A version of this Blog was first published on the Dataquest
Robotic process automation or RPA has made rapid strides in recent years as it holds great potential to revolutionize the way in which intricate processes pertaining to business operations, customer service and data management besides others, are executed.
Automating manual tasks for help desks, HR, financial processes, etc. can surely result in increased productivity and at the same time save additional expenses. Owing to this, organizations today are looking to introduce RPA in their business processes, and many enterprise solution providers are now identifying various use cases to help kickstart the automation initiative.
Before you begin the planning and execution of an RPA project for your organization, here are the top five things you need to know:
1) RPA implementations should not be rushed: Initiating automation is a big step forward and as such, needs to be planned well. The end-to-end journey which involves sensitizing the need for RPA in a domain, selection and prioritization of relevant use cases based on technical considerations, overall business objectives of the organization, viable vs. valuable, and RoI analysis, right vendor selection – all of this should be carefully evaluated before kick-starting any automation project.
2) Involve right stakeholders from the beginning: Involving business stakeholders from functional, technical and infrastructure end right from the beginning is key for successful implementation of an RPA program A well-coordinated RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE) comprised of key members from different technical and functional domains goes a long way in building, standardizing and sustaining the capability maturity of the program.
Collaboration across multiple tiers helps not only to create the right frameworks and accelerators that are needed to fast track implementations but also provides the right governance model essential for the success of the program.
3) Improve before Automate: While RPA bots generally do not require the reconfiguration of an existing workflow or even very tight coupling with the applications involved, however, in certain scenarios, it makes sense to leverage the RPA initiative to relook and improve business processes for enabling better scalability – hardly any value would be derived from automating an inherently inefficient process.
4) Consider cognitive collaboration with AI and ML: Several RPA tools today have inbuilt AI and ML capabilities that can extract information from semi-structured and unstructured data as well as options to invoke cognitive programs to enable the bot to arrive at self-initiated decisions.
The main concern is to identify and integrate with the right AI/ML technologies to derive maximum value – and to design programs in a way that leave room for an upgrade to higher cognitive functions. The right vendor selection also becomes critical in this case.
5) Get quick RoI with downstream benefits: In many businesses, IT initiatives are proven cost savers in the long run – RPA however, is capable of providing quick RoI. With minimal investment, you get to reap maximum benefits once automated processes go live. Apart from this, the fact that your software bots can work 24 hours a day the entire year with no room for error, makes them a fantastic addition to your workforce. Decision-makers also need to plan how to invest the savings from RPA into other critical business levers.
There still exist many apprehensions regarding the future of employment with the implementation of automation. There is an unfounded fear that RPA could replace the manual workforce altogether. This, however, could not be further away from the truth as automation only helps in increasing employee productivity, relieving bandwidth for more value-adding activities as well as creating new avenues for growth.
As a business, one of the biggest advantages of implementing RPA is the fact that it does not require you to replace any existing systems – an RPA bot can work on your existing workflows without any major rehaul alongside your manual workforce. What really makes the difference is the concerted execution of critical pre-during-and post-implementation activities – that makes the automation journey– both value-driven and geared towards success.