Can RPA Improve Organisational Resilience?

The Business Continuity Institute (www.thebci.org) defines “BC” as “The capability of the organization to continue delivery of products or services at acceptable predefined levels following a disruptive incident”, which has certainly been tested to the extreme in the current environment.

We started writing this article several weeks ago, just before the sudden and enormous impact of COVID-19 took hold, and now more than ever, the importance of organisational resilience and continuity planning is at the forefront of most people’s minds, however, the focus has now shifted for anyone involved in RPA.

When I first sat down to craft this article, the plan was to share our ideas for assessing automated processes in the context of business continuity in the event automated processes can’t run. For example, during system outages, disaster recovery, security compromises etc.

However, the world was a different place then, priorities and likely outcomes were varied but longer-term and more about ensuring the technology could still function.

The current situation means there is a real possibility of RPA stepping in where people are unable to.

If you’re new to RPA, read this blog first and watch the video there, which simply explains how RPA can help organisations.

We always ask clients to analyse business impact and continuity requirements for all process automations (and still do), but with the current crisis, the automations themselves are taking centre stage as pillars of organisational resilience and enablers of business continuity.

Where RPA helps to manage peaks and fluctuations more easily.

In addition to various measures taken to address the impact on the organisation when events like COVID-19 occur, RPA can be used very successfully to help craft and inform risk management strategies and business continuity plans.

For example:

  • Productivity continuity for key transactional tasks, relieving the burden on staff where volumes peak beyond what is physically manageable on a temporary or permanent basis.
  • Quickly adapt to ongoing changes in demand or behaviour in relation to major products, services, customers, suppliers and employees.
  • Effective and controlled transition to an online business model.
  • Improving customer experience by ensuring faster response and resolution times to queries.
  • Reducing the strain on networks by spreading workload and processing transactions during non-peak times or out-of-hours.
  • Alleviating dependencies on priority processing and workforce needs and providing a robust and rapid response to solve interim needs.
  • Adding greater resilience to the organisations business and operating models.

Where to start:

The scope of what’s possible in practice can be broad, with opportunities throughout the entire organisation, and is expected to be a continually evolving process.

This article is intended to provide some guidelines when developing an initial scope for RPA within a wider BC plan:

  1. The start point should be the enterprise business continuity plan or business impact analysis, which should identify a number of possible RPA opportunities at strategic, tactical and operational levels. For more information on how to do this, read our blog on this topic here.
  2. The next key step is to then define a suitable scope of automatable activities that impact or support essential products and services, taking workforce agility, locations, technologies, recovery timescales and disruption tolerance levels into account.
  3. For each of those processes, complete a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to ascertain the effects of a major incident or interruption, the loss on the operations of the organisation and the benefits gained from deploying automation. This could include certain staff becoming unavailable, or access to systems being restricted or compromised.
  4. Prioritise activities and processes which have a direct customer or public impact, and those which have a legal or regulatory requirement. Understand which would impact the income or cost of the organisation and then confirm the maximum acceptable outage for each. Explore the possible responses including workforce redeployment, acceptable outage limits as well as process automation.

What this all means for RPA:

The need to assess what happens if or when the robots are not able to operate is still required, but this is a much lower priority compared to providing essential business agility and resilience in the first instance.

After all, if a robotic process cannot run for a period of time, the impact of this downtime is typically more than offset by the gains from automating the process in the first place, and the speed with which backlogs are cleared when operation resumes.

We’re seeing an increase in companies realising the value of RPA within the current pandemic. Specifically, the ability for RPA to provide greater business resilience and truly embed business continuity into the processes and make-up of the organisation, aligned with business priorities.

Why not take a look at your own organisation? Consider current and future business challenges and risks, and consider how you might deploy RPA to mitigate those and enhance agility or at a minimum, help your workforce and customers by working through volumes of repetitive work. For practical COVID-19 RPA solutions and ideas check out UiPath Responding to COVID-19 Together and check out our “Furlough Bot” below, to automate the manual work to manage the HMRC Job Retention Scheme.