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RPA as Part of a Retail Automation Strategy

by Robert Hetu  |  August 22, 2018  |  Submit a Comment

Robotic process automation (RPA) can help automate existing manual processes, but is only a step on the path toward transformational automation and algorithmic retailing. For modern retail, speed kills or, more accurately, the lack of speed in decision making is deadly for the business. Simultaneously, the need to use more data, and make more detailed and specific intelligent decisions across an increasingly complex unified retail commerce operation, is growing. This tension has engulfed business users throughout the organization.

Automation is required and long overdue to improve the accuracy and speed of many processes that today require human intervention. However, automation is a hot button issue that is very misunderstood by many in the retail business community. One of the means of creating automation is through the use of RPA. RPA tools perform “if, then, else” statements on structured data, typically using a combination of UI interactions, or by connecting to APIs to drive client servers, mainframes or HTML code. An RPA tool operates by mapping a process in the RPA tool language for the software “robot” to follow, with runtime allocated to execute the script by a control dashboard.

While there are many potential target retail processes with tasks and subtasks suitable for RPA, it’s important to develop a framework to evaluate these and assess the level of complexity associated with each. In various industries, RPA is applied to existing business processes that have many repetitive, but requisite, tasks. Therefore, targeting low-hanging fruit, in the form of processes that require a high volume of basic calculations, highly repetitive actions with many executional steps and risk from transcription errors. is likely the best place to start. This will immediately improve the speed of execution and accuracy of decisions, and will free up human workers to be redeployed to more fruitful endeavors.

The recommended framework for evaluation:

RPA Checklist

Gartner clients can read the full research here:

RPA Will Be Required for Retailers to Make Progress in Digital Business

Additional Resources

100 Data and Analytics Predictions Through 2024

Gartner’s annual predictions disclose the varied importance of data and analytics across an ever-widening range of business and IT initiatives. Data and analytics leaders must consider these strategic planning assumptions for enhancing their vision and plans.

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Category: ai  data-and-analytics-strategies  retail-trends  smart-machines  

Tags: advanced-analytics  ai  algorithmic-retailing  algorithms  automation  digital  ias  omni-channel  retail  rpa  trends  

Robert Hetu
VP, Analyst Retail
7 years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Bob Hetu is a Research Director with the Gartner Retail Industry Services team. His responsibilities involve tracking the technology markets and trends impacting the broad-based retail merchandising and planning areas. Mr. Hetu is an expert in the areas of brand, vendor and assortment management, merchandise planning, allocation, and replenishment. Read Full Bio

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