Opinion: Robotic Process Automation [RPA]: Description & Benefits

Welcome back for another week on digital transformation. Over the last few weeks, we have explored the different intricacies of digital transformation. We've looked at different technologies that organizations are using to become better, cheaper, and faster, and have explored how organizations can leverage them to put themselves in a winning position. 

This week, we'll be looking at one of my favorite technologies, one that we've implemented for so many different organizations across the continent, and one that has changed the way they do business dramatically without excessive costs. This technology is called robotic process automation. 

Over the years, and as the different industrial revolutions have come, we've all become accustomed to physical robots, or rather hardware robots, robots that you see automating production lines, robots that you see automating traffic-light action lines, and robots that you see automating different facets of our daily lives. However, a new phenomenon has come in the way of software robots. Software robots are systems or pieces of software that automate repetitive tasks that organizations and individuals do on their computers. 

Case Study- Distribution Company

As in typical fashion, I will furnish you with an example of an organization we recently worked with. This organization is a local distribution company that distributes different types of products across multiple industries within the nation. The organization, as expected, receives hundreds of thousands of receipts every year. These receipts and invoices are coming from different suppliers, across the nation, and outside the country. As a result, they have over 30 clerks that work on taking these different receipts and entering them into their books of accounting. We have assisted this organization to automate this process completely, from the time they received an invoice from their suppliers to the time that it has entered their accounting information system, to the time that all the different parties are notified. 

Firstly, an invoice is sent via email from a supplier. The robot goes on to open the email and download the file. Once it downloads the file, it puts it into a folder. Once it puts it into a folder, it then goes on to enter this information into an excel sheet in CSV format. Thereafter, it uses the authentication keys of a specific user account to log into the accounting information management system, and then determine the kind of supplier invoice that has been received. Once that has been established, it creates and enters the transaction into the accounting information management system. Afterward, it notifies all the various participants of the transactions on whether it has been executed or not. This process would have taken a human being approximately two minutes to execute, which is done by the robot in only 20 seconds. Imagine the kind of time-saving that is made! Due to the routine of this process, you find that employees are often bored, because everybody wants to be able to do meaningful work, and work that they know adds value. In something like this, entering a team task on daily basis often becomes mundane and boring, thus making staff morale low.

By using this technology, we have been able to process thousands of invoices daily, freeing the static employees from performing mundane, repetitive tasks and switching to more empowering tasks that require decision-making and execution, which can help them grow as individuals.


In turn, we can extrapolate the different benefits that organizations can get from this robotic process automation exercise.

  1. Reduces the occurrence of human error - From our experience, we realize that organizations can dramatically reduce errors in key processes. For example, human beings with an error-prone nature would make multiple mistakes when entering some of these invoices as they come in. Given that the robot has taken on this task, it is less prone to errors, as the robot executes the task exactly as it is and does it the same way 24/7. Thus, these tasks are done to perfection, at least 95% of the time, compared to the 72% rate that we saw previously with human beings. 
  2. Reduces the cost of mundane task execution - These various, mundane, repetitive tasks have also become cheaper for organizations to execute. In the past, an organization would have had to employ numerous people to execute this task that does not need any critical thinking. Presently, organizations might only need to employ only one or two people who can manage the overall process, monitoring the progress of the different robotic transactions. As a result, organizations can relocate their different employees to more meaningful roles that will give them more value as an organization, while simultaneously reducing costs on these different cost centers within the organization. 
  3. Increase in staff morale - This kind of technology increases the overall morale of staff. So, what we did in this period is we performed multiple surveys with the staff within the organization at the beginning of the project. At the end of the survey, we found that the different morale levels of the staff and the satisfaction rate was at approximately 67%, especially for staff that had to do this repetitive work. Once we finished the project and tested it over four months, we realized that morale had risen to 86%. This meant that these individuals were now starting to feel more fulfilled in the work that they did. 

However, as much as I love it, there are some drawbacks to this technology. 


  • It is mainly used for repetitive tasks - The main drawback is that this only works for tasks that are repetitive and have no ambiguities. For example, this task that we had in place at the organization was straightforward and didn't have multiple ambiguities. And as a result, this limitation in the current technology status that we have in robotic process automation makes it very difficult to automate any tasks that might need some decision making. And that might have some different ambiguities and differences. However, as we develop this technology over the years, it will be improved and will become better.
  • Staff adoption - when people hear the word robot process automation, most people fear for their jobs. And as a result, we've seen this across multiple clients across the continent that most individuals within firms are scared that these might completely replace their jobs. This is especially true for individuals with mundane jobs, as this technology does take away those jobs. However, organizations need to ensure that they convince their personnel that this is not necessarily going to replace them, but rather that it is going to elevate what it is that they will be doing in the future, as they require more cognitive thinking and processing. 

What Firms Have Realized

There are more benefits than drawbacks to robotic process automation. Organizations have realized that adopting robotic process automation brings a net benefit to the organization as they are able to automate various processes that they would have wasted their resources on otherwise.

 As a result, we advise organizations to take those different repetitive tasks that they have and use robotic process automation to ensure that they save on these different tasks, and to ensure that they benefit from the technology elevation as this goes on. 

In conclusion, we've explored the different intricacies of robotic process automation and what it can mean to your organization. The level of investment that this kind of technology requires is not as significant as the different technologies we've talked about over the last few weeks. Thank you for joining us on this week’s data transformation insert, and please share this content as we will go on and help other organizations become better, faster, and cheaper. 

If you enjoyed this article, or have questions for Tavonga and the Xavier Africa team, do get in touch with us at:


Telephone: 393 4045

Reference: Digital Transformation Article

By Tavonga Muchuchuti

Tavonga is the Managing Director of Xavier Africa, a software development agency based in Gaborone, Botswana

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