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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is not sexy (the name alone is evidence of this). Yet it is one of the hottest sectors in the tech market.
Why all the interest? RPA allows companies to automate routine processes, which can quickly lower costs and allow employees to focus on more important tasks. The technology also reduces errors and helps to improve compliance.
Oh, and there is something else: RPA can be a gateway to AI. The reason is that the automation may help with finding patterns and insights from the data as well as to streamline the input with NLP (Natural Language Processing) and OCR.
Yet despite all this, there should definitely be care with an implementation. Keep in mind that there are still plenty of failures.
So let’s take a look at some things to consider to improve the odds of success:
Deep Dive On Your Current Processes: Rushing to implement RPA will probably mean getting subpar results. There first must be a thorough analysis and understanding of your current processes. Otherwise you’ll likely be just automating inefficiencies.
“Best practices for automation projects always begin with process mapping and re-engineering of all business scenarios,” said Sudhir Singh, who is the CEO of NIIT Technologies. “This allows all automation design to be completed upfront and can avoid multiple re-iterations during delivery.”
But truly understanding your processes can be time-consuming and difficult. This is why it could be a good idea to bring in an expert.
Although, there are also several software systems that can essentially do an MRI of your processes. An example is Celonis, which has partnerships with top RPA players like iPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism. “Our system creates a business process map,” said Alexander Rinke, who is the CEO of Celonis. “With it, you can see what needs improvement.”
Start With The Mundane: RPA is best for those processes that are routine and repetitive. These are basically the kinds of things that … bore your employees. And yes, this means that RPA can span many parts of a business, like finance, HR, legal, the supply chain and so on.
It also helps if the processes do not change much. After all, this means fewer upgrades to the bots, which lowers the complexity.
Determine Whether to Replace or Supplement People: This is important as it will guide you in the type of RPA to use.
“By supplementing people, a business can implement attended bots that are assistants and helpers to team members that serve the purpose of speeding up processes and eliminating human error,” said Richard French, who is the CRO of Kryon. “This setup will empower staff to focus on advanced and complex tasks, while bot assistants handle their administrative assignments. “
But if you want to find ways to reduce headcount, then you should look at those vendors that focus on unattended bots.
Create a Center of Excellence (CoE): There needs to be a well thought-out plan for funding, training, governance and maintenance of the RPA. And to carry this out, it’s recommended to setup a CoE that can manage the process. Often this includes a mix of business people, IT personnel and developers.
Scaling: It’s often easy to get early wins. But the major challenge is making RPA more pervasive.
“Many companies that do implement the technology never scale past the first 50 automated processes,” said French. “The reason is that it is difficult for executives to think beyond and understand what processes will further improve the ROI or efficiency once there is already something in place.”
This is why having a CoE is so critical. What’s more, the team will likely need to change over time, as the needs and requirements of the RPA implementation evolve.
Tom serves on the advisory boards of tech startups and can be reached at his site.
April 14, 2019 at 10:48AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs