Cloud ERP systems like QAD’s deliver a flexible, predictable and low-risk solution that delivers easy access, rapid implementation, minimal IT burden and a host of productivity features. QAD enables companies to focus on their customers without having to spend critical resources on the maintenance and administration of their ERP system. However, despite the proven advantages and unique benefits that a cloud-based ERP system can deliver, some companies are still struggling to make the switch. One of the key reasons is because many companies are tied to one or more legacy applications.
Abandoning legacy applications is not always an easy task and companies stick with them for various reasons. While the cost of switching is certainly a factor, most often, companies are reluctant to switch because the legacy system provides a unique strategic functionality — one that still operates effectively and is probably a key differentiator from the competition. Companies become reluctant to maintain two or more systems, which diminishes the efficiency promise of a cloud ERP system.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can bridge this gap between legacy applications and cloud ERP by industry-specific functionality of legacy systems while enabling them to benefit from the latest technology and the efficiencies of operating in the cloud.
What is RPA?
Think of RPA as a virtual employee that can fetch and interact with data from disparate systems just like a living person would. RPA is a platform and application agnostic that operates at the user interface level — or presentation layer — allowing an RPA bot to do anything a trained user can do. Since RPA does not operate at a program level, it does not require any code-level changes to your software systems, thereby leaving the underlying applications such as Payroll and IT infrastructure untouched.
Manual tasks that are often associated with the access and sharing of data between two separate and unrelated systems are ideal for an RPA bot. Some examples include: Logging in to the legacy applications; Generating or downloading files and reports; Inputting and sorting the downloaded data into spreadsheets; Logging in to the cloud ERP; Updating or creating account, item, customer and supplier records; Sending notifications and updating legacy systems. RPA removes the barriers of cloud ERP adoption by automating the tasks that would otherwise have to be manually performed on two or more applications.
Some key features of RPA include:
- Speed – Bots complete tasks faster than humans
- Productivity – Free of human error and work 24/7
- Scalability – Quickly ramp up or down to match work fluctuations
- Compliance – Generate comprehensive audit trails
Amplify ERP Benefits with RPA
Incorporating RPA into an implementation, migration or upgrade program to a cloud ERP can significantly amplify the benefits of the new system. Including RPA during the ERP core model build or pilot project helps with the process of reengineering or designing future state business processes that can be automated. This can save significant rework, effort and cost later on. There is also the added benefit of using RPA bots for launches and rollouts, especially in the areas of data migration and testing.
At some point, all legacy applications will need to be updated or replaced as they inevitably become obsolete. Until then, RPA allows organizations to advance their technology with the adoption of cloud ERP while leveraging the critical functions legacy applications can provide.
However, the benefits of RPA are not confined to cloud ERP adoption alone. Companies perform a lot of processes that are computerized, but repetitive without any value added. Processes like Employee Onboarding/Exit, Procure to Pay, Order to Cash, Claims Processing, Journal Entry, Financial Consolidation and Reporting, Monthly Close and Retroactive Price Adjustment can seem tedious and repetitive. Regardless, these are processes that must be done and still consume a significant amount of resources. But who says all processes need to be done manually by people anymore? Self-learning software robots can now perform these tasks for them. Repetitive, rule-based processes like these are a perfect fit for RPA.
A digital workforce enabled by RPA can help companies reduce costs between 25-70% while improving the productivity, efficiency and accuracy of their relevant back-office operations. The return on investment is typically between 30 and 200% in the first year and no other initiative – Six Sigma or TQM, etc. can deliver this level of cost savings or return on investment.