Category: RPA

Robotic Process Automation

RPA: Robotic Process Automation

RPA: Robotic Process Automation

Movies have been feeding us physical robots for a long time. However the first AI bots that we will work with are software bots. This shouldn’t be surprising as hardware is hard while software is eating the world.

As you can see in the graph above, interest in RPA has grown ~10x in the past 1.5 years. This is no surprise since Fortune 500 CEOs can not stop talking about it. As John Cryan, CEO of Deutsche Bank said in September 2017:

In our banks we have people behaving like robots doing mechanical things, tomorrow we’re going to have robots behaving like people Read more

RPA tools

RPA tools

Sometimes people say RPA tool when they mean RPA vendor that provide RPA tools. In case you are looking for vendors, we have a detailed post on how to compare RPA vendors. I would recommend reading that if you are already trying to decide between one or two vendors.

Here, we’ll explain the different RPA tools and if you need an intro to RPA, you can check out our great guide for that. No matter which vendor you talk to, you will come across 3 distinct classes of RPA tools:

1- Programmable RPA solutions

The simplest and oldest tools in the market. Need to explicitly program the tool to perform the necessary actions to replicate a process or functionality. They work mostly with structured data in legacy systems and take advantage of legacy system integrations to complete tasks. These tools have 3 critical components: Read more

How to implement an RPA solution

How to implement an RPA solution

RPA implementation is pretty straightforward if you have a clear and detailed roadmap. Here we provide you that roadmap and if you want to know more about RPA first, here’s the most comprehensive article for that.

Select impactful yet easy to automate processes

1- To maximize impact of RPA, identify impactful processes. These processes tend to be

  • Impacting both cost and revenues: Most impactful processes are expensive and touch customers. For example quote-to-cash can be expensive if pricing rules are not clear and its speed and effectiveness can definitely make or break a sale. Such processes are good candidates for RPA if they can be automated.
  • High volume: One of the key benefits of RPA is reduction of human effort. You should start automating your highest volume processes
  • With low fault tolerance: Manual mistakes can cause significant customer experience or regulatory problems in some customer facing processes. Such processes are good candidates for automation as automation prevents manual errors.
  • Error prone: The more manual errors in a process, the more benefits your company can get by automating such a process.
  • Speed-sensitive: Any processes that can delay delivery of services to customers are good candidates for automation as automation can make processes instantaneous.
  • Requiring irregular labor: Since finding temporary labor is difficult. processes with irregular labor demands force companies to employ for peak demand which is inefficient. RPA bots can easily scale up or down, easily managing peak demand.

2- Select processes that can be easily automated with RPA. Such processes tend to be

  • Rules based: Ideal processes can be described by specific rules. RPA bots need to be programmed and if the rules of the process can not be programmed, then that process is not a great candidate for RPA. AI can be trained with complex rules and even uncover rules that are not apparent to human operators. However, automation of such processes requires careful observation of RPA results since there may be cases where AI incorrectly identifies rules.
  • Company-specific: Is this a process that all companies undertake in the same way or is it unique to your company? For example expense auditing takes place in a similar fashion in most companies of similar sizes. Building an RPA system for expense auditing would be costlier and less effective then just using a solution built for such a process. And in case you are wondering if there’s a custom tool for a process you want to automate, ask us, we know.
  • Not on the roadmap for new systems: Replacing legacy systems can automate processes even more effectively than RPA which in a significant number of cases need to rely on screen scraping and may introduce errors. Additionally, installing two automation methods for a process also does not make sense.

Convince the organization

Even in automation, it’s really about the people.

3- Get management buy-in: Though “move fast and break things” mantra is making itself heard across the enterprise, management buy-in is still a thing if you work for a large company. Knowing the process to be automated and possible benefits from automation, you can build a compelling case for company leadership. The keyword is ROI. Read more

Common Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pitfalls

Common Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pitfalls

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is gaining acceptance especially in the finance and telecom industries however we have spoken to a number of executives and there are plenty RPA failure stories, too. We outlined some of the most common pitfalls, leveraging existing papers on the issue like this one by UiPath. We explain these points in detail below:

  • Organizational pitfalls:
    • Lack of time commitment from local team
    • Lack of leadership buy-in
    • Lack of IT ownership
    Process pitfalls:
    • Choosing a process with insignificant business impact
    • Choosing a too complex process
    • Choosing a process where better custom solutions exist
    • Lack of focus in process selection
    • Striving for end-to-end automation when it is not cost-effective
    Technical pitfalls:
    • Choosing a solution that requires intensive programming

    Organizational alignment is key for any project’s success

    Especially in projects where there’s no outside implementation partner, organizational alignment is key because your organization will be responsible for the whole solution. Both local team and leadership needs to be fully on-board, with top management regularly reviewing progress and local teams devoting significant time to automating processes getting help from departments like Strategy. Read more

Despite the claims, Robotic Process Automation’s benefits to analytics are limited

Despite the claims, Robotic Process Automation’s benefits to analytics are limited

We had explained RPA extensively in layman’s terms and outlined its benefits. One of the frequently cited benefits is improved analytics and big data analytics has been a priority for executives for the past decade. So how does RPA benefit analytics?

Explore how RPA contributes to analytics

We should consider the analytics funnel above to see where RPA can contribute. Bots have essentially 2 critical functions from a data standpoint:

  1. Create meta data: As they complete tasks, they record their progress and the issues they face for diagnostic purposes. This data can be used for both the client or the RPA provider to identify RPA bugs and improve bot performance.
  2. Enable access to data in legacy systems: Since they overtake tasks that require interfacing with legacy systems, they make previously difficult to access data accessible. This can transform data collection capabilities of enterprises, especially those that depend on legacy systems.
As you can see, bots do not essentially improve analytics capabilities but aid in data collection. Even RPA vendors agree with this, underlining that core benefit of RPA is in data federation: the capability to collect data from many different sources and aggregate it in an easy-to-analyze format.

Explore how data federation can contribute to your company’s performance

Firstly, data federation should not be a major concern for an SME or startup. However for large companies, it is a major concern as legacy systems historically held large companies back in terms of easy access to data. Now with access to granular data about processes, large companies can reap 2 important benefits:

Process optimization thanks to process mining

Granular data about processes can help identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies, enabling corporations to increase both speed and efficiency of the process. Furthermore, it makes dissemination of best practices easier. Since process flows can easily be visualized with the help of data, process flows in different regions can be compared to find the best processes for the whole company. Read more