POINT OF VIEW
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of software bots to automate everyday business processes. RPA operates by accessing interfaces designed for human use and imitating outlined actions. Actions performed by bots can include navigating systems, completing keystrokes, opening folders/documents, inputting or extracting data, understanding what is on screen.
Gartner predict that 85% of large organisations will have some form of automation by 2022
The purpose of Robotic Process Automation is to free up staff and resources by performing mundane, repetitive tasks. By doing this, resources and employees are able to get on with the more valuable tasks that are usually side-lined due to the need for administrative actions. This benefits organisations as productivity and employee/customer satisfaction improves as a result of quicker processes.
Throughout the pandemic, automation has been a key player in helping to change working norms. PwC found that 48% of companies planned to implement automation as the transition back to on-site work started. This shows that for many employers, automation is the way forward in the new world.
To find out more about RPA, read here.
Benefits of Robotic Process Automation
RPA is non-invasive technology and can be implemented quickly to deliver digital transformation. RPA can be used to automate workflows involving legacy systems, which either have simple or no APIs, or lack database access. This means that organisations using older systems do not necessarily need a full technology infrastructure overhaul to use and benefit from Robotic Process Automation.
To find out more about how RPA could benefit different industries, read here:
RPA provides the technology to improve the efficiency of workflows, hence increasing the profitability, flexibility and productivity of organisations.
- Accelerated digital transformation;
- Major cost savings (software robots cost less than human time taken by manual processing);
- Greater resilience (match workload peaks);
- Higher accuracy (reduction in manual errors);
- Improved compliance;
- Increased productivity;
- Staff can carry out higher value functions;
- Happier employees and customers (less mundane, boring and repetitive work);
The benefits of automation are seen within days and weeks of implementation. Whether it is down to employee and customer satisfaction, or the cost effectiveness of the software, the benefits hit hard.
Return of Investment (ROI) for RPA is weeks or months instead of years
The accuracy of the bots also means that data entry is error free (providing it was recorded right the first time), and so there is no need for manual corrections taking up more time.
What processes can be automated with RPA?
Robotic Process Automation is ideal for automating tasks that involve a high level of human data processing. RPA is broadly applicable, meaning that virtually any data intensive process with repetitive functions that provide logic-based outcomes are potential candidates for RPA.
The following are basic factors that are required for an RPA process:
- The process must be rule-based;
- The process must be repeated at regular intervals or have a pre-defined trigger;
- The process must have defined inputs and outputs;
- The task should have sufficient volume;
As long as a process adheres to these principles, it should be a candidate for automation.
By evaluating existing business processes, organisations can not only find where RPA is possible, but can discover where natural inefficiencies and improvements can be made.
8 Steps to Successful Robotic Process Automation
Implementing automation with success comes down to the basic groundwork. Are people aware of the changes and how to work with them, is RPA the right solution, is there clear business objectives and cases for Robotic Process Automation?
By making yourself aware of the challenges that come with successfully implementing automation, you can put yourself in the best position to avoid complication.
Define your objectives
Defining the objectives of an automation project is crucial to its success. If you are unaware of the success criteria, then you are unlikely to achieve anything.
Is the aim to implement small scale automation to demonstrate the potential, or is it to start big and fully scale automation organisation wide? Do you want to automate 3 processes and save x amount per quarter, or is the aim to solve some company pains?
These are the types of things that need to be defined before you start looking at and implementing automation. If these objectives are not clearly defined, then the project will ultimately fail.
Find opportunities for automation
By evaluating the need for Robotic Process Automation, you can only get so far. The best way to find opportunities for automation is by evaluating existing processes and seeing if they can be optimised/automated.
This is beneficial for a number of reasons, including the chance to remove obsolete or outdated processes, and improving inefficiencies that are lagging the running of the organisation (whether it be improved manually or by automation).
Finding pains within the organisation will give you the opportunity to identify business needs and thus find ways to alleviate existing problems with solutions meant specifically for them.
If RPA is not the right solution, then it will not solve the problems you have, and thus will waste time and money trying to correct the situation.
TIP: Start with the problem. Do not implement RPA just for the sake of it. Do not try to search out where RPA can be used, this will not give you the full potential of automation. Instead find the problems and see if RPA is a solution.
Discover business impact
Discovering business impact means finding the ways that RPA will impact you going forward. Will implementation be disruptive? What training will be required? What is the cost? What will be gained?
By understanding the known and potential impacts from implementing RPA you can prepare the organisation for the transition to automation.
It is a good idea to be aware of the fact that what works for another organisation may not work for yours. RPA may be a solution for you, but you need to find where to implement it yourself, for your employees and your processes.
Prepare the workforce for the shift to automation
Educating the workforce is important if you want automation to succeed. If employees are unaware of changes to their daily work life, then there is no point in making the changes.
Automation needs to be monitored and maintained if you want to get continuously beneficial outcomes. This could be by updating it as processes evolve or including new people (giving data access).
With remote workforces and the new normal being dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic, making people aware of changes may be difficult. Despite this, automation is there to help, so make the effort to keep people informed.
Develop a plan
Once you have decided that RPA is a fit for your company (for all the right reasons), you need to begin planning.
Planning is great, we love planning. Planning leads to success (most of the time and if done properly).
Some of the things to consider in the planning phase are:
- Where is RPA studio going to be installed?
- How many machines will the studio be installed on?
- Which/how many employees will have access to the web client for bot scheduling? Who will need launchers installed?
- A single process usually only requires 1 bot (decide whether they will be attended or unattended);
As a case example, if you wish to automate data entry from your website, these are a few things you will need to consider – internet connection, firewall considerations, map the entry of data requirements (format, storage, manual entry, extracted from an email by a bot).
Start the development process in RPA studio
Studio offers a separate environment to develop code in. This means that production environments are left unaffected by any changes made to the code in studio.
The benefit to this is that you can (and will) make mistakes with the security of knowing all your fully developed, published processes are left intact.
It is at this stage where the planning will come into its own and you will be glad you mapped out all the nitty gritty details such as who will need what access and installations.
Test the RPA process in studio
Testing the RPA process before officially launching it is important in ensuring its success. Testing also allows you to see if your objectives have been achieved – is the data being put in the right database, have your other processes remained intact and undisrupted?
By testing the process, you make sure that the bots are collecting the correct data or accessing the right applications and that there are no gaps in the process. Basically, you want to get to a point where you are not getting any error messages.
Testing helps to eliminate the need to remove and repair a process later on due to manual errors. This therefore will save time and money down the road, avoiding any unnecessary disruptions.
The in-built dashboard (included in IBM RPA software) allows you to monitor the successful and failed processes. This can help you to identify the exact areas that may need reviewing.
You can also check for any security issues that may have been overlooked, and thus fix them before it can cause any problems.
Confirm and launch
To confirm an RPA process is ready for publishing, get a peer to conduct a code review. If everything is in order, then the process can be published to the RPA web client.
It is on the web client where you can allow scheduling and set the conditions for attended (launcher application) or unattended bots (scheduling).
To summarise, if you want to successfully implement RPA in your organisation, then make sure you do your research. This includes looking into your existing processes to decide whether they fit the criteria for automation, and what the outcomes of implementation would be.
If everything is prepared and thought through, then implementing automation should go smoothly.
Book a process discovery workshop with Responsiv to start the process of identifying candidates for automation and learn how it is done.