Small businesses can gain a lot from automation. Source: Shutterstock

Small businesses can gain a lot from automation. Source: Shutterstock

Should small businesses going digital consider using RPA?

SMALL BUSINESSES are often the last to invest in digital tools and solutions.

Often times, this is because they either don’t think technology can give them a competitive advantage or because they don’t have the resources they think they need to make.

However, robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that most small businesses can gain from — it can be the simplest first step to going digital in most cases.

At first glance, RPA looks like a mammoth of a technology, and it is, but the magic of RPA lies in the fact that the complexities under the hood only concern developers.

For users, RPA is often a graphical user interface-based, drag-and-drop toolkit that is used to connect applications and tasks without any sort of programming at all.

Think of supplier’s invoices coming in via email and the RPA toolkit picking up the right email, reading its contents, and making an entry into one of the accounting packages often used by small businesses.

RPA can also help small business owners with working capital management, automatically combing through transactions and creating cash flow statements on a daily or weekly basis, to ensure that the owner or management is always aware of their financial position.

For small businesses, given the lack of resources, RPA makes it possible to better manage the business — especially for managers who lack the resources to hire specialists to provide additional reports, charts, and presentations.

Given the potential that RPA has, not just for small- and mid-sized businesses but also for large enterprises, Gartner’s latest forecast sees phenomenal growth for the technology this year.

In a recent statement, the market research firm’s analysts said that RPA software spending surged to US$846 million last year, growing 63.1 percent from 2017 figures. This year, analysts expect spending to reach US$1.3 billion.

Here are three reasons RPA is perfect for small businesses going digital:

# 1 | RPA is easy to deploy

One of the biggest concerns for small businesses is that using technology involves hiring someone with relevant skills and expertise — which often involves a significant cost.

Fortunately, RPA provides a solution. Its drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to deploy at any organization, irrespective of what solutions or software are currently being used.

Further, most RPA vendors offer plenty of live training and online learning resources, which makes it easier for business owners to get hands-on with the technology and opens their mind to new possibilities.

# 2 | RPA is affordable

Although RPA is considered new-age technology, it is usually script-based, with a few dollops of code-intelligence. As a result, it is quite affordable.

Further, since the technology can be configured without the help of any external consultants — the cost of implementation is nil or low as well.

# 3 | RPA is scalable

RPA’s biggest advantage is that it is scalable. Not just across departments but also across the business.

Once an RPA solution has been bought into, small businesses can slowly use it to automate different parts of their workflows, across teams — at a pace that they’re comfortable with.

Most RPA solutions also offer a variety of integrations and are compatible with a variety of tasks. As a result, out-of-the-box support for most solutions is available, making life simpler for small business owners.