I’ll start with a quick fact, technological evolution and it’s adoption will never again be as slow as it is today! The race to find new innovative ways to increase productivity, boost efficiency while delivering the highest level of experience and satisfaction to customers is more relevant now than ever. Robotic Process Automation or RPA is arguably the most valuable tool available within the broader set of automation technology platforms available today. The technology brings together people, process, AI, machine learning, document analysis, case management and most importantly, can easily leverage data from anywhere to drive business processes. RPA has given organisations unprecedented access to new possibilities that boost productivity, rapidly reduce cost, create efficiency and increase customer engagement and satisfaction.
As organisations scurry to adopt RPA, the relative infancy of the technology has seen the emergence of many making costly mistakes when aiming to achieve the full potential of their initiatives. As a result, some have initially failed to meet the forecasted automation potential, return on investment, which ultimately questioned the strategy as a whole.
So, WHY have many organisations have struggled to deliver success? Why has it been misused or understood? And why haven’t forecasted ROI’s become a reality? Here are my top 10 Do’s and Don’t’s of Robotic Process Automation.
- Drive an automation strategy aligning organisational goals with RPA initiatives.
- Centralise and share automation ideas while engaging all employees to provide insights and feedback to prospective automation opportunities.
- Select the right processes! Organise processes by automation potential, which includes identifying the processes that are unlikely to change over time, are highly manual, repetitive and structured. These are the “low hanging fruit” with the highest value. Do these first, and they will educate on RPA best practice and deliver the highest initial return, which frees up funds to invest in the more complex projects in future.
- Allocate your internal resources to the projects and do not run all of your RPA projects at once. Prioritise the simple projects first and use the learnings to plan and drive the success of the more complex projects in the future roadmap
- Develop an automation strategy and leverage the savings from the initial automation projects to invest in the more complex projects in future.
- Thoroughly document your As-Is and To-Be requirements. Understanding your current needs will ensure the maximum return from your RPA implementation. Ensure that at least 10-20% of the cost of each RPA implementation is allocated to defining requirements.
- Understand the capability of RPA. Pay attention to any software limitations. Many organisations push the scope past RPA’s ability or over-complicate their projects which mostly leads to severely diminished return.
- Test, test & test. Ensure you develop a thorough test plan to weed out the bugs before going live. Resolve all issues and do not go live prematurely.
- Monitor your automation. As processes are automated, new unseen issues will be discovered. Ensure you find the latest problems quickly through process analytics and aim to resolve these issues as soon as possible.
- Engage the experts. Find the right implementation partner who will be there to support you for years to come. The correct implementation partner will ensure that the proper due diligence is followed, expectations are set, and your goals are met.
- Set an RPA strategy that doesn’t align with organisational goals. Setting an RPA strategy which is not a priority will generally lead to the initiative being put off or forgotten.
- Don’t expect 100% automation and to replace humans entirely. RPA complements the workforce and remove’s the mundane, high volume and repetitive tasks in a process. The utilisation of robots where task/exception validation is involved requires human intervention. Completely replacing humans is not impossible but is the exception rather than the rule with RPA. Projects aren’t always about 100% automation, and the goal is to remove the mundane and inefficiencies.
- Do not automate everything in one go. Rushing or taking on too many projects often leads to disaster. Start simple and plan your future projects.
- Don’t try and automate the highly complex first. Start with the low hanging fruit.
- Do not implement RPA on a broken process. RPA isn’t a silver bullet that repairs lousy practice. Ensure you fix your processes first before applying automation. Don’t waste time and money by automating something that’s broken.
- Do not apply RPA to unstructured processes that require lots of human decision making. These processes will not achieve a high return on investment as they still require lots of human effort. The emergence of new Ai and machine learning tools are rapidly being developed for these unstructured type processes.
- Don’t go-live until the solution has been rigorously tested. Avoid launching prematurely.
- Ensure you invest in high availability and disaster recovery. Remember if there is a technical issue and bots fall over while performing business-critical tasks, business stops. High availability is worth it.
- Don’t expect to set and forget. Processes will change and evolve with growth and as services change. Ensure to budget for maintaining and updating your RPA solutions and align with your needs each year.
- Most Importantly; don’t choose a solution solely based on price! RPA is about the end solution and its ability to deliver efficiency and cost reduction, which compounds over time as business scales and grows. Understand your requirements, automation goals and future requirements while benchmarking the competition in detail before making your decision. Cheap solutions often cost far more over time by not offering the same functionality or performance as their more expensive alternative’s, including substandard, performance, flexibility, features, scalability, ability to meet future needs or ease of implementation. Saving a bit of money today could cost you a fortune in the long run. Do your homework!