Robotic Process Automation – just part of the story
The acceleration in the adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) is very welcome development in this new and rapidly emerging area of service delivery. But while it’s clear that RPA can serve as a powerful enabler – driving change, lowering service costs, increasing revenue, and valuable management information – surprisingly few organisations have truly mastered the art of capturing the maximum benefit.
So where’s the problem?
Achieving maximum benefit from RPA
The real success of RPA deployment in any organisation depends on how RPA can be used as a significant enabler for radically rethinking an organisation’s whole process landscape. There is no doubt that efficiencies can be gained from deploying RPA in discrete, tactical projects, releasing 10 or 20 FTE’s here or there, but this approach can be slow, expensive and most importantly, not transformational.
The massive increase in demand for RPA has, in the vast majority of cases, focused primarily on these tactical changes, which will ultimately realise only minor efficiency gains. A more strategic and ambitious approach is required. By encouraging an holistic approach and a fast pace, end-users are much more likely to obtain the maximum benefit of RPA.
The reality is, if RPA is used correctly, it has the potential to enable sustainable business transformation and real shareholder value. However, the idea that it could be used to patch up more fundamental processes such as badly integrated software systems, poor process design or legacy organisational structures is a common misconception.
“the idea that it (RPA) could be used to patch up more fundamental processes such as badly integrated software systems, poor process design or legacy organisational structures is a common misconception.”
Tactical, process-by-process RPA, can lead to merely automating existing inefficiencies, whereas end-to-end models that encompass operational change will no doubt lead to increased productivity across the whole organisation.
How to get started
True transformation can be achieved on a much greater scale with commensurate improvements in cost, quality, and competitive positioning. By ensuring and considering a more comprehensive operational approach, the longevity of transformational change will ensure a higher return on time invested. It is important to remember that carefully managed enterprise wide automation programmes will become self funding within 9-12 months.
Much of the groundwork should be spent gaining internal stakeholder buy in to ensure technology, data security, and financial concerns are addressed; and, externally, to engage customers and suppliers in potentially far-reaching and beneficial process changes. This requires the adoption of a holistic view of the organisation’s process landscape and how those processes interact with each other.
The most successful programme plans are built on strong foundations realised through a detailed process of stakeholder engagement and education. Persuading process owners to engage is a key challenge but by ensuring those strong foundations through engagement and, by putting together a detailed deployment plan, clients can ensure the scope for success is big and bold.
The next challenge is identifying and mapping the processes and the value to be derived from the automation of those processes and prioritising them from an effort to value perspective. What’s more, choosing the automation technologies and services that are available and most appropriate becomes a critical decision point. With so many options and RPA ‘experts’ emerging, choosing the right advice and determining what is best for your business can be one of the most difficult decisions.
Once an assessment of individual and aggregate automation value has been analysed, a comprehensive transformational roadmap, with automation at its heart, becomes the foundation for success. Automation itself is relatively straightforward but the ability to seen and apply it as an overall operational enabler is where the true expertise in RPA comes in to play. The practical reality means analysing software systems, infrastructure, security protocols, change management, governance and methodology. Project, change and stakeholder management skills and experience are fundamental to the overall transformational success. Through plotting a detailed roadmap, continually monitoring progress, adjusting, prioritisation and scaling resources as required, sustainable momentum will be achieved.
Typically, the impetus of the programme will be generated from getting the processes automated as soon as possible. While going some way to achieving the defined business benefits, those benefits will not be sustained if there is no parallel activity to establish an automation capability and infrastructure to support the transformation: this should include new support roles, process version control, platform configuration, recoverability and so on.
Much of the automation advice on the market takes a different attitude and adopts a tactical ‘get it started and take if from there approach’. However, successful RPA is dependent on a true end-to-end process solution. This thorough, and all encompassing, implementation approach allows RPA to be used deployed most effectively, as one of a portfolio of transformation tools.
Tenets for success
1. Adopt an holistic approach
2. Understand (map) your operational landscape
3. Identify and manage key stakeholders (internal and external)
a. Generate excitement, alignment and involvement
b. Address concerns such as security and resource ‘ownership’
4. Develop a communications programme
5. Build an enterprise wide business case
6. Launch quick-win automations immediately to minimise time to value (they can be brought into the foundation and governance for the programme later)
7. Design and build the RPA Target Operating model that best suits your organisation