Robotics Process Automation

Written by Benjamin N. Gonson, Partner, Nicoletti Gonson Spinner LLP
[email protected]


The last presentation at the Education Sessions concerned Robotics Process Automation (RPA).  The presentation was made by Raju Saxena and Ian Sterling, two senior managers at Ernst & Young with extensive experience in Process Automation.  They provided an overview of automation tools, with a specific focus on RPA, including what it is, its benefits, its uses in insurance, and the keys to implementation.  Only about a third of the audience had even heard about RPA and no one had seen it in use.

Many companies face challenges that drive inefficiencies in their current process and limits the capacity to perform higher value-add work.  These issues usually concern data (quality of information), process (limited number of streamlined processes), and technology.  On top of that, there is an emerging insurance model that will drive more data in the future.

Automation tools can help improve upon current processes.  There are several generations of robotics from scripting to machine learning and artificial intelligence.  One of the key automation solutions, which surrounds scripting and AI and is quickly being deployed by companies, is RPA.  As of 2016, almost 30% of firms have RPA technology deployed.  Experts estimate that RPA will be close to a $5 billion industry by 2020.  From 2013-2015, the annual growth rate in RPA spend was 125%.

So what is RPA?  RPA is an enterprise-class software automation solution that runs unattended by people.  It emulates business user behavior and simulates employees.  RPA works well for manual and repetitive tasks.  RPA works with the existing software, therefore it has a quick return on investment, unlike a Business Transformation project.  Additionally, RPA is business driven with limited demands on IT.  RPA has many benefits as it leads to increased efficiency and productivity, accelerated cycle times, improved quality/controls, and enhanced employee engagement.

As a result of these compelling values, RPA is growing fast in the insurance industry from underwriting, claims, and operations to finance, actuarial, and tax.  This was demonstrated in the videos presented that showed examples of RPA in claims and actuarial reserving.

Before jumping into robotics, however, a company should have a sound plan for implementation.  Most companies start with a Proof of Concept (PoC).  A PoC proves the capabilities, educates the team on benefits, and generates excitement.  Also key is selecting a software tool.  There are many software tools available in the market, which is diverse and continuously evolving.  When selecting the software, the company should consider what their planned use is, whether they want it to be attended or unattended, and the complexity of the software tool.  Lastly, a major key for success is having core operating model building blocks.   These include strategy and governance, life cycle processes, value measurement, alignment and change, technology, and enterprise integration.  Once a PoC is completed, the life cycle usually includes an opportunity scan, process prioritization, development and deployment, and ongoing operations.