Robotic process automation, RPA, can be a godsend for many organizations. It can save them time, cash outlay and human resources. However, not all RPA is created equal.
To benefit a business, RPA must be high-quality and properly implemented. If it is not, a company can end up wasting money and employee hours, not to mention causing undue headaches for management and others.
Organizations considering RPA implementation must have in place a solid set of best practices to ensure that they don't run into these pitfalls. Here, we detail the top five best practices that any entity weighing the adoption of RPA ought to use.
Best Practice #1: Start with Good Design
As any builder knows, a structure is only as strong as its foundation. The same is true of RPA. Organizations undertaking robotic process automation must ensure that the developers with whom they are working truly understand the manual processes the business is trying to automate. The developers should be using a process design document, or PPD, as the basis from which to undertake the requested automation. A sound PPD, which should include standard sequences, will go a significant way toward ensuring consistency and organization in the automation. Once developers have a high-level view of the processes, they can then delve deeper into the details.
Best Practice #2: Ensure Good Governance of the Implementation
Any organization undertaking RPA implementation must continue to heed its own policies and any applicable government regulations. In other words, RPA should not be used as a reason to ignore policies already in place; good governance has to be the name of the game throughout any RPA project.
"Risk and control compliance should not be sacrificed during the automation journey," an Ernst & Young white paper on RPA notes. "These disciplines are not mutually exclusive, but rather they should coexist in harmony."
Best Practice #3: Define Business Goals
Implementing RPA in a business will mean a disturbance of the status quo for employees. Such disruption can ultimately be a very good thing, but for this to be the case, management must have clear, achievable objectives established and maintained throughout the project.
"Once the scope for applying this technology has been defined, the crucial next step is to define the objectives of the RPA initiative," according to a recent Deloitte article. "The biggest mistake companies make during this phase is trying to avoid risk by selecting smaller processes without significant business impact." The piece cites a study which found "that risk-averse companies struggle most with any kind of digital transformation. This will result in an unattractive business case for stakeholders and sponsors who approved the initiative." So rather than waste time and money with small moves that don't have much to do with the long-view, big-picture plan for the organization, entities should make bolder but well-founded decisions that will illustrate the real impact of implementing RPA in the first place.
Best Practice #4: Identify Potential ROI
No one would be interested in adding a technology that didn't deliver results, and RPA is no exception to the rule. Just as goals for an RPA implementation must be set prior to undertaking the work, a company or other organization planning to use RPA must identify the project's potential return on investment. It must then establish the method of ROI calculation it will use so that it can determine whether RPA yields the financial rewards it wants. One caveat, however: Companies should not expect too much too soon.
"It’s wrong to look just at the short-term financial gains --particularly if those are simply a result of labor savings," Leslie Willcocks, professor of technology, work, and globalization at the London School of Economics’ Department of Management, recently told McKinsey & Company. "That approach does not do justice to the power of the [RPA] software because there are multiple business benefits."
Best Practice #5: Provide Appropriate Training for Stakeholders
Some organizations might be leery of adopting RPA because they worry about their employees' reactions to it. Many may fear making members of their teams worry about 'losing their jobs to robots'; others might think people will bristle at the idea of their daily roles changing fundamentally. Whatever the reason, it's probably not good enough to keep an organization whose processes are a good fit for RPA away from the technology.
Thus, when it's clear to management at an organization that RPA will be implemented, it's up to leadership to frame the new project properly when announcing its arrival to employees.
"Many don’t understand from the outset the impact automation can have on speed-to-market and revenue cycle improvements and how it can lead to new opportunities for employees to perform higher-value work," Information Service Group partner Craig Nelson writes in a blog post for the technology research firm's website. Company leadership should let workers know about the opportunities the project will open up, and that those whose work will be affected by the implementation will be properly trained on it -- not replaced by it.
Once a core team of those who will be most intimately involved with the technology is trained, that team can fill in other employees in a peer-to-peer way that feels natural instead of forced or 'top-down.' That will be much likelier to result in employee buy-in for the project.
Could RPA save your organization time and money? Download the ebook Intelligent Business and Robotic Process Automation to find out.