RPA implementation is pretty straightforward if you have a clear and detailed roadmap. As you can see above, most RPA deployments including time required to configure, test, and launch automations into production takes less than 2 months.
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
Workfusion provides a 4 steps to identify the right processes. However, our approach which you can find right under WorkFusion’s explanation is simpler.
One major difference between 2 approaches is that we recommend designing process improvements after you get management alignment on which process to work on. Since process improvement is time-intensive, to us it only makes sense to do it only when the whole organization is on the same page
1- To maximize impact of RPA, identify processes that will yield the greatest benefits when automated. 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.
- With few exceptions: This is similar to the “rules based” criteria above. However, some processes have so many undocumented rules that even if they are rules based, it is time consuming to identify all rules via interviews with domain experts. Such processes are not good candidates for automation
- 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.
- Mature: Automating a process that is changing every day is a waste of time because developers will spend a lot of time on maintenance. Stable processes are good candidates for automation
- 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.
Finally, even if a process is not a good candidate for automation as a whole, it could possibly be broken into automatable sub-processes that yield large benefits when automated.
Instead of our 2 step process for identifying the right process, you can also use WorkFusion’s checklist for scoring candidate processes for automation:
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.
4- Get team buy-in: Are you automating an in-house process or an out-sourced process? If it is an outsourced process, you are essentially just bringing in savings and the team managing the outsourced process will likely be happy to manage the automated process.
However, it is a completely different situation with an in-house team. No one wants to wake up one day and discover that their job is redundant. It is necessary to have an open and honest discussion with the team about what automation will bring. Some points to cover are:
- Convince the team of the change. I know it is easy to say and hard to do. Unless you have strong management support, it can be impossible to convince teams about the need for automation.
- Design the new, leaner team
- Formulate post-automation steps like how redundant team members will be upskilled and which teams they can join.
5- Improve the process
Processes evolve due to regulatory pressures and market pressures. Though they are sometimes improved with top-down lean or 6 sigma projects, these are few and expensive. Therefore, most processes even most important ones have significant potential for improvement.
Just consider the use of fax machines in the US healthcare system. Numerous media including Vox report how US healthcare system relies on hospitals sharing records with faxes or hand delivered documents because digital healthcare records were not built in a compatible manner across different institutions.
So before proceeding with the RPA implementation, it is worthwhile to look for improvements in the process as process improvements can
- simplify the process
- make it more understandable therefore reducing the necessary programming and auditing effort
- improve customer experience
Implement the solution
6- Choose your partners
We have a detailed guide on how to choose your RPA provider. In short, you need to pick an RPA technology provider and in your company is low on manpower, you can partner with a consulting company or BPO provider to help your company automate its process.
7- Develop your solution
Initially, a detailed process map needs to be prepared identifying which parts of the process will be automated. Here’s an example from WorkFusion:
Contribution of subject matter experts from your organization is critical while preparing the process map. This is especially relevant if the process is not well documented and in our experience, most processes are not well documented.
After the role of RPA bots in the process are clarified, RPA bots can be programmed. Trade-offs such as quicker deployment vs more flexibility need to be weighted carefully while developing the solution. Following well established lean software development and quality assurance processes will ensure that business and technical teams are aligned and progressing.
8- Test your solution
Importance of testing can not be over-emphasized. We explained 3 different types of RPA. For example, in attended automation, minor differences in users’ systems such as some users using MacBooks or even different screen resolutions can lead to unexpected bugs. All major scenarios need to be thoroughly tested before the pilot.
9- Deploy the solution
Run a pilot:
- Configure the RPA bot. Depending on the solution you are using, this can take a lot of work or no work at all. Programmatic RPA solutions need to be programmed with assistance from the team currently running the process. However, cognitive automation or intelligent automation solutions watch the team members and understand the business logic. Once they know the process, they work with a human-in-the-loop to be alerted if they encounter an issue they have not seen before.
- Test RPA bot output with historic data to debug configuration
- Run a live pilot: Each day, team in charge of the process reviews a random selection of bot output.
- Evaluate pilot results: Run a detailed evaluation considering rare cases and difficult inputs
- Design the new, bot driven process with the team running the old process. For example put in place mechanism for maintaining bot operation as inputs and systems change.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities
- Build a fallback plan: A fallback plan will be helpful if the RPA solution requires rework after roll-out. Though such a plan would not be used most of the time, it is quite beneficial to be prepared when fallback is needed.
- Go live: Communicate new process to all relevant stakeholders
- Analyze results: Record savings and analyze results to inform future RPA projects
10- Maintain the RPA installation
In line with changes in the market and regulation, you will need to change your processes. Putting in a place a capable team in charge of the installation is critical for the future success of your RPA installation.
Now that you are ready to implement RPA solutions, feel free to ask us appropriate vendors for your company’s size and industry so you can proceed effectively.
We leveraged UiPath’s customer survey to estimate average RPA implementation times.