Assessing benefits, best practices, and readiness for successful RPA implementation
What is RPA?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a business process automation technology based on software robots functioning as an artificial and digital workforce. These software bots are designed to mimic the digital actions of a human within an established business process. RPA can be highly effective for simple tasks like downloading and consolidating data, to more complex tasks such as document creation and submission into a web application.
Why is RPA becoming so valued?
1. Increased accuracy. RPA provides organizations the opportunity to minimize or eliminate “user errors” in the ideal state.
2. No interruption of work. It reduces dependencies on the availability of specific employees and teams by running continuously over a scheduled 24x7 cycle.
3. Cost savings. It allows employees to focus on more critical, strategic tasks, redeploying them from repeatable operational tasks in many cases.
4. Compliant and consistent. Bots are built to follow their designed processes without deviation and can be easily monitored.
5. Non-invasive. Unlike other automation solutions, RPA can be added to a technology landscape without any impacts on the existing landscape.
6. Increased productivity. Bots cycle through processes more efficiently than manual completion.
Despite RPA being a streamlined low code solution, business leaders often struggle to achieve many of the RPA benefits. In this two-part blog series, we look at RPA readiness and the challenges commonly facing new or existing RPA implementations. Before we begin, companies must first ask this critical question: “Are we ready for RPA?”
Typically, when approaching an RPA implementation, business leaders have a handful of key business processes they are hoping to initially launch. The highest ROI will be mundane tasks and processes that are time-consuming for employees to complete, but repetitive without much variation. These processes may be highly manual and wrought with user errors or fat fingering, which can lead to rework or incorrect delivery.
The best candidates for RPA will meet two or more of the following criteria:
1. The process is repetitive. The process doesn’t change; it repeats a lot! The same user activities occur with some frequency over the same systems. The processes may be inconsistent in frequency but must be unchanging in execution.
2. The process is rules-based. The process has clear decision trees. It’s helpful to leverage the 80/20 rule when comparing processes. Identify what holds true at least 80% of the time and prepare to build out exceptions for the other 20%.
3. The process is not complex. The process is straightforward. Complexity can refer to the number of systems the user interacts with or the number of steps within the process.
4. The process is high volume. These processes leverage large quantities of data and are usually time-consuming to complete due to the sheer amount of information and the processing efforts.
The criteria above should serve as a guide in prioritizing your RPA process backlog. Next, you’ll want to evaluate your business process maturity and the complexity of your technology landscape.
Reviewing your business process maturity and technology landscape complexity
Mature business processes are documented, measurable, and optimized across the organization. To gauge your process maturity, ask yourself these questions:
- Do your processes capture an end-to-end scenario or are they siloed by the business unit?
- Are your processes consistently mapped and documented?
- Are there KPIs defined to track process performance? (i.e., cycle time, errors, accuracy)
- Have the processes been optimized using a standard methodology such as Six Sigma or lean?
- Do employees understand the end-to-end process?
- Do your processes occur at a regular frequency or are they primarily ad hoc?
- Is the process fully digitized or are there non-digitized documents involved in the completion of the process?
- Are the decision trees for the process clearly defined or is unknown manual intervention necessary to operate the processes?
- Are the results of the process consistent?
A target level of maturity is optimal for efficient RPA rollout across the organization. However, if you are like most organizations, you answered “no” to one or more of the questions. The good news is that you can still kick-start your RPA journey! With a strong delivery strategy, you can begin producing effective bots while also tackling your coinciding business process maturity objectives.
One of the major RPA benefits is that it is a non-invasive technology solution. This means you can build the bots without major shifts in the existing technology environment. However, complexity can be a major factor when considering processes that interact with multiple systems and/or require security access. It is equally important to document your technology architecture and security requirements when completing the business process maturity assessment because there may be opportunities to streamline the system dependencies as well.
The core building blocks for a best practice RPA delivery strategy
The final component to organizational readiness is defining a strong RPA delivery strategy. With a strong approach to delivery, organizations can achieve a sustainable and scalable rollout of RPA solutions and release new bots daily to help pave the way for AI and hyper-automation of more sophisticated processes. A solid delivery strategy will include all of the following:
- A core delivery team including bot developers, process experts, and quality assurance
- An RPA technology solution that is customized to your organizational needs
- The ability to report competencies in order to monitor process performance
- Existence of a new request intake process with defined standards on process documentation and optimization
- Governance with a change board to monitor business process changes and manage up/downstream impacts
Propeller refers to this approach to successful delivery as an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE). The size and resources may vary, but at its core, the RPA CoE is responsible for the successful implementation and maintenance of bots across the business.
We recommend that organizations treat the RPA CoE as a shared service and that it is not seated within a particular business unit. It is also recommended to view the CoE as a maturing delivery model. This enables the governance and intake process to change over time as RPA becomes more widely spread throughout your organization.
At its core, RPA is a simple, elegant solution. It is designed to serve customers better and create new efficiencies that strengthen a company’s ability to compete in today’s competitive digital marketplace.
Check out our next related blog on this topic: Common RPA Challenges to Avoid, to learn how you can steer clear of the most common barriers to a successful implementation of RPA and create an optimized and sustainable RPA strategy.
Described by teammates as high energy, Ashley Farr leans into her optimistic and collaborative work approach and experience steering large-scale, tech-driven business and operational strategies. She approaches every client engagement through three lenses: people, process, and product. It’s a 360-degree perspective that taps her strengths as an empathetic and transparent communicator, an optimizer of existing states with new approaches, and the wise application of tech improvement to optimize tech investment.
An avid CrossFit devotee, Ashley credits the technicality of the movements and the ever-moving targets for how she approaches problem-solving for clients. Ashley received her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina.
Described by clients as accountable and personable, Dawn Hu is as passionate about delivering value and making an impact as she is about seeing efficiency improvement and capacity creation. She is a change agent with the ability to leverage data to identify opportunities for improvement and to drive multi-disciplinary groups to consensus through collaboration. Dawn’s success as a consultant is largely driven by her ability to keep the customer experience at the center of every engagement.
Dawn comes to Propeller with more than six years of experience in the financial services industry for a global asset management bank. Her leadership roles included business analyst, relationship manager, Lean consultant, and project manager. Dawn received her bachelor’s degrees in economics and sociology from Boston College.