Path of progress in Robotic Process Automation: Three stages to RPA success

This blog post will focus particularly on improving productivity through Robotic Process Automation (RPA). We will look at three development stages that companies and organizations can use to increase their productivity through RPA.

This new technology of business process automation has evolved to the point where it can be utilized extensively at a very low cost compared to traditional ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) integration methods. With software robots getting down to work around the world to eliminate dull, repetitive and routine tasks, it is time to think about how people and organizations could best make use of their digital assistants.

Continuous, rapid change as a driving force for RPA

Why are organizations and companies using more and more time and energy on automation?

Growing business organizations have traditionally utilized ERP systems to produce automated processes. However, the rapid growth of companies has made their earlier ERP investments prematurely outdated, as their ERP technologies have been too stiff and massive to scale according to organizational growth and process changes.

This has resulted in multiple manual process steps (humans transferring data between systems), inconsistencies in data processing (entering the same data separately in several systems) and uneven quality in intermediate process steps and final outcomes. In other words, the agility and capabilities of traditional automation do not meet the pace of development in organizations. RPA is a potential answer to these growing pains!

RPA has the following implications for organizations:

1. Reduced process turnaround times;
2. Higher outcome quality;
3. Scalability and agility;
4. Improved measurability (manual process steps are digitized).

Here are just a few examples of operations that can easily be performed by current software robots:

  • Opening emails and attachment files and saving them or extracting data from them
  • Filling out web forms based on rules
  • Extracting data from several information systems and re-editing data to create dashboard reports
  • Integrating and pruning data and comparing data between different information systems
  • Performing calculations and copying and pasting the result forward
  • Visually identifying a certain character string in a document (pattern recognition) and extracting data on this basis

Means of increasing RPA utilization rate in organizations

Robotic Process Automation offers a variety of ways to increase the degree of automation. For organizations, however, robotics is a new phenomenon and its implementation may arouse suspicion and resistance to change. Therefore, business management should quickly increase knowledge about RPA among management and employees in order to ensure that the potential benefit is realizable.

RPA software, just like any other business software, is used and steered by people. While the degree of automation is being increased in, say, payroll computation and financial administration processes through RPA, robotics should shift towards people’s work and be integrated into it. RPA is based on well-defined processes and logical rules related to them. These allow the robot to work either a) automatically in the background or b) initiated by a human. When changes are made to a process or to the business software used in the process, the robot has to be retrained for its task as well. This training will be a new special skill that companies must be able to obtain.

Three stages on the path of progress in Robotic Process Automation

We have defined three stages for the path of progress in robotics. Each of these contains different requirements for the organization’s ability to develop and learn.

Stage 1

In the first stage, the organization sets out to test and pilot RPA in its processes. In this stage, it is usually a good idea to use a consultant and an expert with special know-how in the field of RPA as well as a vision about how Robotic Process Automation could benefit your company. It is typical to select one function and a few processes as starting points for piloting. With the help of the consultant, the benefits of RPA can be estimated quickly and an action plan can be prepared for the development of RPA automation.

The key is to increase your organization’s understanding of RPA and gather experiences.

Stage 2

In the second stage, the organization expands the utilization of RPA to several functions and processes. The consultant can help to define complex sets of rules and assume part of the workload in training the robots. In this stage, the key is to share the information and know-how obtained in the pilot with the organization and to increase internal RPA capabilities in a determined manner.

Stage 3

In the third stage, RPA has become the standard procedure for increasing the organization’s productivity, and it is managed through a centralized center of excellence or function-specific RPA teams. The organization possesses plenty of internal intellectual and knowledge capital on robotics and is able to maintain and develop these self-sufficiently. The key is to standardize RPA and to measure and manage competence and capabilities.

Source: Arcusys-Path of progress in Robotic Process Automation: Three stages to RPA success

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10 Success Factors for Deploying Software Robots in the Enterprise

The implementation of software robotics and smart technologies frees a workforce from routine tasks while improving efficiencies, data accuracy and compliance.

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.

 

Source: eweek.com-10 Success Factors for Deploying Software Robots in the Enterprise

RPA: Mapping out a plan for enterprise automation

Robotic process automation technology has the potential to make business processes more efficient, boost productivity and save lots of money by enabling “virtual workers” to take on tedious tasks — without the odious work typical of big enterprise-level applications. But this type of enterprise automation is an emerging technology, tools are still taking shape, and matching robotic process automation (RPA) to the right process is “still an art form,” says Forrester analyst Craig Le Clair.

Because the technology is so new, he says, businesses risk implementing systems without the safety net that underlies mature technology.

Read on for advice around establishing IT’s role in RPA projects and hear from two execs who have implemented RPA. Elsewhere in this issue, we examine how Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority upgraded its obsolete on-premises infrastructure. And Nationwide Mutual Insurance’s Guru Vasudeva explains his IT department’s lean management system.

Download: Here comes the bots

Source: Techtarget-RPA: Mapping out a plan for enterprise automation

Blue Prism Robotic workforces could boost our working world

Alastair Bathgate, Group CEO at Blue Prism has provided a blog on ‘Friend not Foe: Robotic workforces could boost – not break – our working world’

Pressure is mounting on us, wherever we work to outperform peers, fend off threats from new challengers and remain competitive. That’s modern life – but each of us is only human. We can’t do everything at once. Some things we just don’t want to do, maybe even ought not to do. In any event, every now and then something’s got to give.

In the past 20 years, Business Process Outsourcing cast itself as the saviour of productivity – sometimes even of corporate sanity. Companies large and small took a long hard look at themselves, at the places where they added value (and where they leaked it) and looked to outside talent to work harder, smarter, faster.

Today, that outside talent alone isn’t enough. The future of work is changing at a faster pace than any of us have ever known. Virtually every company on earth is now looking at ‘what’s next’ – and increasingly that’s software robots.

Robots attract a great deal of emotion. We imagine sci-fi figures from TV and film. We fear replacement, not emancipation, from machines much better at work than we are. But, just like the fears that accompanied BPO in its infancy, the truth and potential around software robotics is far more exciting than this imagery allows.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the game-changer. We’ve all seen industrial robots make waves in manufacturing, deliver efficiency in supply chains and improve product quality. We are now seeing software robots do the same elsewhere.

Software robots put process where process belongs, inside smart systems. They free each of us up to apply our human brains to tasks far more valuable. Let’s face it: traditional IT systems can often creak under the simplest of pressures. There are gaps, flaws, missing links – and all too often human intervention isn’t the best way to mitigate for those failings.

Smart software robots are far better suited to the task. Rather than have employees stretch time and resource to marginally improve an already broken system, what if you could simply add extra robotic capacity to do all that for you? Robots that feed on process, scalability and compliance.

But that’s just the beginning. Imagine a robotic ecosystem where users can leverage best-of-breed solutions for AI, cognitive and cloud technology. Consider the benefits to an a la carte menu of services and capabilities that would let you free up the creativity of people to do more valuable tasks: seek out that new market, revitalize sales, spot new opportunity and double output with virtually zero cost.

Doesn’t this sound like good news for business, not bad? Couldn’t it be good news for productivity, for people and for process? We think so. Increasingly the biggest players in business think so too. Perhaps it’s time we put sci-fi to one side and gave robotics a fresh look…?

Source: Techuk-Robotic workforces could boost our working world

The Beauty of Standardization

The principle that technology performs technology jobs and humans perform human jobs is a simple one. Virtual and human workers each have their own strengths that should be employed and valued. The difficulty lies in determining the best fit for each role and responsibility, especially when a lack of standardization is involved.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is large part of future-of-work technology. To use RPA optimally, standardization is required. The fewer steps an automated solution performs, the quicker it will run. Additionally, if a single set of instructions exists, a single solution can be built. If highly variable instances with many different requirements exist, multiple solutions must be designed and built.

What is a Standardized File?

Most clients understand that having structured data (e.g., a field-based file) that uses a good data type (text and numbers) is vital for RPA. But there’s a common misconception that having the same data on a page, regardless of position or format, is equivalent to standardization. To be fully standardized, the data must appear in exactly the same cell, field or position in every instance.

The same goes for the processes. It isn’t enough that certain actions take place. Every instance of each action must be performed in exactly the same way, in the same order, using the same rules.

What Are the Benefits of Standardization?

The following are some benefits of process standardization.

  • Simple, well-defined standard operating procedures (SOPs). When you’re using highly standardized processes, you can write simple and well-defined SOPs that exclude futile work and bad practices. Employees are less likely to develop individual workarounds. Having clear SOPs is also useful for compliance.
  • Ease of training new employees. Clear and simple rules allow quick and structured training for new employees. They also mean that when associates have learned how to interact with and process one client, they can work with all clients. This benefit is especially useful when work must be transferred from one employee to another for reasons such as annual leave or attrition.
  • Ease of adding new clients. You can take on new clients with ease, as all new clients undergo the same process. In closing the sale, clients will be aware of exactly what input they must deliver and the business can be transparent with them from the start.
  • Increased scope for RPA configuration. Any simplification and process re-engineering that occurs before RPA development will make the deployment faster (meaning the benefits will accrue sooner). The RPA solution won’t need reconfiguration for new clients, and it’s more adaptable for future process developments.

How Can Standardized Processes Help Meet Individual Client Needs?

It’s important to ensure clients feel well served and unique, and some varying requirements between clients will be inevitable. Almost all processes, however, provide opportunities for standardization. For example, legislative parts of processes tend to be common across all clients. If they are standardized and then deemed suitable for RPA, associates will have more time to spend meeting the bespoke requirements of your clients.

For example, in one of Symphony’s completed future-of-work Assessments, a process involved receiving fresh information from the customer each month. The employees would create Excel templates for each customer, but only about 30 percent of the customers submitted their details using the template. Other data arrived in a modified version of the template; a customer-created Excel file; a Word, PDF or alternate application file; or a free-form email that attached a mixture of the above. Not only was the associates’ effort wasted in creating the template, but dealing with the mixed-data input was a difficult and time-consuming task. By analyzing the business case they discovered that if the clients enforced template usage and increased their standardization levels from 0.3 to 0.6 (over all processes) before implementing RPA, their three-year ROI jumped from 300 percent to over 450 percent.

In conclusion, standardized processes should be the same in every instance. The benefits of having standard processes apply to the workflow, the employees, the clients, RPA development and finances. As such, process re-engineering to increase standardization is critical for an organization’s journey into the future of work.

Source: Symphomy-The Beauty of Standardization

‘Proof of value’ – not proof of concept

U.S. companies eager to implement robotic process automation — software that automates how humans interact with software — are often fixated on seeing a proof of concept, said RPA technology expert David Brain. And that’s not good.

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“I feel bad going to clients and proving what’s been proven several times over,” Brain said. People will automate a simple process that might require one employee and half a spreadsheet and declare success.

 

“‘Yes, we’ve proved the concept!’ But all they’ve proved is that the technology works. What they haven’t proved is whether there is a business case for automation and will it deliver the scale of improvements the company wants to achieve,” he said. Rather than a POC, companies should insist on POV — proof of value — before embarking on RPA. “That’s the bigger challenge.”

Brain is co-founder and COO of Symphony Ventures Ltd., a consulting, implementation and managed services firm specializing in what the firm dubs “future of work technologies”– RPA technology among them. Founded three years ago, the firm has worked on RPA projects across a broad range of industries and geographies. “We’ve done deployments in five continents so far,” he said.

All work is local

The firm’s projects have also covered a diverse set of business processes. That’s because RPA is not a “process-specific solution,” Brain stressed, but rather the automation of rules-based, manual work not covered by a company’s process-specific technology systems. And that work necessarily varies from company to company.

“You can have five organizations and they each could be running the same ERP system, but the way in which these systems are configured depends on the particular company’s rules and that means there is different work that falls out manually,” Brain said.

At some companies, Symphony experts are called upon to automate the current manual process, using RPA technology to automate the work the same way employees do it. Other companies will want help on optimizing the process first before automating it.

“It really depends on what is driving the business decision,” Brain said. The nature of the work Symphony automates is always rules-based, but those rules can be extremely complex. (The firm has done projects in which it’s taken several months to capture and learn the processes that are eventually automated.)

Proof of value: Five steps

But, whether the RPA work is of the “lift-automate-shift” or “lift-shift-automate” variety, or involves simple or complex rules, companies need to follow certain steps in order to get a “proof of value.” Here is a synopsis of Brain’s five steps for deploying RPA technology

1.Scope the transformation

“RPA is a transformational tool, not a desktop macro builder. Look for pain points within the organization and identify what needs to change. This isn’t just a cost play; rather, it has to do with mitigating the challenges of growing in a linear fashion by increasing the number of full-time employees. For some, it is about improving speed and quality to differentiate in the market. Others are attracted by the insight and analytics that come from consolidating all transactional data into one database for real-time visibility.”

2.Capture, map, measure

“The next step is to analyze the business and map processes at keystroke level. To do so, use experts in RPA, as it is important to drill into the areas where configuration will be complex. Standard operating procedures, training materials and system manuals will be great inputs, but not enough by themselves. Have the RPA experts sit with the process experts to map what really happens; afterwards, it will be easier to plot costs and service levels to the processes as a baseline.”

3.Analyze and design

“With the scope defined and mapped, identify processes and parts of processes most suitable for automation. Then calculate the time and cost to implement these, as well as the benefits of doing so. Design a target operating model (TOM), which is a graphical depiction of the business structure and processes affected by the RPA implementation; it should detail everything from stakeholders to the applications/systems used by the automation. It’s important to map not just the RPA portions but also the scope of the business to determine how to redeploy resources to drive greater business value.”

4.Plan and forecast the journey

“Consider all that is involved in the transformation and don’t underestimate the time required for change management and benefits realization. Create the implementation plan and financial model by looking at the savings and the cost avoidance that this transformation will bring over an estimated three years. Consider the cost of not only implementing RPA but maintaining the solution and updating it to take on additional tasks as needed.”

5.Gain sponsorship

“Use the business case, TOM and strategy to get support for prioritizing this transformation. The business case will justify that, usually predicting ROIs of 300% or more.”

 

Source: searchcio.techtarget.com-‘Proof of value’ – not proof of concept

How to supercharge robotic process automation

Enterprises across industries have deployed RPA with cognitive technologies to automate routine business processes such as fulfilling purchase orders. 

Robotic process automation (RPA), technology that lets software robots replicate the actions of human workers for routine tasks such as data entry, is altering the way organizations handle many of their key business and IT processes.

Advances in automation and robotics are putting a lot of jobs at risk. Here are ten jobs first in line for the robot takeover.

 

When RPA is used in conjunction with cognitive technologies, its capabilities can be significantly expanded.

“The integration of cognitive technologies with RPA makes it possible to extend automation to processes that require perception or judgment,” said David Schatsky, managing director at consulting firm Deloitte.

“With the addition of natural language processing, chatbot technology, speech recognition, and computer vision technology, for instance, bots can extract and structure information from speech audio, text, or images and pass that structured information to the next step of the process,” Schatsky said.

In another example Schatsky cited, machine learning can identify patterns and make predictions about process outcomes, helping RPA prioritize actions. “Cognitive RPA has the potential to go beyond basic automation to deliver business outcomes such as greater customer satisfaction, lower churn, and increased revenues,” he said.

In a report Schatsky authored in 2016, called “Robotic Process Automation: A Path to the Cognitive Enterprise,” he noted that enterprises are beginning to employ RPA together with cognitive technologies such as speech recognition, natural language processing, and machine learning to automate perceptual and judgment-based tasks once reserved for humans.

The integration of cognitive technologies and RPA is extending automation to new areas and can help companies become more efficient and agile as they move down the path of becoming fully digital businesses, the report said.

Processes that require human judgment within complex scenarios, such as complex claims processing, can’t be automated through RPA alone, the report noted. It cited one RPA vendor as saying even its most mature clients automate at most 50 percent of back-office processes, and the majority of clients automate far fewer.

Cognitive RPA has the potential to go beyond basic automation to provide business outcomes such as enhanced customer satisfaction, lower churn, and increased revenues, the report said.

The Deloitte report provided an example of a leading global bank that used cognitive RPA to automate 57 percent of its payments work in the highly regulated area of foreign trade finance.

The challenges of automating this process end-to-end included: the need to work with highly unstructured data such as invoices, bills, declarations, certificates, and letters; a high daily volume of transactions that needed same-day processing; and the need to interface with multiple core systems. The solution combined traditional RPA techniques with several cognitive technologies to automate most steps in the process.

Leading RPA vendors are incorporating cognitive technologies into their offerings, and large RPA providers are partnering with vendors of cognitive technologies. For example, Blue Prism and IBM Watson have partnered to bring cognitive capabilities to customers.

Enterprises across industries such as banking, insurance, and transportation have deployed RPA with cognitive technologies to automate routine business processes such as fulfilling purchase orders and new hire on-boarding, the report said.

Source: ZDNet-How to supercharge robotic process automation

Ten levers of successful RPA implementation

Lot has been talked about RPA as a concept, benefits and trends. RPA has become so much of a commonplace now, that any business leader from support function organization not working on it, is seen as someone who missed the bus.

RPA may sound very simple and look enticing as a quick bang for the buck initiative, but when it comes to putting BOTs in production, it requires well-orchestrated execution and strong leadership to derive the benefits out of it. While still majority of the organizations are in early adoption stages with POCs and Pilots, it is imperative to understand the on-ground challenges and essential levers to adopt to put BOTs into production.

From my point of view and experience, I have listed down top 10 levers that need to be considered to succeed in RPA implementation journey.

1. Start with a Proof of Concept: Most of business leaders now understand RPA and seem to accept it as viable technology however, they are not convinced enough to try it out in their process. Showcasing RPA through a quick working BOT POC video, triggers the enthusiasm and it is essential for getting the initial buy-in from the process owners. For POC, choose an activity which everyone in the organization understands, configure automation and screen record the BOT performing the activity as POC video. Showcasing this POC video and its impact helps in evangelizing the concept of RPA among the process owners and get them share the vision of RPA. Try implementing the POCs through multiple RPA tools, which also gives opportunity to evaluate and select the right tool that fits well with your organization’s applications landscape.

2. Identify & on-board evangelizers : RPA challenges the way in which operations team have been performing the tasks, leaders are being measured and the way processes are engineered. RPA is a transformational journey and organizations require strong leadership will, long term sponsorship and core committee to succeed in this journey. It is imperative to identify first set of functional / operational leaders who are excited about RPA , supporters of change, and on-board them into core operational committee. Initial few production live implementations should be implemented in their processes since there will be strong will and acceptance from the business. Core team should be from the organization itself and not from the outsourcing service providers – since the objective of the RPA conflicts with their interest. Organization can take help from tool agnostic independent advisory firms to shape this journey.

3. Choose processes wisely : Success of RPA projects is as good as selecting the right candidates / processes for implementation. Almost 60% of RPA projects fail or benefits does not meet the cost of implementation, owing to wrong process selection. Many a times, business leaders with limited practical RPA knowledge and heavy prejudice, choose wrong processes and end up wasting significant effort in force-fitting RPA in that process. By seeing this result, other business leaders lose trust on RPA and misconception starts spreading within organization. Choosing first set of processes is very critical, as the success of this implementation would lay precedent for adoption of RPA across other processes in organization. Process selection has to be done only after thoroughly understanding the possibilities, and very importantly limitations of RPA.

The magic lies in having robust process selection and prioritization framework. We use set of criteria under the heads of ‘Ease of implementation’ and ‘Benefits derived’ and apply quantitative rating methodology across processes to assess its RPA suitability, and prioritize them for RPA implementation

Examples of wrong processes for RPA

  • Process that involves performing activities on applications that undergo frequent changes / upgrades – not suitable for RPA as it would require re-configuration every time the application changes
  • Process that depend on regulatory changes – may not be suitable for RPA, if the regulation changes result in activity changes– this would result in re-configuration every time the activity changes
  • Process that have low volume / run few times e.g once in a quarter or annum – not suitable for RPA as it would not yield significant man-hours saving

Always perform a detailed feasibility assessment to identify and assess the scale of automatability of activities within process and baseline manual time spent on them. Choose activities that are rule based, consistent and are of high volume for RPA implementation.

4. Set the expectations low: There is a lot of hype around RPA and often times, the benefits estimated in business case are theoretical and high compared to what RPA can achieve on ground. Some business leaders come with a notion that BOTs would take over the entire process and completely replace all the human FTEs in the process, but in reality BOTs would be capable to perform only some of the activities within a process and human FTEs would need perform the rest of the activities alongside BOTs. Implementing BOTs and automating activities does not release FTEs form day 1, but gradually over a period of time because of following reasons

  • Even after robust user acceptance testing on functional and non-functional requirements, we have seen not more than 70% of the transactions pass through BOTs immediately after production go-live. This is owing to business and technical exceptions which reduces gradually through training business users in BOT usage
  • Not all the manual time spent that were earlier on automated activities are saved. Human FTEs would need to spend time on providing inputs (triggers and data) to BOTs, which was not the case pre-automation. So the net benefit will always be lesser than the time spent on automated activities.
  • Many a times, automated activities are spread out across the process and human intervention are interspersed within the automated activities. To realize benefits of FTE savings, the activities within the process need to be re-sequence so that the automated activities are grouped together

Hence, it is advisable to factor in post-production stabilization period and set the expectation low on the benefits derived out of automation. Having said this, it is always good to set the expectations low and beating it in unproven territory.

5. Have complementing tools – RPA tool need not be the only tool of choice to automate all the activities. Consider having a set of complementary tools or point solutions ready with the help of internal IT / tool team and while performing automation feasibility assessment, select the right tools based on the nature of the activity. For e.g.: Consider OCR tools for extracting data from raw files, SaaS based ETL tools for data transformation, excel macro for data computation / formatting etc. RPA being UI based tool, can work well with other tools and play orchestrator roles tool of stitching together automation of other tools. This way the scope of automation is not limited to only what RPA tool can do.

6. Make IT integral part of the Journey: RPA is definitely a business led program, but not keeping IT involved from the beginning of journey will lead to disappointments. Unlike other IT implementations which takes months and years, RPA takes weeks to go-live. Hence, IT should also be prepared and nimble enough to setup environment & provision BOTs infra in short notice. IT need to ensure a robust architecture in place, that would allow fungilibility of BOTs between processes and ability to scale up / down number of BOTs to manage peaks & turfs in the volume of transactions. In some organizations, we have seen IT team bringing in information security issues and protocols just before the production go-live. Hence it is important to keep the IT team apprised enough of the processes to be automated and seek sign off before making investment in configuration.

7. Have robust solutioning focus: In any successful implementations, not more than 30% of the time is spent on configuration of BOTs in RPA tool. Significant effort need to spent in understanding the processing activities at keystroke level, its variations, trigger points and non-functional requirements like work volume variations, SLA commitment . Based on this, robust ‘To-Be‘ state of the processes need to be designed bi-furcating BOT and Human activities with clear exception handling mechanism. The solution design gets refined through the implementation with constant feedback form the process team members.

What should a typical solution design contain?

  • Logics of how BOTs should be configured and take decisions during the processing
  • Human BOT interaction/ handoffs : How would data pass from Human to BOT and vice versa in terms of variables and exceptions
  • BOT estimation & scheduling: How many BOTs and how should it be scheduled to handle the work volume and meet the SLA commitment of the process
  • BOT trigger points: What event / action should qualify BOT to start the activity
  • Exception handling mechanism: Scenarios qualify to be exception and how should BOTs handle the exceptions
  • Activity standardization pre-requisite: Activities which are automatable but not standardized need to be identified and standardized before configuration, so as to make the configuration as reusable as possible

8. Follow quick win delivery methodology: RPA implementations are faster and its chances of success raises if the configuration is broken into several small incremental configuration and follow agile methodology. Following a waterfall delivery methodology and covering all the requirements at once before configuration is not possible as most of the variations, exceptions reside in the memory of process associates and are not documented well. Configuration of BOT has to be first done for ‘happy-path’ scenario (scenario with no exceptions or variations throughout), test it and incrementally add variations and exception handling with immediate testing at each step. It is imperative to have the process team members sit alongside RPA configuration team for frequent feedback and provide input on incremental configuration.

9. Track and reap benefits continuously: Ultimate benefits of RPA is derived only when manhours effort saved through automation result in reduction of FTEs. It is important to have a baseline of time effort spent on the manual activities to track the post automation benefits. Business process team should take the ownership of tracking benefit through quantifiable framework based on BOT run logs. When the BOT run process reaches stabilization and when manhours saving are realized, business team should look at redeploying / reskilling the manpower. Till the estimated benefits are realized, have a dashboard published regularly to bring in accountability and transparency in the success of the program. Some of the areas in which the measurements can be done are:

  • BOT performance: Utilization of allocated BOTs, Average handling time of BOT per Transactions, Number of technical (RPA tool related) exceptions per 100 transaction, % of transactions adhering to SLA commitment, % of transactions adhering to quality commitment
  • Manual time saved: Number of manual runs Vs BOT runs, Time saved through BOT, Number of business exceptions

10. Plan for sustainability: Once the first set of implementations have gone-live and the methodologies are tried, tested and finalized – establish a CoE to industrialize these methodologies. Design operating model, comprehensive toolkit across the implementation phases, define governance and performance tracking mechanism. Parallely, build support mechanism team to provide ongoing support to the existing automation and take care of re-configuration to accommodate process / application change. It is said that, it takes 21 days of sustained effort to imbibe a new habit, but we have seen it takes much more effort and strong leadership to imbibe the new habit of using BOTs instead of going back to manual processing. Including BOT usage as part of scorecard metric for operations team helps in bringing the cultural shift and imbibe the habit of using BOT. Organizations should start thinking about CoE very early on in the journey when selecting pilot processes for implementation, as it may take anywhere before 4 to 6 months to have fully functional CoE in place.

Source: Linkedin-Ten levers of successful RPA implementation

Why A Digital Workforce Requires a New Mindset

Whether your customers are internal or external, you will be delivering ‘outcomes’ to them. However, your business and clients evolve. Rather than simply constructing a ‘new way’ to deliver the same outcomes, it is essential that they are re-assessed to fully understand what they need to be. Essentially, delivering an outcome that customers have always had, even if in an improved way, is not as good as delivering what they actually want and need.

For example, a cruise liner might take you from Southampton to New York in 7 days, but while this is the same perceived outcome as an airline delivering you to the same destination in 6 hours, do we truly believe this is the same outcome? Furthermore, it is critical to be aware that customers’ needs will change over time, so it is essential to keep up to date with their current state of mind and expectations.

Determine the Root Cause of The Problem

Many problems are usually identifiable, particularly when processes are well-known and understood. What is often less clear is the cause, or indeed the resolution. Consider the problem “too many errors are made ” or “customers find the turnaround too slow”. These are the symptoms of the problem; only by investigating the process, hierarchy, complexity of rules and clients’ needs can the root cause be properly identified and resolved.

As businesses grow they become complicated by the multitude of stakeholders, processes and, of course, beloved systems. This combination ends up driving how your operators work and constrains your business. When looking for process improvements, it is common to focus on how to work within the limitations we are ‘bound by’ rather than thinking through the outcomes that are required. Focusing on and addressing the root cause of the problem will allow you to build processes from the foundation up rather than from the symptom down. Be aware, there will be many limiting factors placed in your way, so always be mindful of the outcome you truly seek.

Cut Futile and Frustrating Work

With the mentality of building upwards, you consider first only what is necessary, then the things that add benefit. Anything outside this should be cut. There is no point in having a smooth-running process that adds no real worth to the business.

Cutting futile work is vital to the Future of Work mindset. As technology advances and businesses become more automated, customers will rightfully expect faster results with minimum fuss. Futile work takes up valuable resources (both human and virtual) and slows down cycle time. It also makes things unnecessarily complicated, thus providing more room for error and further exceptions for your team to handle. Streamlined businesses (no matter how complex) have flexibility and stability that allow you to develop with the changing technological landscape and changing client demands.

An important consideration is that while technology appears to give us ‘quick fixes’, it is important to avoid is configuring automation for unnecessary or overly complicated work. REMEMBER: Robots are not the answer to process problems; they are amplifiers, able to perform processes with great speed, accuracy, and agility if given the means to do so. Any unnecessary or overly complex work reduces their efficiency and potentially the benefits to your business.

Align Processes and Goals With Client Demand

As you re-structure your processes, you should absolutely seize the opportunity to do so with your client goals as well as your own objectives. Only with this 360˚ view can you determine which tasks are necessary and whether they add value to your overall business. The idea is to get the maximum alignment possible between processes, goals and demands so that they can be managed within your core business structure. Any outliers are exceptions and should be minimised to improve the fluidity and efficiency of the end-to-end process. This is shown in the diagram below:

A great example of this comes from one of our largest global clients. They wanted to introduce RPA to many of their processes, so began the initiative under a process improvement team. This meant they could look holistically at global processes, streamline systems and implement technology to align with their corporate goals and demands. It is imperative to note that they utilised (dare I say ‘leveraged’?) Future of Work technology, rather than being driven by it. RPA can absolutely assist in removing the requirement for humans to perform mundane work, but without looking at the end-to-end process, you cannot properly identify process steps that can be completely accelerated or in many instances removed completely.

Example: Is the Best Customer Service, No Customer Service?

Often seen as a beacon for challenging traditional customer service models, Amazon has revolutionized the experience of shopping online. It may be fair to suggest that it has transformed the expectations of shopping in its entirety. The ability to make an instant purchase even if delivery comes later satisfies the human need to consume and when coupled with the fact that you can browse and buy from your own home, all without having to fight trains, traffic, and parking restrictions. Furthermore, the marketplace is extended way beyond your local high-street to a global distribution network.

It really exemplifies the Martini (another brand creator) concept: anytime, anyplace, anywhere. No matter where consumers are globally, so long as they benefit from the new utility: Wi-Fi, they can be shopping. With the explosion of online payments/billing to support the marketplace, customers find shopping online quick, intuitive and satisfying. The staple preserve of physical shops has been ‘what if something goes wrong? Customers are understandably concerned that their garments won’t fit, that they won’t be allowed a refund, that their product will be faulty. The strongest e-commerce companies trust their customers first (complex algorithms tell them that most customers are honest and rapidly weed out the fraudulent ones). All of this processing and calculation is managed in the digital cloud.

While any retailers make returns onerous, returning a product through Amazon is as smooth and intuitive as purchasing. The returns process has been carefully engineered with customer experience (outcome) at its heart. All returns are managed within the Returns Support Center, and are tailored to the customer’s method of purchase and immediate needs. It is entirely fuss-free and easy. When customers have questions, the process moves into the exception path. Immediately, staff are available and ready to support, thus driving up customer and, in fact, employee experience.

Summary

There are great examples of leveraging automation technology to perform the work to which it is best suited: high volume, rules based and transactional. Work that does not fit that profile is deemed high value, judgemental work and should be where we focus our human workforce. Humans can intervene where rules do not exist or customers do not accept the rules. With the correct application of strong process rules and governance, human and virtual employees can work together in a seamless and fluid process in which the client is king! At Symphony, we believe this is the key to a successful future of work. Determining the root of the problem, cutting futile and frustrating work and aligning business processes and goals with client demand must be the first steps in a business transformation. The solution to this transformation is the combination of people, processes and technology, because only upon a foundation of well-defined and streamlined processes can a robotic solution excel.

Source: Symphony-Why A Digital Workforce Requires a New Mindset