The RPA checklist: 6 questions you need to ask yourself to successfully implement RPA within your organisation

BY GRAHAM TURNBULL

Robotic Process Automation has been on the scene for quite a few years now with varying degrees of success. Indeed, what first appeared to be the quick-fix to failing processes, operational issues or headcount challenges has often failed to meet initial expectations.

When implemented well, RPA has many benefits including increased productivity, better levels of quality, increased customer satisfaction and improved governance and monitoring capability. It has even proven to have a positive impact on staff by removing mundane tasks from their daily lives. But just like we wouldn’t expect a diesel car filled with petrol to race out of the petrol station, we can’t expect RPA to be the best fix to all our operational challenges. So before you fill your operational tank with an RPA solution that might not be fit for purpose, take some time to ask yourself the following questions…

1. Is the activity suitable for RPA?
Is the activity suitable for RPA?

When it comes to RPA, we should not assume a starting point that an entire process can be automated. The make or break for RPA suitability lies within the detail, within the activities that make up the process. In reality, some processes will benefit from being partly or fully automated, and some won’t, all driven by the characteristics of the lower-level activity design.

As a general rule you need to start by analysing the lower level activities that combine to make the process. 

There are multiple, interrelated factors to consider including:

  • To what extent are the business rules / logic standardised
  • Is the process resource intensive?
  • What are the patterns of volume associated with completing this activity?
  • What are the types of input into this activity?
  • Will your organisation benefit by automating this activity (think cost reduction but also customer satisfaction, better quality etc.) and is the investment worthwhile?

RPA is commonly adopted in high volume, time consuming, repetitive tasks such as data entry and those found in back office functions. It is a fantastic way to reproduce the actions of humans on a 24/7 basis but only when used appropriately.

Let’s jump back in our car filled with diesel when it needed petrol. Would your chances of getting it back on the road be higher if you were to use the correct fuel? The answer seems straightforward enough… so let’s transpose it in RPA terms: Is automation the solution to your process challenges or are you asking your bots to run a process that they are not suitable for?

RPA is fantastic way to increase productivity and quality amongst many other things… but only when our little bots are asked to perform within their 8 core capabilities, namely:
1
Inputting data into multiple systems
2
Orchestrating a sequence of activities based on priorities
3
Making rule-based decisions
4
Analysing complex data sets
5
Receiving, reading and validating data from multiple sources
6
Monitoring and reporting on performance
7
Interacting with customers or people within your organisation
8
Learning from outcomes or patterns in data

If this is not what you need, and your processes are low volume, non-repetitive, complex tasks, then RPA is never going to be the right solution for your organisation.

Analysing your processes for RPA feasibility needn’t be complicated or time consuming. This is why we have developed RoboticAssess, a smart and reliable automation feasibility diagnostic tool, that aims at providing you with fast and exhaustive RPA diagnostic and reporting.

2. Have we optimised our processes to remove waste and unnecessary complexity?
Have we optimised our processes to remove waste and unnecessary complexity?

At Reinvigoration we have seen far too many organisations jumping on the RPA train before realising a few years down the line that their train wasn’t going in the right direction.

Processes requiring improvement should first be subject to a wave of traditional process improvement by using methods such as lean. After all, why should we automate complexity and waste? 

Analysing your processes first and going back to basics using traditional lean methodologies, is the best way to understand whether your processes can first be simplified and waste removed. Only then can you confidently acknowledge whether all or only part of the processes at stake could benefit from being automated using RPA, and create certainty in your business case.

3. Is our organisation culturally ready to embark on an RPA journey?
Is our organisation culturally ready to embark on an RPA journey?

More often than not, RPA is seen as an IT matter (after all we’re talking about bots integration, right?).

This couldn’t be further away from the truth and RPA cannot be delivered by your IT team alone; it needs complete top to bottom buy-in as a shift from a human led process to an automated process can be challenging.

Change management is an integral part of any RPA implementation, both from a process and resource point of view.

  • Adopting RPA involves adapting your processes; which in turns means shifting resource as automation will create some additional capacity that can be utilised on other value-adding activities.
  • With time, your bots will need to evolve with your processes, requiring a commitment from your senior management team to invest in building internal capability. Remember that when processes change, your bots need retraining in the same way that your people do!

Before your organisation embarks on its RPA journey, it is important to ensure that there is a real understanding within the organisation of how much RPA will impact not only on your processes, but also on your teams, and that you are ready to invest appropriately.

4. Will the bots do everything?
will the bots do everything?

Only 45 % of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adopting RPA.* This means that whilst RPA is not going to be the answer to all your headcount challenges, it can certainly help you to better utilise your staff.

In many successful robotics implementations, staff have actually welcomed the use of bots as they typically perform tasks that humans dislike doing.

With RPA, your staff can finally say goodbye to the mundane and repetitive tasks they used to have to perform day in day out; and say hello to rewarding strategic, empathetic and creative activities that will make them feel more valued.

The automation of the task also means that fewer errors are made, reducing the need for audits and monitoring whilst giving a greater visibility and control over the process. Finally, 24/7 processing removes process bottlenecks, eliminating the pressure and conflicts within your teams.

Now, let’s not fool ourselves: embracing process automation does not mean that your staff will not need to be involved at all. They will still be required to process exceptions and anything that cannot be processed by the bot. Therefore, the full end-to-end process will need to be built to support the new processes and be clear on who handles the exceptions and when.

One of the biggest challenges your management teams will face will be to manage change within their teams and to best use the additional capacity that RPA will generate.

5. Shall we attempt the big bang?
Shall we attempt the RPA big bang?

Going big at once is tempting but RPA is a big change for any organisation. In our experience, trying to implement too much too soon only results in change resistance and potentially failed projects without the internal capability to manage the bots post deployment.

That’s why we recommend building confidence by taking small steps that allow you to measure successes that can then be used to build senior stakeholder buy-in ahead of further development waves.

Time is of the essence and this approach allows you to phase your RPA deployment by delivering a rapid live trial within a matter of weeks, from which you can learn, scale and embed. Having learnt from the trial, you will be in a better place to accelerate the implementation using pre-coded bots that can be modified and deployed rapidly.

6. Have we got an internal capability development plan?
Have we got an internal capability development plan?

Whether they are automated or not, processes change in accordance with your business and customer requirements.

Building your internal RPA capability and creating a sustainable centre of excellence gives you the assurance that you will be able to modify the bots to best match your new requirements, making the most out of your RPA investment for many years to come.

FINAL WORDS

The success of delivering effective RPA is knowing what should be automated & when it should be done. Without this clear understanding, and the support of your senior stakeholders to build internal capability and manage change, your RPA implementation will most often than not be set to fail.

We have created RoboticAssess to help you to undertake a fast and detailed RPA diagnostic on any process. Our solution will guide you through the diagnostic step by step, from mapping your processes quickly and easily; to finding out whether your processes are suitable for RPA. It will summarise your diagnostic with rich and informative visual summaries and an instant RPA business case itemizing cost savings for every activity impacted.

View our video to find out more about RoboticAssess and how we can help you throughout your RPA journey, from identifying areas for RPA focus to implementing a suitable RPA solution and building internal capability.

*Source – Expert interviews; McKinsey Analysis

About Graham Turnbull

Graham is Reinvigoration’s Director. He has a passion for business transformation and specialises in Lean, Agile, RPA and Digital disciplines. You can get in touch with him directly by Email or connect on Linkedin.

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