The Robotics Process Automation (RPA) market has seen an extreme growth rate.In 2018, the RPA software market grew by 63.1%, as published by Gartner, and has been rapidly growing ever since. Whilst this is great news for the industry, as RPA becomes more commonplace, it is important for every organisation embarking on an RPA journey to implement the correct ways of working to ensure they are getting the most value from their investment.
As RPA technology becomes more mainstream, it can be easy for organisations to become swept up with the wave and begin automating tasks without first of all taking into account several key considerations. For example, in a Forrester poll of global data and analytics decision makers, it was found that:
- 25% of firms lacked an overall vision or strategy for automation.
- 26% faced challenges with culture and change management.
- 25% believed there were gaps in their organisational structure, alignment and readiness.
One prediction by Forrester is that 2020 will see the rise of RPA strike teams. Strike teams sit between traditional I.T. and domain experts and are responsible for addressing automation. This is one answer but what else is key to ensure you achieve the most value from your investment? Here are seven areas we would encourage you to consider to maximise the potential of your RPA project.
#1 – Centre of Excellence
A proper centre of excellence surrounding all aspects of RPA will help to ensure that you are getting the most out of your robots. A team of people responsible for different areas of RPA can make a big difference to process selection, planning, development, deployment and management of your robots. Team members of your COE should include but not be limited to:
- RPA developer – responsible for designing, developing and testing the robots and automation workflow. They should always use best practice and follow standardised RPA development practices.
- RPA infrastructure specialist – someone who is responsible for the core infrastructure of the digital workforce and is involved with the maintenance and scheduling of the digital task force.
- RPA champion – an advocate for RPA and who really promotes and encourages the use of RPA throughout the business. A true evangelist, they will help collect potential automation candidates from all areas of the business whilst promoting previous successes.
- RPA solution architect – someone who is responsible for architecting the RPA solutions end to end, making decisions on technologies and tools to use and working alongside developers to deliver the solution.
- RPA business analyst – RPA business analysts will be the subject matter experts of the business processes that are being automated. They separate themselves from other business analysts by having a strong understanding of the capabilities of RPA and translating business processes to RPA friendly processes.
#2 – Strategy
With the advancements in RPA technology, products make it very easy and quick to develop and deploy bots. This is great for reducing lead development time and allowing businesses to quickly see ROI. However, it is also becoming increasingly more common for organisations to end up with a complicated mess of deployed bots and no easy way to scale and improve. A solid strategy going from top down will allow for a much more maintainable and scalable RPA initiative and dramatically increase the value and success of any RPA focussed digital transformation.
Just one example of this is identifying common ‘library’ components, these are small reusable components that have the potential to be used in multiple automation solutions to solve common problems. Done early enough, these components can be developed in isolation using standardised methods allowing them to be re-used.
#3 – Process Selection
Process selection can make or break your RPA initiative and is not always the simple task it appears to be. Depending on where you are on your RPA journey will have a massive influence on the processes you choose for automation.
Brand new to RPA? You probably don’t want to select the most complicated process candidate you have, even if it does have the biggest ROI. Instead you might want to consider selecting a much smaller, simpler process to automate but one that has high visibility within the organisation. It is important to show solid success early on, this has two main benefits:
- Increased buy in from the organisation – a successful, highly visible automation project will really help with the ongoing efforts of implementing a good RPA practice.
- Learn from mistakes – this allows you to deal with the early RPA development teething problems without having to manage a big complicated project at the same time.
There are many ways of calculating ROI, complexity and raw cost savings when selecting a process to automate and all major players in the RPA space have spreadsheets to help you with this.
#4 – Employee Buy-In
With the introduction of RPA, it’s understandable that your existing employees might not be too enthusiastic at the thought of implementing automation and may see it as a replacement of their role. However, managed correctly you can actually boost employee morale and job satisfaction by re-tasking them with much more fulfilling and meaningful tasks. It is important to get accurate information from the employees that perform the tasks that are going to be automated so keeping them happy and fulfilled will help all involved. In the past we have worked on projects where employees whose main task has been automated have gone on to become RPA experts and worked on automating further processes within the organisation.
#5 – Utilisation
One of the biggest advantages of leveraging robotics is that these digital assistants can work 24/7, 365 days a year. They don’t sleep, eat or take holiday which means that even when everyone else goes home, tasks are still completed. However, fully utilising your bots doesn’t mean that you should have a bot working on automation tasks 24 hours a day, you also need to take into account what tasks to complete and when the most beneficial time is to schedule them. For example, tasks that generate an output file that humans then need to action should maybe be scheduled to run during working hours. Whereas a task that processes spreadsheets and updates ERP systems can be scheduled to run out of hours as it requires no human input. All leading RPA platforms have advanced tools that allow you to achieve a host of scheduling options as well as analyse bot health and utilisation to help you to get the best utilisation.
#6 – Unstructured Data
Unstructured data is the data that does not have a pre-defined data model or isn’t organised in any way. Bots can only be as good as the information they are fed and so thought needs to be given to how both structured and unstructured data is formatted and provided as part of the overall RPA solution. By not accounting for unstructured data, a wealth of information can be overlooked. There are many ways this can be achieved such as OCR, artificial intelligence or by using bespoke tools such as TrajeQt (a pre-robotics tool which consumes, validates and standardises content and data).
#7 – Leveraging other technologies (hyperautomation)
The final point to address is the growing trend of hyperautomation, which is what Gartner describes as the need to deliver end-to-end automation beyond RPA by combining complementary technologies to augment business processes. RPA excels at automating high-volume, low-complexity, rules-based tasks but processes are often more complex and RPA tools work best when they complement more broadly-based automation tools such as low-code platforms or iBPMS technologies. RPA is a powerful tool but it’s not stand-alone, ROI can be dramatically increased when you use it alongside other technologies to complement and extend capabilities.
The reality is that there is still a considerable number of RPA projects that don’t succeed and this can be detrimental to future digital transformation plans. Research has found that as many as 30% to 50% of initial RPA projects fail. These failures are not due to the technology, we have proven huge success with our clients, the importance is with planning and engaging the right team and people. Hopefully some of the above points will help address the common issues we have come across in real-world project scenarios and provide guidance on how to drive success.