Make Sure IT Is Involved from the Start
There often is tension between what IT resources a company’s lines of business need to operate most effectively and the allocation of said resources. While the overarching mandates are to improve service and reduce costs, the resources and priorities of the two groups often are misaligned, constraining business growth and performance. Many RPA implementations emanate from business operations teams, leaving IT on the sidelines in favor of speed and creating shadow RPA projects outside of IT’s oversight. This is a mistake. The most successful, scalable deployments of RPA are implemented in full collaboration with IT leadership.
IT Must Demonstrate its Willingness to Collaborate
It also is important for IT and the business teams to work on the same page. IT must recognize the urgent need for RPA in the business in terms of mandates to improve efficiencies, improve customer satisfaction and other drivers and offer appropriate levels of support and partnership to avoid shadow deployments. Collaborating and agreeing on priority deployments upfront will alleviate alignment issues later.
Begin with an Automation Strategy that Sets Direction
One way to align priorities for the business is to work together on setting and aligning expectations with a common vision. Beginning this process with a documented automation strategy is important. What is the target state of RPA within the operations team? What does the roadmap look like? Establish executive sponsorship upfront, agree to the scale of investment and quantify the expected benefits of that investment so it can be measured. Also consider including a proof of concept or pilot project that supports the defined strategy and vision.
Identify Ideal Process Candidates for Automation
For most businesses, the best candidates for automation often are back-office processes wherein the goal is to provide faster, easier service to customers—such as activating a new SIM card in five minutes rather than 24 hours. These processes are mundane and require entering repetitive data into multiple systems that don’t talk to each another. The goal is not to reduce jobs, but to minimize mundane tasks so people can focus on more value-added and fulfilling work.
Don’t Stop with Quick Tactical Wins
You’ve likely identified a large number of existing processes that can be improved with automation. You can move to automate those quickly, secure wins and demonstrate the success of RPA. But RPA presents an opportunity to drive transformational change in your business. Now is the time to take a step back and allow teams to imagine what is possible. Brainstorm with different groups within the business and allow them to be creative in identifying game-changing and high-impact opportunities to create competitive advantage. What would your business do if time, people and resources were unconstrained?
Choose the Right RPA Technology To Enable Process Automation
As business-line and IT leaders work together to choose the right RPA solution, it’s important to understand the difference between simple desktop scripting, software development kits (SDKs) and enterprise RPA. A desktop automation solution offers a quick solution for a team with short, recorded and replay tactical automations aimed at navigating systems on the desktop. Automated tasks, often manually triggered, are coded or recorded individual keystrokes of a user. They are not connected to enterprise systems and are often deployed without the knowledge of IT. SDKs give IT a better, faster way to deliver on business teams’ expectations, but often don’t involve the operations teams in the process.
Make Security a Key Requirement for Vendor Selection
Business and operations leaders should engage IT early on in the process to ensure proper security, infrastructure and support. Enterprise-class RPA should be deployed in the data center or in the cloud, but never on the desktop. If there is a record button on the desktop, IT can’t monitor or provide security or meet regulatory requirements. Desktop deployments should scream “shadow RPA” to the IT organization. It’s important to ensure RPA software meets required compliance requirements such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA and SOX to provide the necessary security and governance.
Find a Strong Implementation Methodology
There are well-defined methodologies that already have been tried and tested for implementing software robots in the enterprise. Make use of these in your environments: 1) Identify the processes that are best-suited to robotic process automation; 2) Establish the benefits case for robotic process automation, encouraging organization wide recognition and adoption; 3) Implement the required infrastructure, governance and support framework to enable a robotic process automation capability to run efficiently and effectively; 4) Define a best-practice approach for process configuration, which increases the potential for automation and accelerates the development life cycle; and 5) Provide the necessary skills to operational resources via a role-based training and mentoring accreditation program.
Welcome ‘Bots’ to Workforce with Change-Management Best Practices
Both IT and business operations should incorporate change management best practices when introducing software robots as part of the workforce to bring teams along with the vision. Introducing bots into the workforce is new and different, and it requires careful concept selling and implementation. Sharing the company’s vision for how the software robots will add value and improve the business is important, but it’s equally important to help employees understand what’s in it for them: How will these robots help them do their jobs better and more efficiently?
Measure Impact to Demonstrate Value
When helping teams understand the total value of RPA, calculate expected benefits across shareholders, customers and employees. Focusing on one area only will sell the initiative short and miss an opportunity for driving broader enterprise value and scale. Use your RPA software to collect meaningful business intelligence data and real-time operational analytics to report on decisions and actions taken by each software robot. Use this data to see how the organization is performing, where process improvements can be made and what new opportunities for revenue and customer satisfaction can be identified.