Robotic process automation is one of the best tools available for automating repetitive tasks and freeing up your workers to think creatively, but to get the most out of it the old rules still apply – you need a vision and strategy in place before implementation in order to encompass the wider goals of the business and to make sure it fits into the plan.
The old adage ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ is still as relevant now as it was in the past, and that won’t be changing any time soon. In fact, as we move towards faster and more scalable technology, it is quite possibly truer than ever before.
There is also the hype cycle to contend with. At Procensol we believe our technology should walk rather than talk, which is why we focus on managing expectations and providing practical advice and solutions to real-world problems rather than pie-in-the-sky sales talk.
The truth is RPA is not a turnkey solution and is not a panacea for all business problems. What it will do, however, when deployed correctly, with thorough planning, is provide a platform for digital transformation at scale, delivering an in-built agility that will help future proof your continued success and take the burden of monotonous tasks off the shoulders of valued employees.
Use these quick-start best practices to plan your automation roadmap and get RPA working in the places where it will deliver the highest ROI in the fastest time possible.
Step 1) Get executive buy-in
Getting the buy-in of a decision-maker in your business is crucial to RPA success for several reasons. First of all, it allows you to fight for budgets and other resources. Second, when an influential figure adopts your vision it makes it far easier to persuade other people, like departmental heads and directors, to join in too. When more people in your business consider the power of RPA you will encounter less challenges and far more cooperation, leading to a speedier deployments (and outcomes). This will become a virtuous circle.
Step 2) Plan, plan, plan
It is fairly common for business leaders to get overly excited about new technology and then jump into the deep end, only realising too late that they have bitten off more than they can chew. This is where you, as the chief champion of RPA in your business, have a job to do. It is your job to create a full, end-to-end business plan for your RPA implementation – one that takes the wider vision of your organisation into account and translates your goals into something the entire management team can understand. It also needs to be scalable. How can you roll it out from one department to another? Does it have the potential to transform your entire business? What are the cost savings year-on-year?
Step 3) Assemble your team
How important is RPA to the continued success of your business? If you believe it will play a major part in the future of your operations then now is the time to create an expert team, headed up by someone senior and knowledgeable about the technology and who can take responsibility for a company-wide rollout when the time comes. Once RPA proves its viability in one area of the business it will be desired in many other departments. Opportunities where it can help save costs and drive efficiencies will begin to open up as more people become acclimated to its possibilities. However, to reach this stage you will need to develop and train a team of RPA experts. People who can continuously educate themselves to automate processes of increasing complexity and share their skills with others. The faster you can do this the more effective your RPA deployments will be.
Don’t plan or have the resources to build an internal RPA team? You can work with an external partner (such as ourselves!) in order to execute your automation strategy.
Step 4) Set up reviews and share results
When setting up bots and getting stuck into technical details it can be easy to ignore the people in your business that actually work on these processes daily. One fatal mistake RPA practitioners often make is automating a process and making it worse than before. The flipside is also true: you can also automate a terrible business process. This is commonly due to a lack of communication with the people who work on these processes day in and day out and following standard procedure just because it has ‘always been done this way’. The best practice in this scenario is to take an objective view of your processes before deploying any automation technology. Uncover the bottlenecks, seek out inefficiencies. When you have done this beforehand and made constructive changes the positive effect of an RPA deployment can be multiplied.
Step 5) Run your winners
There is a well-known phrase in investment circles: run your winners and ditch your losers. The same is true for your digital workers. Trial bots that add significant value to your business should be scaled as quickly as possible. Those that don’t should be cut – perhaps until a date when their deployment is more feasible. Either way, you should always be analysing the performance of your automation efforts and making tweaks where necessary (unfortunately it isn’t a ‘set and forget’ system). You should also make it a focus to get employees on your side – many fear that the digital worker is going to take their jobs. Make clear the advantages RPA offers to their day-to-day work and get them excited about the prospects. With both human and machine on the same side, your business has the potential to become unstoppable for a long time into the future.
Aaron Marshall is Head of Automation Practice at Procensol UK, a process-centric solutions provider using low code applications and automation technology to aid digital transformation. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Head of Automation