RPA bot–our new ally

What exactly is Robotic Process Automation or RPA? How does it work? What are the benefits? These are some of the questions addressed by Mr Dennis Lee, Partner of Business Consulting of RSM, and Mr Bernard Chew, Chief Information Officer of ST Engineering, during a networking session held on 30 July 2019 at The Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA).  

RPA Defined

Robotic Process Automation or RPA is as simple as the term used to define it – automation of work process through robots. The name was coined in 1959 by Arthur Samuel, a pioneer in the field of Artificial Intelligence or AI, who was working for computer magnate IBM back then.

Myths Debunked

Dennis kicked off the evening by debunking two myths:

  1. RPA is going to take over our jobs
  2. RPA makes us more robotic


Addressing the first myth, RPA bots are not going to take over our jobs as they require human to design and automate them. In today’s digital world, “RPA bots are our allies and not our enemies.” As for the second myth, instead of making us more robotic at our jobs, RPA bots help to streamline and systematise work processes, making our lives easier by performing repetitive and mundane tasks. We are therefore freed to do more strategic planning and analysis functions or in short focusing on strategic priorities of our businesses. An example cited was e-commerce.

RPA bots are working in the background to identify consumers’ buying patterns and behaviours. While these bots are doing their jobs, we are “still able to contribute by doing the analytics and making judgement calls.” Furthermore, they minimise human errors and improve work efficiency. Contextually, in the area of accounting, the key idea is to reskill and retrain our accounting staff to take on high-value functions such as scenario analysis and forecasting, leaving data crunching to the bots. In RSM, one of the areas that we have deployed RPA is in automating our client acceptance forms.  


ST Engineering’s RPA Journey

Moving on, Bernard Chew of ST Engineering shared about their RPA journey. In ST Engineering, a whopping 2,175 tasks are now automated. He emphasised that RPA is very useful if applied correctly – transactions must be high in volume and value, processes have to be well defined and predictable, and make sure that the assigned processes are static and will not change in the next few years. The payback is better than expected. Besides, RPA has improved the level of services rendered to stakeholders. Moving forward, ST Engineering will continue its RPA journey by expanding its pool of bot runners.