process Automation to how they deliver labour intensive and rules-governed, screen-based tasks.

In fact, recent survey results from the Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON) show many shared services functions are already beginning to implement technologies, such as process automation, into their delivery mix.

Robotic process automation is ideal for many of the business functions that shared services organisations are traditionally providing.  These functions include front and back office operations such as:

  • Finance and Accounting
  • Human Resources
  • Procurement and Sourcing
  • Supply Chain
  • Customer Service
  • Legal Services
  • Knowledge Management

The benefits process automation provides to such operations are:

  • A truly scalable workforce capable of being sized up or down within hours
  • Near zero error rates
  • Per ‘headcount’ pricing at up to 90% that of a traditional workforce
  • Enablement for business intelligence, analytics and management information
  • Detailed audit history for regulatory and audit compliance
  • Increasing flexibility by standardising processes that will better accommodate the integration of new operations (following a merger) or services

In addition process automation is an enabler for other technology-led initiatives. Typically, large organisations use enterprise platforms to provide the core data and processing for shared services of all types. However, with long lead times to implement and long payback periods, the enterprise systems lack the flexibility and adaptability to respond quickly to economic, market and organisational change. Process automation is a key enabling technologies that can liberate an organisation from the effects of the “long tail of change”*.

Given the cost, productivity and efficiency benefits it’s easy to see why the SSON believes the utilisation of process automation in the service delivery mix is inevitable and, in our view, poised to provide the operational transformation large, complex businesses are calling out for.

“With regards to future investment priorities, the main targets are automation for efficiency, internal collaboration and paperless processes. These enabling technologies are foundational capabilities needed to transition to Global Business Services and more effectively attain full end-to-end process ownership.” 

SSON – State of Shared Services Industry Report.

“It’s a safe assumption that robotic process automation will soon become part of shared services’ modus operandi.

‘Will Robotics Leapfrog BPO?,’ Barbara Hodge, editor, SSON.

”The Role of IT in Business-Driven Process Automation”

Forrester Research