Robotic Process Automation: Four Points to Be Decisive About Before Deployment

Robotic process automation (RPA) lets organizations automate particular rule-based, repetitive, high volume tasks with the aid of software “bots” that free up human employees so they can focus on other tasks. RPA can improve productivity, reduce errors, augment customer service, and more.

Want to introduce RPA bots into your workplace? It’s something that a growing number of organizations around the world are already doing to great effect. But here are four important points to be decisive above up-front, to ensure a successful RPA deployment.

Be clear about the right processes to automate

Make sure that you select the right processes to automate. RPA excels at carrying out high volume tasks that unfold exactly the same way each time (even if some of the specific details, such as the words that have to be read from a customer invoice, change). If a task is repetitive to carry out, but only needs to be performed every few months, it may not be worth deploying RPA solutions for carrying out from a return on investment perspective.

A bigger point, however, involves ensuring that you have the right processes in place before you attempt to automate them. RPA tools follow an identical series of steps in order to carry out their actions. If you’re employing inefficient processes within your organization, these will be baked into whichever RPA tool you choose to deploy. RPA adoption is a great opportunity to revisit the processes you have in place, and modify them to achieve greater productivity if need be.

Be clear about what success means

If you hire a new employee, you probably have a good idea of what you hope they will bring to the role. If pressed, you could likely list the qualities you believe makes them a positive team addition and the specific value-adds that they will bring to your company. In other words, you’ll know what success means for them.

Exactly the same attitude should be carried over to RPA. Many companies will introduce the latest technologies simply because everyone else is doing it, and they feel compelled to keep up with the proverbial Joneses. While it’s a good idea to take steps to not fall behind what your competitors are doing, business owners should also be clear about WHY they’re bringing in certain new technologies — and, more importantly, how they plan to measure success.

Do you want to reduce the amount of time customers are waiting for responses to queries? Are you hoping to free up employee time so that they can focus on other tasks? Are you struggling with large numbers of errors or fulfilling regulatory requirements? Being clear from the start about what you want RPA bots to achieve will not only help dictate the processes you select to automate in the first place, but will make it easier to determine whether the new technologies you introduce are panning out as hoped. Being able to measure the outcomes means knowing which outcomes to measure. This, in turn, will help you establish the ROI (return on investment) that RPA has to offer.

Address fears up front

People don’t always like change. They really don’t like it when it potentially threatens their livelihood — as is the case when introducing bots that promise to be able to carry out certain tasks that once required humans, and to do them faster, with fewer errors, and without ever asking for a day off. Business owners should be aware of this, and know that they should address this issue as a priority up front. The good news is that, while RPA can automate certain jobs that previously required humans, they’re not designed to REPLACE humans in the workforce. Instead, RPA can augment humans’ abilities in the workplace, while aiding with areas like regulatory compliance. Nonetheless, explaining this will earn plenty of props from employees when it comes to addressing the elephant in the room.

It’s also important to sell the benefits of RPA tools because you will, ultimately, need human employees on board to get these tools to work as effectively as they can. If you’re in the position of having to convince other stakeholders of the value and business benefit of RPA tools, a positive response to them will additionally help with this.

Be clear (and realistic) about timelines

So-called “unattended automation” RPA bots don’t require a human to be in the loop when they’re up and running. But they’re also not a plug-and-play solution, like purchasing a new piece of word processing software, that can be purchased in the morning and be up and running that afternoon. If you’re having a bespoke RPA solution built and deployed, make sure you factor in time for carrying out a proper assessment of your workplace processes — including streamlining these where necessary.

There will then be a development phase, prior to a testing period in which your bots are put through their paces before you push them live as a part of the workflow of your organization. Expect for a teething process to be involved, with potential challenges rearing their head. With that said, many RPA deployments take less than a couple of months to get up and running — covering configuration, testing, and launch. But be realistic about timelines, and you stand to reap the rewards once the tools are up and running.

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