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.