There are several ways to approach Robotic Process Automation or RPA implementation. Organizations that are looking for a suitable RPA tool or an implementation partner should think ahead and consider all the potential challenges that they may encounter during their RPA journey.
Before implementing RPA though, there are key aspects that must be taken into account. RPA implementation requires time, skills, and money which is why it is not practical to automate every process in a business operation.
The criteria for automation involve careful evaluation of the tasks in question and this is where process assessment comes into play at the very beginning of an RPA implementation program.
Typically, organizations focus on easily achievable targets like standardized processes, repetitive tasks, and procedures that involve very low manual intervention. The more complex RPA integrations are taken on after the easier processes are automated successfully.
Having a framework that aligns with the business and strategic objectives helps ascertain that the right processes are chosen for automation and builds a suitable roadmap. The processes suitable for RPA implementation are determined by key factors that the framework outlines:
- Suitability – It is essential to know the degree of automation that is feasible for a particular process. This can be determined by the volume of transactions, system dependencies and constraints, degree of digitization, and scalability requirement.
- Value – RPA implementation is also highly determined by the financial and strategic value that it will add. Factors, such as labor intensity, repetitiveness, strategic relevance, etc. play an important role in determining the value.
- Risk – Potential risks in system stability, regulatory requirements, and customer experience must be considered.
These key factors are a critical step not to be missed as it can be determined not all processes are suited for automation. Only a process that is well-structured, simple to define, and easy to mimic can be automated such as:
- Repetitive: Automation-infused repetitive tasks accelerate the execution process thereby increasing productivity and efficiency. Therefore, any repetitive process is a good candidate for automation. It is not worth investing the time and effort to automate something that needs to be done only once and can be achieved manually.
- Rule-based: An RPA bot can automate a process more easily when it does not undergo multiple changes at every iteration. It can be defined by a set of rules that the bot can follow.
- Structured: A structured and well-defined process is easier to automate as decision-making is simply based on the defined rules and structured workflow. Complex thoughts make execution with RPA more difficult.
RPA vendor selection
After the RPA framework has been established and the process for automation has been validated, the next step in implementation is to carefully evaluate and select a vendor. Not all vendors are capable of meeting a business’s unique needs, so it is critical to select the one that aligns the most with the business requirements.
Blindly choosing a vendor or an RPA tool that is used by competitors or choosing an existing technology partner without evaluation is not recommended.
Businesses can opt for a single vendor or a combination of different tools. The tools are selected based on their strengths, applicability, and business requirements.
Be cognizant of these pitfalls to avoid during the RPA vendor selection phase:
- Scalability Issues – RPA is known for its easy and rapid scalability. Building a bot is less expensive than employing a human being. However, the cost and time invested towards building additional bots should be taken into consideration while selecting RPA vendors.
- Security Issues – System hacks and data breach issues can be a huge concern when implementing RPA. Any RPA tool selected must be based on data and system integrity.
- Other Parameters – Obsolete technology, lack of resources, compatibility issues, IT-intrusive tools, lack of vendor credibility, instability, etc. are other parameters to look out for.
Selecting an RPA implementation approach
After choosing the process for automation and the right vendor for the job, an approach for implementation must be planned. This can include:
- A central technology team is employed to drive the automation. Or, the implementation can also be done independently by the respective business functions.
- The framework and the guiding principles are defined by the central team. The business units then drive the automation.
- Undertake implementation internally as the tools are easy to use.
- An implementation partner with experience, technical competence, and process and domain expertise can help ensure that the automation is successful.
- Accountability and metrics that measure the success of implementation must be well-defined.
During RPA implementation, an adequate governance mechanism must be in place to:
- Monitor bots
- Ascertain performance accuracy of the tasks
- Ensure adaptability to process changes
- Ensure reliability of systems
A central governing body should be set up to validate and approve any system changes during process automation. The approval for changes in the bot logic or the process has to come from the IT and operations team followed by the governing body.
The RPA tool chosen by an organization should be able to generate an audit trail in detail. It should be able to highlight any changes or decisions made by the bot.
The design of the bots and the storage of the output data should be done in a manner that allows the availability of the required regulatory compliances in the desired format.
RPA steering committee
There should also be an RPA steering committee in place to offer guidance and promote RPA adoption within the organization. Apart from providing oversight and governance, the committee needs to have a solid understanding of the organization’s culture and technology. They should determine how RPA will thrive in the organization.
The committee should include members from various teams across the organization:
The roles and responsibilities of each member and the overall function and purpose of the steering committee should be clearly defined.
The committee is there to ensure that all the automation initiatives align with the overall business strategy. It can also play an important role in identifying the visible improvements and helping others realize the potential of RPA technology.
Business continuity and disaster recovery
More often than not, businesses find themselves struggling with RPA implementation. This is mainly because the specific processes that require automation are not accurately assessed, and businesses are either under-equipped to handle them or aren’t approved for RPA design and integration.
A stringent step-by-step roadmap is crucial for efficient and successful RPA implementation. It addresses the concerns of all stakeholders without compromising anyone’s interests.
Decisions made upfront can snowball throughout an RPA implementation project and become expensive to do over, causing delays and cost overruns.
Without the right team and right skill sets and experience, it will be hard to achieve early success in an RPA implementation. But, with the right roadmap, requirements, production goals, team, and experience involved, any organization can see success early on.
One of the leading causes of RPA failure is the lack of effective change management. Not everyone welcomes change in processes in the same manner, which is why it is a good practice to introduce robust change management. This will keep the employees updated and engaged throughout the organization.
For successful change management, a long-term strategy should be introduced from the very beginning. This long-term plan will include choosing the right set of people for the job. To determine the value drivers of the RPA initiative from the beginning, the involvement of key members of the following teams is imperative:
Another important factor that will help meet the long-term goals is ensuring the technical feasibility of a project. For instance, rather than introducing bots in pockets, the focus should be on cross-functional and end-to-end process automation across various stages.
Furthermore, careful vendor selection and identifying the right set of parameters as well as the optimal technology solutions to employ will help meet the long-term objectives.
A large number of businesses have already embarked on the RPA journey. Those that jumped straight to the implementation phase without careful consideration for RPA strategy and implementation roadmap could not harness the full potential of RPA and most likely hit challenges along the way. For a successful implementation, RPA should be considered a part of the strategic goal.
This article was originally published on the HGS Blog and is republished here with permission.