Getting on the right path to intelligent automation

Igniting intelligent automation

As Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is becoming more prevalent in the world of business, it can seem appealing to jump in head-first and not deploy a greater plan when considering the best ways to improve processes within the company. But as exciting as the premise is of reducing costs and improving work rate with the installation of RPA software, being able to quickly implement and efficiently operate intelligent automation is the key to establishing yourself as a leader in the technology and taking full advantage of it, rather than slipping to the wayside as competitors make huge strides in productiveness and facility. Knowing the scope and capability of RPA tools as well as the best ways they can be operated and the most optimal use cases are just as important and arguably more so than simply acquiring the tools themselves and putting them to work as best you can.


Maximizing RPA

Diversifying your mindset around RPA is one of the first and best ways to improve a company’s outlook.  RPA is most typically associated with automation of banal tasks and reducing costs through the better use of labor and more efficient use of the employee hour.

Finding opportunities to generate revenue using RPA, however, can provide an additional benefit alongside the more common ones.  Don’t allow RPA tools to fall into predictable use cases. The ability to set expectations of your RPA tools, acknowledging the shortcomings RPA tools have their place.  Yet being creative about the types of ways RPA can be utilized is a crucial first step in creating a plan around implementing automation.


An Easier Road Toward RPA

When first incorporating RPA technology into your company, envisioning a plan based on your strategic goals and priorities must be the precursor to any software being brought in. State your end goal, and the path you want to take on your way there, before beginning the RPA journey.

The first phase in the journey is planning, in which you must determine the ways in which RPA can help you and whether your company is prepared to bring in this kind of software. You must develop your strategy, identify benefits that RPA could bring, and select a partner to help incorporate RPA. Key components of strategy should include building awareness of automation technology within the company, obtaining sources of funding, and creating your initial approach for implementation.

You then have to confirm that RPA programs are indeed applicable and begin your pilot programs, selecting your initial use cases, observing preliminary results, and measuring whatever benefits you can see. You must set up your basic infrastructure, begin acquiring skill in RPA technology and re-training your workers with new, more advanced skills that they will be able to use as a result of the freedom provided by robotic automation.

The third phase is the ramping up of RPA usage from the initial, more basic pilot programs. Implementation should be increased across different business functions and locations, and an RPA model for the company should be fully established. You must take what was learned in the previous pilot phase and use that to refine the strategy you had created, making your automation processes more efficient and better suited for your company as well as determining which processes should be re-worked or simply gotten rid of altogether. This acts as a period of growth between the initial installation and testing of your RPA tools and the following steady-state period where the tools have been stabilized throughout the company.

The steady-state phase is the final phase, but does not mean that automation processes are finished evolving. By this point, your operating model should be reliable and steady, and should be universal throughout the company. There will, however, always be opportunities to improve the efficiency improvement possibilities of your RPA processes, so constant monitoring and evaluation monitoring is crucial to ensuring you take full advantage.


Process Creation

When beginning the creation of processes, start by following a strict, standardized model that will allow people to easily become accustomed to using the technology as well as make it easier for processes to spread throughout the company.

The best initial opportunities for RPA usage are where there is work being done by humans that follows a structured, detailed process with defined rules that can be easily written down or programmed into a machine.

Finding those cases and ensuring they can be automated smoothly is the foundation for the expansion of RPA technology to higher levels and broader purposes.

Determining the cases that are the best candidates to be solved using RPA is the most important first step, and it can be achieved through leaders in architecture and innovation as well as through outside solutions consulting or systems integrators.

Once use cases are determined, these leaders and integrators can begin building the best road to finding the RPA software necessary for those cases.


Challenges within RPA

As with any major transformation initiative, there are several serious challenges and pitfalls that come with instituting automation technology. Without taking care to seriously address some of the following issues prior to introducing RPA, chances of success may decrease and you may not achieve the best outcomes available. As well, you can avoid bottlenecks and mitigate the impact of potential challenges that may still arise despite your best efforts.

The first major challenge can be a need of a roadmap or well-developed strategy. As mentioned earlier, a robust RPA strategy is necessary when it comes to determining potential outcomes, finding potential fits within the company for RPA tools, and executing the choices necessary to maximize the use of automation. Change management strategy is also needed when it comes to dividing roles, assuring company-wide buy-in, and resisting push back that may come from a skepticism of new technology.

You should then ensure that there is a large cache of RPA resources available for employees, should they run into obstacles of their own. Obtaining RPA resources is vital because quality, experienced options can be difficult to find, making those that are out there even more valuable to locate. These resources are obviously crucial to ensuring optimal outcomes with RPA, and with the very recent growth of RPA, there is a wide valley between the most up-to-date consulting solutions and the rest of the pack. Finding good resources may prove difficult, but they can also be the difference between huge successes and disappointment.

Finally, some companies, despite having sound strategy and successful pilots, do not scale their RPA well because they have no automation pipeline of projects and/or use cases, giving them no examples to observe and critique or guidelines from which to draw in building their own strategy. This lack of outside guidance can lead to difficulty determining which processes would be best automated, inefficient mapping of processes, and fragmentation of processes where they could be more efficiently built.