Measuring RPA: 10 Performance Metrics for Assessing Robotic Process Automation Benefits
By: Harish Doddala
You’re excited about what automation offers. You’ve heard of businesses that have used Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to save tens of thousands of hours, eliminated data-entry errors completely, and freed hundreds of employees from repetitive manual labor.
Bringing these savings and productivity gains to your business could be transformative. However, demonstrating the potential of RPA requires the ability to measure your deployment and predict its expansion. Without RPA performance metrics, it’s difficult to demonstrate the benefits of RPA to stakeholders.
To measure RPA, you need to establish concrete goals and align them with metrics that you can use to measure your progress toward those goals. Measure each performance metric every month, and then total them for every year so you can get a comprehensive understanding of pace and scale.
With RPA performance metrics in place, you can demonstrate where RPA has the most impact, plan future iteration, and track your return on investment (ROI). Here, we’ll describe 10 performance metrics that you can use to get started growing and scaling RPA in your organization.
Humans doing manual, repetitive labor are bound to make errors. Boredom, exhaustion, or complexity will eventually outrun their concentration.
Before RPA, inaccuracy was an accepted operating cost. Business or application exceptions caused inaccurate data, which required re-work. Optimizing for efficiency meant reducing the production of errors by building in checks and balances because eliminating errors was impossible.
With RPA, you can actually eliminate errors.
To track this, measure the amount of work that normally needs to be redone due to human error. Then, measure the amount of work that needs to be redone after you implement RPA.
Comparing the amount of reworking necessary demonstrates some of the efficiency benefits RPA offers. Every time work doesn’t need to be redone, you’re saving time and money.
Keep in mind that software robots can finish bad processes faster than humans, but that doesn’t make the bad processes good. The more you develop your processes and eliminate detours, the more efficient you’ll be.
2. Robot utilization
Obviously, robots don’t need to rest or eat as humans do. Their downtime will be much less significant. Robots will only occasionally need to go offline for patches, upgrades, and development.
Isolate a process you want to study before and after RPA. Track how much downtime your employees need to sustain in order to complete the process. After, track how much downtime, if any, your robot requires in order to complete the same process.
3. Employee retention rate
A Center for American Progress study showed that the median cost of turnover is 21% of an employee’s annual salary. Losing employees and needing to find, onboard, and train their replacements is expensive.
MarketWatch reports that jobs with some of the most repetition also have the highest turnover rates. RPA can improve employee retention by eliminating, or making easier, the labor that’s most likely to lead to turnover.
Retention for accountants, for instance, is difficult in part because accountants deal with a constant, intense flow of paperwork, as well as the pressure to process it accurately. RPA can easily handle some of the most repetitive work, leaving these employees to do more valuable, business-critical tasks.
Focus on measuring the retention of employees closest to the effects of automation. Include departments where roles have changed the most, and departments where employees most often have to operate robots or interact with robot outputs.
Keep in mind that this metric will need more time than others to show results. While you might be able to eliminate a task with the click of a button, employees will need time to react. Retention might remain static at first but will start to show effects after the initial deployment.
4. Staff satisfaction
To measure employee engagement better in the short term, you can also track staff satisfaction. Survey your employees to see how satisfied they are with their roles and workloads before and after RPA.
Focus on the departments that will undergo the most changes due to RPA. If you deploy robots that automate timesheet processing, for example, survey your human resources (HR) employees before and after you automate that task. Ideally, you’ll see rising satisfaction as robots eliminate manual labor. The more you can reallocate employee time to less manual tasks, the more likely employee satisfaction will rise.
Employee satisfaction is the metric most dependent on your communication efforts. Some employees will be wary of losing tasks to robots, so a clear communication plan is necessary to ensure employees understand how and why their roles are changing.
Measuring employee engagement and satisfaction demonstrates the effects of automation in human terms. If you can show higher-ups and employees that RPA leads to a clear, positive effect on staffing, you can make it easier to scale RPA throughout your organization.
5. Proportion of audit trails digitized
Audits demand that employees pore through previous records and verify important details. Much of that labor is manual, but you can automate significant portions of it.
Prior to an audit, an automated system can make logs when users access, change, or remove data. RPA can also connect data silos by comparing data in different systems, which reduces gaps that might incur compliance penalties or call on auditors to double- and triple-check different sources.
RPA offers the opportunity to digitize your audit trail and use robots to maintain it. With RPA, some of the more repetitive auditing tasks, such as reconciliations, internal control testing, and detail testing can be automated, freeing auditors to work on more complex tasks, such as estimating fair-value investments or investigating anomalies.
Measure your progress to this goal process by process. For each period, measure the proportion of audit trails you’ve been able to digitize against the ones that remain manual.
Setting up checks and balances backed by RPA and Human-in-the-Loop procedures ensures that you can meet compliance standards. Reinforcing these standards is harder and slower if the processes that require verification are manual.
Take stock of how many compliance deficiencies or errors occur, on average, during a period of time. After you deploy RPA for that process, count how many errors, if any, occur during that same period. You can quantify this metric by the number of errors and by the cost to fix those errors.
7. Number of new projects undertaken
RPA provides productivity boosts by taking over manual tasks that humans used to do, and by doing them faster and better. Human employees freed from manual labor can spend more time on other tasks that add more value.
If robots can handle most of the routine tasks in a contact center, such as manual data entry for customer-success reporting, you can reallocate employees to new projects. These new projects can be more complex, requiring more human creativity and problem-solving. Long term, this can lead to significant gains. Contact center employees would have more time to discover the roots of customer complaints and make sure each customer is satisfied.
In a given period, account for the amount of work done prior to automation, and the number of new projects employees are able to start. After you deploy RPA, count the number of new projects employees do. Meeting this metric will require the design, planning, and allocation of new tasks that employees can do—it won’t occur naturally.
8. Process velocity
Process velocity is a measurement of how long it takes to complete a process. With robots working alongside your employees, you can get processes done much faster.
For example, robots can process patient-intake forms for a hospital much faster than employees can. Physicians and nurses will then be able to address patients’ needs faster and trust that records will be more accurate. The process velocity, from patient intake to patient care, is much faster with RPA.
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Measure the velocity of processes before and after your RPA deployment. Average velocities across time intervals, such as seasons and deadlines, to get accurate estimates. You should also account for the work that robots are doing “off hours” that humans aren’t able to do.
If you track the time it takes to manually process a queue of items, such as invoices or claims, you can estimate the improvements in average handling time (AHT)—the average time taken to process a queue of items.
The lower your AHT, the better you can keep up with service-level agreements (SLAs) attached to the completion of processes or tasks within certain time periods. As you note changes to process velocity, you can also set up alerts and periodic reports to track the statuses of your SLAs and ensure you’re meeting SLAs without exceeding any limitations on average handling or processing times.
9. Manual labor savings
After you automate a process and free the employees who did the manual labor to complete it, you can measure the labor costs saved. You can account for this in full-time equivalents (FTEs) as well as hiring, training, and salary costs.
If your business has regular periods where demand is especially high, such as the end of the month, beginning of the season, or end of a tax deadline, you can also measure the amount of temporary labor saved.
Periods of high demand can be especially expensive. You’re either paying employees extra for overtime work or finding, hiring, and training temporary employees you can’t keep once demand returns to normal.
Robots, however, are scalable. When those labor-intensive periods come up, you can automate the manual labor and utilize those savings in other areas.
Compare the average cost of weathering demand spikes without robots against the marginal cost of scaling software during those same periods. You can do the same comparison for normal periods to see how much additional labor you can now save.
10. Tools replaced
Automations in the form of scripts, macros, and bespoke processes might already be in place before you deploy RPA. However, when you implement an RPA platform like the UiPath Enterprise RPA Platform, you can build Robots for each use case that are more flexible and don’t require as much upkeep. As you centralize automation, you can then run and monitor your Robots from a single dashboard, Orchestrator.
Before you deploy your RPA system, take stock of the number of tools necessary to complete a given process. Some of these will be automations and some will be manual tools that are no longer necessary. For instance, prior to RPA, a bank needed three desktop and web applications (as well as two departments) to extract and compare data records. With an RPA Robot, they were able to do the work with just a web portal and a single desktop application.
Approximate the cost of each tool prior to RPA. Include licensing fees, costs of upkeep and development, and resources spent training employees to use these tools. An RPA platform will have all of the same kinds of costs, but because you can operate robots centrally rather than from individual machines, all those costs will be lower.
Using your RPA assessment
Once you establish these RPA performance metrics, you can measure progress toward your goals. With this range of metrics, you can also draw correlations between different automation benefits.
For instance, you can correlate the manual labor savings and the number of new projects undertaken (7 and 9) with employee retention and satisfaction (3 and 4). If you can prove employees are taking on exciting new projects, and that satisfaction and retention are up, you can show how RPA makes work more fulfilling.
These metrics can contribute to an overall ROI evaluation. Weigh them against the licensing costs for the RPA platform you’re using, the cost of new data center or cloud infrastructure, the cost of development and testing, and the cost of monitoring and maintenance.
An RPA platform like the UiPath Enterprise RPA Platform is highly adaptable. As you bring in new technologies or introduce new processes, add them to the overall ROI assessment. Every time you can integrate a new tool or technology without rebuilding your automation processes, your savings will accumulate, and your efficiency will compound.
Download a free RPA metrics template
To help you measure the impact of RPA, we created a free, downloadable template that includes the goals and metrics described above.
As you scale RPA in your organization, you can fill in this template and chart progress toward your goals. The template can be used as-is, or you can customize it to match the metrics and timelines used by your organization. These metrics listed in both this post and on the downloadable template are recommended but not exhaustive.