A Quick Definition
Robotic process automation is the use of programmable rule-based robots to replicate process-based human efforts. It helps cut costs, improve productivity, enhance visibility and give decision-makers control over their processes. Its difference with artificial intelligence (AI) lies in the fact that it cannot apply business intelligence or learn the same. Rather, it has to be programmed to perform the repetitive and process-oriented tasks of businesses.
However, adopting robotic process automation (RPA) is not just about jumping on the bandwagon. The following are a few challenges that organizations face while trying to adopt RPA technology:
- Lack of a standard process
- Lack of secure IT support
- Customer expectation mismatch
- Less focus on employee buy-in and training in the adoption and transition
It is important to understand that not every process can be automated. Merely automating random business processes does not bring about enterprise-wide automation or positive change. The aim of RPA should be to solve a business problem, not just apply a technology.
RPA can efficiently perform processes that are stable, structured, repetitive, rule-based, and consistent. Analyzing and identifying the processes to be automated, is the first informed decision that any organization wanting to adopt RPA should make. This represents the first phase of a successful adoption.
Piloting the Journey
Most organizations start off their RPA journeys aiming for quick wins in small and niche functional areas, where there is a clear opportunity. A successful implementation in such a case convinces decision-makers of the cost benefits of RPA. This lays the groundwork for RPA adoption in other parts of the organization. Eventually, these parallel but unconnected initiatives help business leaders prepare for an enterprise-wide reach.
Setting up the CoE
A CoE or a center of excellence is a team of skilled workers with knowledge and expertise on a particular subject. The RPA CoE is now set up, after gathering inputs and feedback from both internal and external stakeholders and keeping a strong focus on the required long-term RPA goals. This CoE is the business’s go-to team for RPA, and acts as the central steering point for RPA implementation and adoption, with a clear and defined strategy. The RPA CoE is pivotal to scaling RPA across the organization. RPA governance (decision-making and implementation), which is another major aspect of this phase, is usually a joint effort with IT.
The Right RPA Software
Selecting suitable RPA software that meets the organization’s needs for automation is the next important step. It is imperative that a user-friendly software is chosen that empowers the business users to automate on their own and that also prioritizes user experience. An incompatible RPA software will mean significant reorganization of the existing IT infrastructure. The keyword here is effortless integration. Also, with rapid digital advances, the RPA vendor partner should be committed to adapt and innovate.
Training the Workforce
RPA software, like any other software, is used and controlled by humans. Training your existing human workforce (including the C-suite) continuously on the upcoming changes and the associated benefits, and engaging them in the process, will not only upscale their skillsets, but also minimize confusion. Well-designed training programs ensure you have your employees’ buy-in and their trust and belief in your organization’s needs and objectives.
Employing experienced professionals who can help in the efficient and effective deployment of RPA is the next important step in the process. Moreover, in case the deployment experiences any hiccups or operational bugs, this can lead to unplanned downtime that disrupts workflow across teams. In these situations, an expert can troubleshoot and provide quick solutions.
Production and Maintenance
The RPA initiative enters the production phase next, and it is important that the key stakeholders are able to monitor performance of the bots, to quickly identify and mitigate business outages. Finally, with RPA successfully integrated with the existing architecture, the CoE needs to monitor all automated processes in real time for stability and accuracy, and also invest in a secure environment in collaboration with the IT team and cybersecurity professionals. With robots being an integral part of the system now, illegal access to sensitive information might be easier for hackers. Encryption and a secure data access are important to organizations’ need to invest in robust cybersecurity.
The Road Ahead
The best RPA adoption format is non-invasive in nature, with organizations integrating RPA with their existing architecture. We need to think of RPA as digital assistants who will work with us to execute successful and impactful automation programs. This will only better equip us to solve real business problems. With evolving technologies such as AI, machine learning, and computer vision, RPA will soon be advanced to IPA (i.e. intelligent process automation), which might be able to apply business intelligence, opening newer avenues.More on that in our next post!
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