Management should perceive and understand RPA as a journey, one in which a virtual workforce is deployed by the organization to help achieve its long range corporate goals. Considering RPA a short term project, perhaps to cut process costs or increase accuracy, makes it unlikely the organization will fully reap its full potential.
Undertaking an RPA journey enables companies to: plan and execute the technology on an enterprise-wide basis; integrate siloed operations, applications and data; build internal capabilities to adapt and scale; create business value and competitive advantages. Let’s look at the path this journey takes.
Preparing For The RPA Journey
Like any journey of consequence, the one for RPA requires good preparation to make sure the organization is ready for both the challenges and opportunities of robotic process automation. The most critical elements of this preparation are:
Business and IT must be PartnersOrganizations must begin their RPA journey with a strong partnership between business and IT. Certainly, business is the lead partner - reflecting the journey’s primary goals of creating business value, lower operational costs and competitive advantages.
However, reaching those goals requires RPA technology which has critical characteristics, such as: future-proof extensibility, high deployment velocity and meets enterprise architecture and compliance standards. Only IT can make those informed decisions.
Strategic PositioningThis takes two forms. One is aligning the journey with the organization’s strategic direction. Otherwise the journey can easily get sidetracked into lower priority activities unlikely to take full advantage of this automation. The other is placing the journey under a C-level champion for effective adoption and budgeting advocacy.
Select for SuccessNothing succeeds like success and this journey is no exception. To make sure this happens from the very beginning, the strongest possible implementation manager must be selected. In turn, this manager must focus on selecting the most advantageous process for proof-of-concept: well-documented, reasonably high volume, repetitive and rules-based.
Cultural AcceptanceThe C-level champion and implementation must have a joint plan of action to win organizational hearts and minds over to an authentic and proactive adoption of the RPA journey.
Enterprise CompetencyA strategic role for robotic process automation requires the resourcing and skillsets necessary to implement this technology on an enterprise basis. Best practices in this area include creating a RPA center of excellence, based on C-level commitment and budgets before the journey begins.
Steps in a Typical RPA Journey
Every journey is unique, reflecting strategic priorities; timelines are also unique, varying in accordance with process complexities, resourcing and compliance requirements. However, UiPath has found these four steps to be reasonably common across implementations. They incorporate an incremental approach, capable of revealing and incorporating lessons learned - along with well-defined checkpoints and maturing governance.
Proof of ConceptThe objective of this first step is to lay the foundation for moving forward with robotic process automation. Key activities include: running a POC; defining a RPA implementation model for the organization; building an automation team; selecting automation partners; developing frameworks - deployment, communication and governance.
The POC does much more than prove RPA can do what it claims. It allows the organization to decide the role it should play in the implementation model, what automation partnerships it needs and which partners to choose.
PilotThe objective of this step is to use the organization’s implementation model to put an automated process into production for the first time. This means the organization and RPA partners apply defined requirements, a detailed solution design, test scripts and cutover/handover plans to the selected process.
Pilot performance is monitored in accordance with its exit criteria. In addition, all internal and external stakeholders are surveyed for feedback. This input is the basis for documenting lessons learned and revising methodology and frameworks before advancing to ramp up.
Ramp UpThe primary focuses of this step are: optimizing management of the newly deployed virtual workforce; establishing best practices; qualify additional processes for automation; continuing growing the internal automation team and its expertise.
During the ramp up phase, champions should accelerate activities designed to identify further RPA opportunities within the organization and showcase process automation successes to a broader business audience.
InstitutionalizeThe point of this final step is to establish best practices of robotic processes automation as a baseline activity within the organization. Specific examples include a RPA governance board to manage the process automation pipeline demand; disaster recovery and business continuity plans; continuous improvement based on lean Six Sigma with the automation team.
Beyond enculturating these practices, this steps should also include a continual evangelizing of RPA benefits based on existing implementations and promoting RPA as a key performance objective across all business lines.
Missteps to Avoid Along The Way
Reading through these basic steps of the automation journey, doesn’t it seem remarkable that many RPA implementations either suffer disappointing outcomes or end as outright failures? It did to us when we first began working with customers who came to us after experiencing either one or the other. Over time we identified several common implementation mistakes to avoid.
Immature Vendor SelectionRPA tools from several vendors have evolved quickly from simple workstation robots to complex enterprise software. But in many organizations, perception of RPA technology has failed to keep pace - and their selected vendors cannot meet IT and business architectural requirements.
- IT Architecture: there’s a general awareness IT departments require new technologies to conform with architectural criteria - for example: open & extensible technology, stable & well documented; common skill sets and solid security compliance. RPA tools should be no exception.
- Business Process Architecture (BPA): the selected RPA tool must be able to automate across all key business process; whether in virtual environments, utilizing OCR, requiring cognitive intelligence, etc. BPA defines and documents those key processes - along with relationships and interdependencies - making it a perfect framework for compiling a vendor selection criteria.
Proof of Concept ConfusionThe point of a POC isn’t to confirm if RPA technology does what it claims to do. The primary POC purpose is to test business case assumptions, validate the best implementation model and assess RPA integration and technology partners. Yet confirming RPA capabilities remains the POC goal for many organizations.
This mistake typically leads to a circumstance in which POC proves little, isn’t actionable and often slows RPA momentum. It proves little because a volume of solid business cases already confirms the technology works. It isn’t actionable because a POC validating RPA doesn’t provide insights into how it might work within that specific organization. Momentum is hurt because there isn’t an obvious next step.
The POC should be designed to lay the foundation for the much more definitive Pilot step in the journey, and provide the answers and validations needed for approval to move onward to the Pilot.
Immature Process SelectionLoosely governed RPA pipelines often wind up with very complicated process automation candidates. Perhaps it’s a case of overconfidence, “RPA can do anything!” Or it might be a subjective decision to pick a highly complex pain point over a simpler savings opportunity.
It’s a mistake in either case to abandon disciplined priorities. For at least the first full year of a RPA journey, selected processes should be restricted to low or medium complexity that demonstrate an aggregated potential to save at least one FTE.
Misguided Automation TargetSome organizations get so caught up with the idea of a fully automated end-to-end process they overlook the reality of diminishing returns. Others become so focused on automating complex process steps the thought of eliminating those steps with redesign never occurs.
It’s important to remember the low cost, low invasive nature of RPA. Unlike other automation technologies, it can generate a high ROI with only a partial automation of process steps. Attempting to extend automation too far into a process can lower ROI by significantly increasing implementation costs. Likewise, process optimization is often a smarter route to savings than configuring a robot for complicated rules.
UiPath – RPA Designed for the Needs of Global Enterprises and BPOs
UiPath RPA is an enterprise computing platform dedicated to automating business processes. It provides process modelling, change management, deployment management,
access control, remote execution and scheduling, execution monitoring, auditing, and analytics in full compliance with the enterprise security and governance best practices.
UiPath Studio is the highly visual productivity environment where business users can model end-to-end business processes into a process diagram with simple drag-and-drop functionality.
Advanced error checking and history visibility ensure flawless execution and detailed project monitoring.
UiPath Orchestrator is a scalable RPA server, fully integrated and equipped with centralized instrumentality for enterprise class management, security, compliance, support, and auditability.
Our Orchestrator records everything the robots do through log files and transforms them into advanced analytics.
UiPath Front Office Robot is the agent-assisted robot that shares the same workstation with human employees and assists them to automatically execute business activities.
UiPath Back Office Robot is the autonomous software robot programmed to run unattended, independent from human interaction.