Robotic Process Automation

HR Has A Big Information Mess On Its Hands. Could RPA Be The Best Answer?

Former AIIM leader and now independent thinker John Mancini has been looking at the potential RPA offers for finally making HR truly intelligent

We hear a lot at the moment about Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – one recent prediction suggests that the market is expected to see CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 26% between now and 2024, and according to Gartner, the worldwide RPA software market grew 63% in 2018 and total software revenue in the category will reach $1.3 billion this year.

One of the best use cases for RPA is Human Resources, where we still see so many of the small-scale, repetitive and non value-add activities that RPA is there to help automate… and yet, there are obstacles standing in the way. Specifically, manual processes and huge volumes of annoying unstructured information that resist efforts to automate.

What’s the basis of my claim for saying this? Well, it’s because I’ve asked. Specifically, in June, I contacted 115 organisations that were either using or considering introducing RPA. And this is what I found: two things seem to suggest a huge potential for RPA-based HR process automation.

The first is that practitioners say that the manual nature HR processes still performed in their environment – and the resulting or accompanying lack of HR process integration – mean that there should be ample opportunity for RPA intervention. For example, 60% of these organisations are still running core HR processes in a primarily manual fashion – and fewer than 1 in 5 organisations I spoke to consider their core HR processes totally automated.

And the second – and I think, an even bigger driver of possible change – is the huge volume of information typically flowing through HR processes. This stuff is often personal employee oriented, and comes in many different forms, typically unstructured or semi-structured (think, documents, JPEGs, emails, application files, etc).

‘Using RPA technology and bots had paid for itself within HR in 8.3 months’

All this semi-structured and unstructured stuff just doesn’t fit easily into the rows and columns of a standard business database. In fact, our research suggests about 60% of all this HR data is unstructured – and the organisations I spoke to expect it to grow by a factor of 2.7 in just the next two years. That’s a big, big challenge coming our way. But – awareness of RPA as a potential solution is still in its infancy… 39% of the organisations I surveyed do not yet have RPA on their radar screen, for example. That’s a shame, actually because of the 115 organisations surveyed, 40 told me they have already deployed RPA technologies in HR, and that using RPA technology and bots had paid for itself within HR in 8.3 months – a very, very rapid return on investment for an enterprise technology. Indeed 76% of the companies that I spoke to said that RPA technology has fundamentally impacted the way they approach process improvement in HR.

What does my probe into the market tell me? Well, several things. One, HR automation is a big business problem for CIOs and CLOs. And second, RPA is already clearly emerging as a genuinely useful tool to do just that – with real organisations recording real benefits… and on that basis, I would recommend all HR leaders take a serious look at this option, and in the near future: at the very least, before that scary 2.7 increase starts to seriously impede your productivity.

A well-known author, speaker, and advisor on information management, digital transformation and intelligent automation, John Mancini is a former Past President of AIIM and now an independent industry researcher and consultant, heading up his own outfit, Content Results. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as @jmancini77

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If you’d like to hear John talk about his findings, there’s an excellent short (7 minute) video on YouTube here.

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