Data gathered from leading business and IT service providers and presented in a recent KPMG report shows that robotic process automation (RPA) has recently become an instrumental tool in enabling businesses to grow faster and more successfully.
Further, the report suggests that the demand for RPA is projected to significantly increase, even “skyrocket,” within the next three years, most notably for IT processes, sourcing and procurement, finance and accounting, and supply chain and logistics.
Robotic process automation (RPA) has become a popular choice among companies that are looking to automate repetitive, rules-based business processes in many industries, e.g., Insurance and Financial Services, companies with shared services centers, Business Process Outsourcing.
But how can your company implement RPA? What steps need to be taken in order to successfully make the switch to RPA?
Rather than being a one-time project, adopting RPA and into your company is a journey — one that, in addition to the technology acquisition and implementation, includes rethinking how your business will work with RPA and how your organization will evolve over time.
The following discussion of the adoption roadmap represents major milestones to success along this journey, including choosing what processes to automate, defining an executive sponsorship, and running a controlled implementation.
Regardless of your company’s size, industry, and structure, here are a number of steps that you will encounter along the pathway to an RPA success story:
Steps Along the Road to Automation
1). Identify which processes your company wants to automate. Build a business case for each process, estimate the benefits and consider cost of implementation and operation. Activities best suited for process automation are those that:
- Are repetitive, rule-based, and significant in volume
- Do not depend on unstructured, subjective human judgment
- Require repeated manual duplication and data transfer
- Are time-consuming
- Involve the comparison of data
- Are workflow-enabled and use multiple applications
While somewhat obvious, determining which processes you’ll automate using RPA is an important milestone because it ultimately helps to shape the most important parts of your RPA journey: technology, resources, timing, and the benefits of successfully incorporating RPA into your operations.
2). Evaluate the benefits and assess any potential risks of an RPA implementation. RPA can be used to automate and streamline enterprise functions, including back-office processing and IT operations. The benefits of RPA include:
- Staff will no longer be bogged down with trivial copy-paste tasks, they will instead be able to focus on higher-level tasks — those that require judgement, decision-making, and interactions with customers
- Processes will become more accurate. The chances of human error are eliminated, robots do not make mistakes.
- Productivity and efficiency will increase as cycle time and transaction times will be drastically reduced. Robots are able to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year - without the need to take breaks on weekends or holidays.
- Business analytics are more robust and easier accessible. With leading RPA technologies, the actions of the robots and data from multiple different sources are collected into an single analytics platform, where you will be able to monitor your business processes and make decisions to further streamline them.
In addition to monitoring benefits as outlined above, successful RPA deployment also manage:
- The implications of organizational changes, potentially large and transformational in nature
- Technology infrastructure, system integration
- Data security and privacy issues.
3). Define and communicate clear roles and reponsibilities of an RPA deployment, articulate the case for change.
Alsbridge suggests that in order the make the most of RPA, the “organization’s leaders must lead and sponsor the dramatic operational and organizational changes that will inevitably follow. This can be a precarious balancing act... While passion is key, RPA sponsorship also requires the involvement of professionals with proven skills at orchestrating change.”
It’s important to establish executive sponsorship across your organization to ensure the implementation process goes smoothly and that tasks get completed. Leaders who are knowledgeable about large scale technology implementation and have the ability to drive the transformation of your business. They also need to be able to communicate effectively during the RPA implementation process.
4). Ensure both your business team and Technology department are on board. Aligned leadership is key.
According to Richard Griffin, a senior automation consultant with Genfour, “preparation and communication is key and first and foremost you need to get your stakeholders on board. It’s critical that you take your employees on the automation journey with you and that they have an input on how that RPA solution will look like going forward...Only once you can move people from naysayer’s to promoters that’s when you’ll start getting benefits quickly.”
Once you reach alignment on steps to be taken, have defined roles and responsibilities of those involved, the implementation process will go more smoothly. Maintaining consistent communication throughout the process is important to make sure that your implementation goes as planned and any obstacles can be dealt with accordingly.
5). Choose your RPA technology. Determining the technology solution you’ll be deployment is arguably one of the most crucial milestones along the RPA journey since it defines the type of functionality and support you will have and is dependent on the types of processes that you want to automate. If your organization already has its processes mapped and process improvement mechanisms in place, you might be able to work directly with the vendor and run the implementation yourself. On the other hand, a good RPA vendor will be able to recommend suitable System Integrators if your company does not have implementation capabilities in-house.
While there is a lot of consideration that goes into choosing the right RPA solution, it is important to consider the product functionality and required implementation efforts. When determining the most appropriate RPA product for your organization, some factors you should take into account include: the ease of robot design, how intuitive the user interface is, and how the product will integrate with your existing technologies.
Understand the type and levels of Support provided by the RPA vendor. Change within your business can lead to changes required in your automation deployment. In these situations and even before, it’s important that the RPA vendor or available System Integrators are able to provide assistance to your company. Services to consider are training, implementation and technical support, and automation and product consulting services.
6). Begin the implementation process as a controlled process, e.g., with a pilot project. In a smaller-scale, focused implementation you will be able to learn and tune your deployment to work for your company in the long-term.
Define relevant checkpoints to measure the success of this initial, focused RPA implementation, understand deployment efforts and resources required. Validate your business case, e.g., validate assumptions on time savings or data accuracy.
Create an implementation plan for your full-scale implementation and potential growth stages to follow, define phases, priorities and back-up scenarios. Understand the organizational impact of your deployment and put plans in place to address and communicate the anticipated transformation. Build a comprehensive business plan with defined metrics, clear metrics and roles and responsibilities.
7). Large scale RPA implementation. Based on the implementation plan developed during your pilot, you’ll be able to begin the wider implementation of RPA. Take advantage of the scalability of RPA to support the needed volume of robots and deployment structure required by your company.
Making RPA Work for You
With business and market environments being different for each company, even successful RPA deployment scenarios will vary. Many of the choices you make throughout the process will be strongly tied to your company’s specific objectives and requirements. The flexibility of the RPA product, the support provided by the vendor, the continued development of technology and collaboration with leading RPA vendors will define the long-term success and benefit of your RPA operation.
Whether you’re just testing out the RPA waters or you’ve already made the switch, these milestones along the RPA journey will help you measure and define the success and performance your company is looking for.
Nick Ostdick is a Digital Content Strategist.