Are you still questioning whether implementing robotic process automation is the right thing to do for your company? Given that rule based activities are core tasks for most economic enterprises, and that employees waste up to a quarter of their time on these manual repetitive tasks, it is quite likely that the short answer is ‘yes’.
If you consider the benefits of RPA deployment and how these benefits translate into competitive advantages for your company, the affirmative answer gains more strength. For instance, not only is implementation rather easy and non-costly, but the return on investment is quick.
In fact, RPA can actually be deployed in a matter of weeks, not months. According to McKinsey, the revenue in the first year upon RPA implementation shows a growth of 30 - 200%. Data management, cybersecurity, or regulatory compliance are other areas that are facilitated by the adoption of software robots.
It is important to acknowledge that what actually drives these benefits is establishing a harmonious joint venture between human staff and technology. Currently, human employees are still the ones who schedule and oversee the realisation of the automated processes, as we have discussed at length in an article about the benefits of RPA.
This being said, let us get down to business by looking at some usual procedures that we consider best practices for implementing RPA.
Best practices for implementing RPA
1. Plan wisely
It is best to start with a crystal-clear list of the objectives that you want to attain by means of automation. RPA adoption can be challenging, if only because of the turmoil that it will generate among your employees.
This makes a strategic plan for change management, which takes into account all the relevant details of the current state of affairs, even more necessary. According to Porter Lynch (2012), the so-called change champions are key to a successful outcome of organizational change because they are instrumental in the actual implementation of the digital change.
2. Smartly select the processes to be automated
According to CiGen’s CEO and Co-founder Leigh Pullen, beginning RPA implementation with those business processes that are best suited for automation is crucial for tapping into the vast potential of robotics. You can find here some questions that are worth asking yourself in order to single out the right processes before implementing RPA. Some process features that you could be looking for are:
Stable, predictable and well documented processes, with consistent and well defined operational costs;
Processes with low exception rates, which do not require complex human intervention;
Processes that can be quantified in terms of measurable savings, be those related to greater accuracy, faster response times, lower cost base, etc.;
High volume / high frequency processes, which often provide a faster ROI.
3. Focus on collaboration
Implementing RPA is conducive to optimal (i.e., fastest, most efficient) results if performed as teamwork, and not when handled in silos. Draw on all available resources, across the departments that will be affected by the new technology.
The more specific recommendation refers to not leaving implementation exclusively on the shoulders of the IT team, despite the fact that they will be the ones to manage the software robots. It is highly important that you include the end-users in the implementation journey, since they are the ones with proficient knowledge about the actual processes that you consider automating.
In the planning phase, extensive feedback from the part of those affected by the digital change is very useful, because it may pinpoint to what might be better done differently. You may consider the organisation of focus groups as an efficient method for gathering people’s opinions on the topic.
4. Provide sufficient training for all those involved in the project
The enticing benefits of RPA are contingent upon offering structured guidance to everybody that is even remotely connected with the automation project, at all levels, from senior managers to secretaries.
This is so because digitalisation has ramified and deep effects on the whole business - there is a reason why robotic process automation is categorised as ‘disruptive technology’, right? Consequently, do not miss any opportunity to explain to your employees what your automation project is being used for, identify where the software robots will assist them in their day-to-day responsibilities and how this assistance forges a pathway towards higher value.
The recommended way to go is to form, in the first place, a team of trainers, and start training them. Afterwards they will be able to spread the news efficiently to the rest of the staff. Efficiency here means clear knowledge about what automation can and cannot do, respectively, which fosters maintenance of expectations at a realistic level.
5. Establish a core team
You could view this as the precursory of the RPA Centre of Excellence, which could be organised after launching the system to ensure a coherent longer-term plan. The idea behind this suggestion is that it is crucial from the very beginning for automated processes to remain compatible with all the other procedures of your business.
Someone with a ‘bird’s eye view’ over all the relevant aspects facilitates efficient implementation on a larger scale. The core team is also needed to decide the timeline of automation along the lines of ‘what to automate, when, what for’.
Do not hesitate to include in the team people from outside your company. External consulting might bring a more objective understanding of the situation, and this objectivity will be very valuable later on, especially when you are dealing with a large, ambitious project.
6. Make sure that you create a test plan and a fall back plan
It is best if you prepare for your automation journey with different environments where the build can be developed and tested, before getting the approval for deployment, and moving on to Production. Keep in mind that the Test/Development environments should provide enough recent test data. Last but not least, be prepared with a plan B in case there is a need for re-work after deployment to Production.
Kofax sums up some of the most relevant facts about RPA: 22% of employees’ time is wasted on rule-based, routine, monotonous tasks. Employees spend over a third of their working days trying to locate and consolidate data spread over multiple systems.
Robotic process automation (RPA) can make a significant contribution to turning time-wasting activities into effective use of time for higher-value jobs, leading to improved job satisfaction for employees, and to higher productivity for the whole company.
Also on the positive side, the IT Robotic Automation Market is expected to be worth more than $11 million by 2026. Consequently, what we recommended as best practices for implementing robotic process automation are likely to be conducive to a substantial competitive advantage for your company, well-aligned with cutting-edge technology.