In recent months, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been a hot topic among business process experts. I would know, I sat in on numerous lectures about “the future of business: automation” while in school. Lots of companies have begun to think more about RPA as a tool to improve their operations and move them further into “the future of business: automation”, but what is RPA and what exactly does it have to offer?
Imagine a mixture of tedious process investigation (you know the kind with overhead cameras, clipboards and stopwatches), employee errors, over extended staff, and numerous repeated tasks slowing your organization down and adding to costs. What do these all have in common? For starters, they’re a major competitive constraint on the organization. The other is actually good news, because robots can solve all of these problems! Not like RoboCop or iRobot Roomba, but RPA.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. This autonomous software is programmed to follow rule-based tasks just as a human employee would.
Successful Robotic Process Automation implementation leads to cost saving and increased accuracy, compliance, and productivity. The benefits of RPA are undeniable, but are organizations implementing these projects in the most valued areas? Not always, especially when they fail to understand their processes, its deviations, and any possible variations.
How to perform successful RPA project in 4 steps (the simple version):
- Understand processes, deviations, and variations – Process discovery brings vital insight by revealing the as-is process state from a data-driven perspective.
- Adjust processes – minimize redundant or conflicting standards.
- Implement the RPA solution – This is the implementation step of constructing the rules and protocols for robots and programming the workflow execution.
- Process compliance – Continued process monitoring and investigation to know that the RPA solution is achieving the desired outcome, and that processes are executed as designed.
Just remember: UPOM – Understand, Plan, Organize, Manage
RPA is a highly effective automation method for repeatable tasks when used correctly. If the pre-implementation state of the process can’t be bench marked and mapped, or processes are unknown and the wrong processes are being automated, RPA results will not be effective and therefore not profitable.
Before implementing a new system, organizations should understand what business needs and requirements the new system should satisfy as well as the available resources for that implementation. To gain the maximum value from automating business processes, organizations must guarantee that the processes are aligned with the business needs. To be able to measure the effectiveness of the automation project, a starting point must be measured using the current as-is state of the organization’s business processes. This includes: developing a process improvement plan, identifying each step of a process, its timing and the time required to complete the entire process. Additionally, like any large business change project, engaging the staff in the project is important in order to eliminate the fear of change and gain employee buy-in. This also improves the chance for success by bringing in the ideas from the people who do the work every day.
Surprisingly enough, according to Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence (IRPA AI) Program Director Christopher Surdak, many organizations are struggling to justify the cost and establish ROI because their traditional measurements do not justify the deployment cost. While IRPA AI estimates on average, RPA deployments bring 20 to 25 percent cost savings, there’s more to measure than the just the financial impact.
Here are three metrics, aside from the financial impact, to measure the ROI of a Robotic Process Automation deployment:
Productivity – Measuring the length of time employees spend on a task versus how quickly robots can complete that same task
Quality – Measuring output accuracy before and after RPA deployment
Compliance – Measuring compliance before and after RPA deployment
True ROI from RPA is dependent on how effectively the automation is aligned to processes. Even if the investment costs are low and the processes can be simplified and improved, it’s important not to rush your organization into a big change project implementing RPA without insight. A good RPA implementation identifies and improves in areas of high value. The best way to make change is to know what change is necessary, critical, and of importance to the business. The next step is to gain an understanding of the process at its current as-is state.
Business process discovery, just process discovery for short, is the collection of tools and techniques used to define, map and analyze an organization’s existing business processes. This is a critical component for successful business process management (BPM) initiatives and RPA implementations.
Now this is why I’m so excited to be working for a company that is a real mover and shaker in the BPM market space. TimelinePI is changing the way organizations tackle process discovery and process analysis in a really amazing way with the Timeline Analysis.
TimelinePI’s Process discovery analysis of the current as-is state of an organization’s business processes provides a baseline for process improvements and identifies key problem areas to be addressed by BPM, eliminating guesswork during pre-inplementation of RPA. Process discovery tools and techniques can be manual or automated, by using some of the same data already being gathered and used in business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA).
If your car told you one of your tires had low air pressure but not which one, or how low it was, you would not know which needed the extra air. The only way for you to figure out which tire it was would be to get out of the car and test each tire yourself manually. Prior to an RPA deployment, organizations can spend months identifying the areas that would benefit from the automation itself. Now, if your car told you exactly which tire had low air pressure, would you still spend the time checking each one? So, before an organization begins implementing a new RPA plan, it’s important to have a full understanding of all of its business processes to quickly and easily identify which ones would benefit the most from process automation, and why.
Now, this is where TimelinePI provides total visibility of the process and drastically cuts down the time needed to identify, examine and implement every RPA process scenario. TimelinePI automatically uncovers any issues that will inevitably pop up over the first few weeks of a new RPA deployment. This will allow you to achieve that perfect change implementation you have always imagined.
TimelinePI assists in taking the guesswork out of how business processes are operating by immediately highlighting which processes are handled efficiently, how processes are flowing, where the process needs to improve, and how to fix troubled areas.
Organizations that can deploy TimelinePI alongside RPA will no longer have to worry about identifying which areas to automate – the TimelinePI tool removes the trial, error and guesswork out of process improvement. With knowledge of the process and the understanding of root causes, executives will no longer be able to overlook opportunities for improvement in their RPA deployments. TimelinePI quickly uncovers mysteries in the process and immediately gives results so that employees can quickly act to make effective changes.
By simply uploading your process data to the TimelinePI tool, it identifies and breaks down the processes using the sophisticated patent-pending technology: Timeline Analysis. It could easily take TimelinePI minutes to identify a problem area. To uncover process intelligence like this it would take months, if not years to understand all the process inefficiencies. If your organization is waiting that long to make these improvements, you’re in trouble because by that time, the business environment will have already changed drastically.
RPA is the “future of business” with automation, but TimelinePI is a real game changer in how organizations uncover process and plan for automation. Once you see the Timeline Analysis, you too will wonder why is not every RPA implementation utilizing this analysis tool.
Image Source: http://avasant.com/what-we-do/intelligent-automation/
About the author
Ryan Raiker is an accomplished business consultant with experience working with small and medium enterprises. Ryan has worked in project management in State, and Local government. He studied Business Analytics and later earned his MBA from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. Currently Ryan is focusing on Brand Management and Product Development for TimelinePI.