Starting your RPA journey
In today’s digital process automation landscape, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has become a hotly sought-after tool to help solve all that plagues your business process shortcomings. While RPA does have its advantages, its true performance and productivity advantages will come to light when tied to specific use cases. In this blog post, I hope to illustrate how and why RPA can be beneficial in your digital process automation (DPA) portfolio.
Robotic Process Automation is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for systems. RPA’s main value proposition is to alleviate your employees from performing mundane, highly repetitive, data-intensive tasks thereby freeing your employees to perform more knowledge work. RPA robots can be programmed to mimic user actions like sending emails, reading email attachments, accessing legacy applications, copying and pasting data between applications, performing data validation, and processing simple rules. These features provide benefits to your current business process by reducing human error and driving efficiencies.
Before I go any further, you might ask, “Why would writing a macros program not be enough?” In some case writing a macros program might be your best bet. However, RPA robots are macros on steroids. While macros can perform certain functions automatically once they’ve been programmed, robots can respond to external stimuli and have their functions reprogrammed. Unlike macros, a robot can act autonomously to use and orchestrate any application, from mainframe and legacy applications to closed third-party API’s. RPA platforms also provide a low code environment where business users can build out their process without dependency on IT.
RPA selection criteria
In your quest to understand if RPA is right for your process automation journey. Here are a few selection criteria to consider.
- How mature is your process? You will reap the full benefits from your RPA platform when your business processes are fully mature. Once your business processes are fully mature, you should be able to determine which tasks/processes can be fully automated, which tasks require human intervention, and which tasks require both. You should also be able to define how exceptions are handled within a specific task/process.
- What are your security consideration and will your RPA vendor meet these requirements? RPA bots are considered digital workers and should have the same, if not more, security considerations as a full-time employee (FTE).
- What are your process visibility requirements? Once your robots are deployed, how do you ensure that these robots are performing as expected? Your RPA solution should give you the out of the box functionality to see how well your bots are performing.
- Are you in control of your robots? Can you deploy, schedule, and administer your robot workforce with ease? Your RPA solution should give you this flexibility.
- RPA Vendor Licensing. While software robots are less costly than an FTE, you must still consider what type of licensing structure fits best with your organization (i.e. licensing by robots or by capacity).
RPA Use Cases
Lastly, but also for your consideration, is how you define use cases for RPA. RPA use cases fall into the categories displayed in the diagrams below.
Introducing RPA to your organizations should be a methodical process. Starting with Proof of Concepts (PoCs) to prove out technological solutions can be a great first step. However, PoCs should never be throw away work. It should provide the first step in your digital process automation journey and should also enable your organization to improve and build on the already existing concepts; this should happen before a full production rollout. From here, you should identify more business processes which fall under the right selection criteria for RPA and also provide some value-add to your organization’s bottom line. Successful implementation of these projects should then lead to a full-blown RPA Program with a Center of Excellence (CoE). Your RPA CoE should provide an implementation framework to assist RPA projects throughout your organizations.
Building a virtual workforce must be an enterprise driven initiative. RPA can provide a large impact on your organization’s bottom line with minimal impact on business operations. RPA provides the quickest win in terms of time to production over its DPA counterparts (i.e. BPM, Case Management, Business Rules Engine, etc.). While these other process automation tools have a role to play, RPA is slowly becoming the go-to technology to start the DPA journey. As the RPA space matures, RPA with AI will also prove to be a significant game changer.