2019 is still young, so a 2019 RPA guide can be helpful in guiding your technological choices for the year. According to UiPath’s chief evangelist Guy Kirkwood, 2019 seems to be the year of digital automation expansion into the mainstream, with the public sector predicted to witness the most pronounced RPA growth. Most business leaders are aware by now of the benefits that can be obtained by using robotic process automation for the repetitive, dull tasks that pose a high risk for employees’ burnout. However, by ‘expansion into the mainstream’ we refer not only to the growing number of companies that use it, but we also wish to emphasise the fact that RPA is no longer the privilege of large enterprises. Multi-national corporations, as well as small and medium businesses that wish to enhance their market competitivity, must be aware of the ways to leverage the potential of state-of-the-art technology.
This normative claim is backed by the results of a recent OnePoll survey by Ultima. The numbers show that 65% of UK businesses are planning to automate key parts of their processes, and for 77% of those, the automation of transactional, mundane tasks is the primary impetus for starting the digital automation journey. More than half the respondents who envisage ‘going digital’ aim to pass on these tedious, repetitive tasks to software robots in order to free up their staff to focus on higher value jobs, in accordance with a humanist, person-centred perspective of technological development. This brings to the fore the CIOs’ crucial role in the RPA venture as facilitators of collaboration between various departments of the company (mainly, business and IT).
How to start your digital automation journey (2019 RPA Guide)
With these eloquent bits of statistical data in mind, you should be well prepared to sketch a roadmap of your digital automation journey throughout 2019. We are here to help you do it well.
1. Determine which processes are likely to bring about most benefits when automated.
You might know by now that ‘not all processes are created equal’ when it comes to suitability for initiating digital automation in your company. We suggested here some questions that are worth asking for process selection with most beneficial results. Error-prone, low fault-tolerance, and speed-sensitive tasks are highly profitable to automate because of the significant error and duration reduction effects compared with manual processes. Processes with irregular labour requirements (e.g., sales) also make a good match with the scalability of software robots. Automated high volume processes cutback the costs because of the considerable reduction of manual effort, and should thus be considered for the ‘first wave’ of automation. Things will work best if you involve the business as well as the IT teams in picking the processes to be automated.
2. Make you life easier by selecting easy to automate processes.
The implementation prologue involves a careful examination of your business processes, and running the needed adjustments so that these processes facilitate improvement of customer experience. The message here is rather simple: keep you feet on the ground and do not take automation as a panacea for otherwise dysfunctional processes.
Most automation-friendly processes are simple, rule based, with uniform functioning (i.e., bearing few exceptions and contingencies), mature, and company-specific. More complex processes that, however, promise to yield speedy, significant revenue by automation, should first be broken down. (This also makes processes more understandable, thereby leading to reduced programming and auditing effort.) You can then go on to launch bots that can efficiently carry out the subprocesses in piecemeal fashion.
3. Gain the confidence of people in your organisation.
Do not lose track of the fact that the case for RPA ought to be approved before you can fully focus on implementation and launching details. The mythical fear that “robots will steal our jobs” is the main stumbling block for the extension of RPA use across industry sectors and geographical regions. Therefore building as compelling a case as possible for digital automation is a strategic must. In order to persuade your business executives, for instance, you might share McKinsey’s profitability analysis, according to which within only one year from implementation, RPA can yield between 30 and 200 percent ROI. And you can also go one step further, by suggesting concrete ways to measure the ROI of RPA deployment along the way. Train your employees with respect to what robots can and cannot do; starting with an in-person workshop to ensure an information baseline for everybody is our recommended solution. Don’t waste any effort to make a case that technology is expected to create more jobs than those made redundant. Use survey data to back your claims, e.g., this 2019 Gartner report. Prepare upskilling options for your employees, in the form of tutorials, best practices, or testing guides, which can be delivered in the classroom, or web-based (webinars, demos) similar to UiPath Academy.
4. Choose the optimal robotic process automation tool for your company.
As we argued here, a successful digital automation journey is highly dependent on the wise choice of a technology provider. Along these lines, Digital Transformation & Innovation Leader Vartul Mittal warns us that “the true hurdle is selecting the RPA tool that most closely matches the automation profile of your business.” Conducting an individualised analysis of your company’s needs and of its specific traits, starting with a crystal-clear set of objectives, increases the likelihood of finding the right partner for attaining those goals. At this stage, you might benefit from working together with an experienced consultant, who can help you spot the best fit between the technical features of the software, the implementation costs, and your company’s needs and available funds.
5. Consider establishment of automation governance.
The governance board gathers the executive sponsors of the RPA project, namely business and IT executives, as well as members of all company divisions that will be affected by RPA implementation. The rationale for bringing these people together under executive governance is the need to ensure compliance of automated processes with regulatory controls and robotics laws. A quick look through this Robotics Roadmap for Australia 2018 should provide you with a taste of the unavoidable legislative meanders meant to make space for robots as our new co-workers. Another relevant benefit of RPA governance, which can take the shape of an RPA Centre of Excellence, is that it promises to smoothen the way towards technological integration of RPA with machine learning, cloud-based services, etc. This sounds like the language of 21st century businesses that aim for robust and effective digital transformation, doesn’t it?
6. Be prepared with a backup plan.
It goes without saying that you’ll be doing your best to make this project work. However, many things are beyond your control, which is why it’s wise to plan in advance what to do in case the software bots get stuck. To this end, before you even begin, you should thoroughly assess potential risk sources, and sketch a ‘plan B’ with action choices in case your bots are temporarily out of business.
We are confident that this 6-step roadmap will be your trustworthy ally to avoid the beginner’s mistakes, things like not maintaining the balance between business and IT departments, or lacking a holistic, long-term perspective over the digital automation journey.
Successful RPA implementation depends on wisely integrating business and technological inputs in the project configuration. It’s highly recommendable that you choose an RPA tool that can handle exceptions on both sides, i.e., business and IT. This exception handling capacity fosters the detection and prevention of errors during implementation, and sometimes even their automatic resolution. When automatic resolution doesn’t work, the spotted mismatches can be passed on to qualified human experts, who can manage them before they become real problems. All in all, robust exception handling streamlines the integration of software robots into the core processes of your enterprise, and increases the security of automated processes.