In recent months, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been a hot topic among business process experts. Lots of companies have begun to think 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, overextended staff, and numerous repeated tasks slowing your organization down and adding to costs. What do these all have in common? For starters, they are a major competitive constraint on the organization. On the upside, this 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 a successful RPA project in 4 steps:
- 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 ensure 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 benchmarked 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.
Measuring ROI in RPA
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.
by Ryan M. Raiker, MBA, is Senior Product Marketing Manager at ABBYY.