Using RPA to switch from Classroom to Online Training Services

“Face-to-face teaching suspended until further notice” has become a common headline for organisations delivering education and training services over the last few weeks.

Millennials were already demanding more flexibility with online classes and digital resources, but the COVID-19 pandemic may have marked the death knell for traditional classroom courses. At least, that is, in the short-term, leaving educators to adapt quickly in order to meet their customer’s needs.

Digital communication providers like Zoom and Slack have definitely been clear winners so far, during this time, as universities and training companies worldwide continue to roll out online and on-demand training products.

However, transitioning to an online delivery model is accompanied by a unique set of challenges and new ways of working to which organisations and students alike must adjust.

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Using RPA to assist remote learning

One such challenge is how to connect the various systems and applications involved, or the data at least. Students need to select their preferred training slots, add these to their calendars with reminders, then manage updates and changes – and all preferably in real-time. This can certainly become an administrative disaster and a very poor customer experience if not managed successfully. What’s more, of course, due to the suddenness of the crisis, this all had to be delivered quickly.

Luckily, RPA is able to help solve this issue, and in this use case, we share how RPA helped one company to deploy a solution within just a few weeks, ensuring their students could book and attend online courses and continue their education.

Mid-March was when most educational and training organisations had to implement drastic and sudden changes to how they delivered courses and served their student customers, with a complete suspension of classroom-based and face-to-face courses. This was not just bad for organisations trying to deliver training, but also for their students, many of whom had been preparing for examinations just a few weeks away. There was really only one answer to this problem – provide all further training online, but how?

Practically delivering online training with RPA

The company we worked with was already planning and developing solutions to deliver online courses, but had to accelerate delivery because of COVID-19. However, they needed a fast and robust (automated) solution to connect the various front and back end applications with the online video conferencing system and manage two-way communication with the students. In essence, an automated connection was set up between the separate student recording and booking systems with Zoom.

Due to the non-invasive nature of RPA and the speed with which it can be deployed, it was a natural solution. Unlike traditional software, RPAorchestrates other applications through the existing user interface in the same or similar way a user does. So, in this sense, there is no integration involved.

The open APIs for the video conferencing system also meant that a much simpler and more robust RPA solution could be deployed quickly, allowing more time to develop the essential connections with back-office applications, where the student master records reside

.The overall outcome was a real-time automated course booking solution that provides a simple and repeatable customer experience, without creating a manual administrative burden for the employees.

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RPA Transformational by Design

Using RPA meant that not only was the urgency of the situation resolved by deploying a customer-focused solution on time to satisfy both student and organisational needs, but the robots can also be adapted and modified or simply redeployed in future should the requirements completely change once again.

Why RPA was the best solution for rapid change

This use case illustrates several key points of opportunity:

  • First, if your company is adapting to delivering online training and education courses and needs a fast and effective solution to help manage the integration of data that traditional methods can’t solve (at least quickly), then a robotic process automation could be the answer.
  • Second, this use case also highlights how effective RPA can be to address urgent business problems arising from COVID-19 or any other crisis on the horizon, and is a perfect tool to manage manual, repetitive tasks.
  • Ultimately, we don’t know for how long the current situation will endure nor how long current business operations and workarounds will be in place once restrictions are lifted. The major advantages of an RPA solution, however, are the agility it provides to change rapidly and as frequently as needed.

Whether online solutions are here for the short-term or long-term, are you ready to adapt and thrive to the new normal?

Challenges with RPA enabling remote learning

Coordinating timings between the RPA and the database

One of the challenges we faced was making sure that everything was timed to operate in the correct sequence within the overall process. One example of this was where a database updated certain records every two minutes which the robots would then use. If, however, the robotic steps in the process ran before the database had completed its update, the transaction status was reset and the robot would incorrectly try to process the same transaction again and fail.

To overcome this type of challenge, we added a timer trigger to set the robot running only after the database had successfully completed its updates.

Resolving record changes:

For example, if a webinar is scheduled for a particular date and time, but subsequently changed whilst the robot is processing the transaction. To overcome this, we added an extra control for the robot to double-check no record changes have occurred, before continuing and completing its process steps. If a record change was detected, the item was moved to a pending queue for processing with the new records on the next run.

With so many variables inherent within such a process, it can be difficult to ensure that any errors or exceptions are escalated in a timely manner to the correct place for resolution. To overcome this and accommodate future variability, we developed an exception matrix, which the robot uses to notify the most appropriate people according to the transaction result and status code.

This way, based on the exception and ensure records, the client could quickly update and change who the robot should notify.

End Result

The end result worked perfectly, saving the client hours of tedious and difficult programming work with fewer mistakes and without lengthy integration across multiple applications. The robot takes approximately two seconds to schedule a webinar from receiving the request and is able to robustly scale with the enterprise as demand increases. This results in the management of thousands of webinars with minimum delay.

Advantages from using RPA to shift to remote learning

The Automation SpecialistsA more traditional system integration approach was considered by the client, however, they estimated it could have taken up to ten times longer to successfully connect each of the systems and would result in a much less flexible solution.

The robot control centre, also deployed, automatically retains record update log files so that transaction history can be easily reviewed. The major benefits of using RPA for this process automation solution was, therefore, the speed of delivery and the flexibility to change key variables with ease, without needing to rebuild the robot.

Lawrence & Wedlock are specialists in business process automation and transformation, check us out at www.lawrenceandwedlock.com.

ROBOPOCALYPSE NOW?! – Preparing for the Art of the Possible

Forward to Normal

With our emergence from quarantine, attention has naturally turned acutely to life and business within the context of a new normal. A long and severe recession, job losses and business closures are among the expected effects of COVID-19, to be felt for a long time to come.
Business owners therefore face tough times and decisions ahead in the need to craft strategies for their survival and eventually, to hopefully thrive again.

Service Automation technologies (robotic, cognitive and augmented) are predicted to become increasingly important in helping organisations become more resilient and leaner to cope with the challenges ahead with a projected steep rise in the deployment of process automation, potentially replacing jobs lost through COVID-19, which may never return. But, is now the time right to embark upon, or scale-up, a service automation journey?

An important starting point for thinking about the future of work is the fact that, in the past, many others have worried in similar ways about what lies ahead – and been very wrong” – A World Without Work: Daniel Susskind.

Truth is Constant

Only time will tell how accurate these predictions are, however, looking back to what was either driving-on or holding-back organisations from adopting process automation pre-pandemic, reveals much of the same truths then, as now.

Many companies still don’t know what RPA or CA is, nor how it might benefit them, but this will inevitably continue to change.

Those organisations who had begun an automation journey were either still taking baby steps or considering how to truly scale…and perhaps still didn’t have a solid “why” (read our previous blog).

Those who were already scaling, will no doubt look to continue, but with the addition of more intelligent cognitive technologies embedded into the fabric of the solutions to drive even greater benefit and human augmentation.

In truth, many things haven’t changed: If deployed correctly, RPA is still an enabler of organisational resilience, business continuity and risk mitigation (see our previous post), and RPA can still cost-effectively perform a great many manual tasks faster and without error, and the rate of success is constantly improving. If you’re reading this and still unsure what RPA is, read our previous post for an introduction.

A Helping Robotic Hand

“In business, since lithe trumps lumbering during times of rapid change, agility will be the biggest advantage” – The Future is Faster Than You Think: Diamandis & Kotler.

Preparing for the new normal and crafting a path to recovery will therefore be a familiar story for all organisations, but success may depend not only on what courses of action to pursue, but how to deliver them. RPA & CA technologies may hold a significant key to help accelerate or enable those plans in several ways, some possible examples include:

  • Reduce or contain ongoing costs of operational processes and improve productivity by eliminating manual effort and speeding up tasks
  • Increase agility to weather the downturn and manage uncertainty in growth and demand using machine learning modelling to enhance predictions and generate response options
  • Equip teams with tools to optimise processes rapidly and incrementally with control using democratised citizen bot developers and technologies
  • Accelerate the adoption and deployment of digital transformation strategies and manage unstructured data
  • Simplify customer interactions, reduce operational effort and improve the customer experience across conversational and document-based processes in particular
  • Optimise home-working operations and the hand-off of work between humans and bots

Seize the Opportunity Now

The time is definitely right to look for opportunities and candidates beyond the normal and typical, especially more front-office, customer facing processes, as these may offer not only significant productivity gains, but also customer experience improvements and therefore competitive advantage.

An appealing opportunity may include automating a number of smaller tasks and activities that individually wouldn’t pass a typical business case review but combined under a Service Automation programme will not only become technially and operationally feasible but begin to make sense financially too.

For companies already on a service automation journey, the time is right and the stakes high enough, to accelerate the pace and scale across the wider organisation and to incorporate cognitive technologies to augment both robots and humans for a hyper-productivity boost.

The time may also be right to re-examine the operational governance framework that may have been kicking around since the programme began, to ensure roles and responsibilities are clear, duplication of work avoided, and development opportunities are optimised with reusable robotic commodities.

Many employees and companies will be worried about the loss of jobs, and although this may be a reality for some, the opportunity to redeploy resources with valuable knowledge of the company, its products/services and customers, may truly benefit everyone by exploiting those qualities with a change of focus in a new role. An example of this is in customer facing teams working in call centres or from home, who have had to adjust their working practices and may need to adopt even more efficient, customer-centric procedures in future. Taking advantage of service automation technologies wherever possible, could help to maximise human-to-human interaction and optimise human-to-robot opportunities like never before.

Now is the Time

Returning to the original question posted at the start of this article: is this the right time to begin or scale a service automation programme? – in short, yes or to put another way, if not now, when? Survival is fundamental, new competitive pressures and demands will arise and evolve with the continuance of Brexit, as will new opportunities. Customer experience will dictate creativity to retain their loyalty, so adding value to the front-line of your business is essential to add value to the bottom-line.

“If the only constant is change, the pace of change is accelerating” – The Future is Faster Than You Think: Diamandis & Kotler.

Lawrence & Wedlock are service automation specialists, making the art of the possible as simple and straight forward as possible for their clients.

Managing Customer Verification When Multiple Online Accounts Exist

The need to perform customer due diligence (or CDD) to verify identification is not new, and an absolute must for regulated industries such as gambling.

Primarily designed to ensure anti-money laundering (AML) checks are performed, the requirements now go much further than basic screening practices. This is to ensure that checks such as PEPs (politically exposed persons) and SIPs (special interest persons) are covered, and evidenced, as part of an enhanced review.

This clearly provides additional challenges for the gambling sector in particular for identifying, managing and processing accounts relating to a self-exclusion process and can result in significant complexity and scale.

What’s driving the complexity for compliance?

The UK gambling industry is being set tighter and stricter deadlines by the UK Gambling Commission to protect consumers, with an ongoing strategy to make online gambling a safe and comfortable environment for all. The window for performing processes such as self-exclusion is getting smaller and smaller.

Strengthening initiatives include; improved online age and identity verification, the banning of credit cards, enhanced rules and guidance on identifying and interacting with customers who may be at risk of harm.

All of this combined with the regulator demanding that gambling companies raise standards in the areas of VIP practices, advertising technology, game design and online stake limits creates a complex environment for self-exclusion.

The commission is particularly focussing on the below areas for improvement, and self-exclusion we can see is a major emphasis:

  • Preventing underage gambling with policies to prevent and monitor effectiveness.
  • Self-exclusion options for those who would like to take steps to stop gambling.
  • The importance of interacting with customers and focusing on measures to identify and help those at-risk of harm to help prevent becoming problem gamblers.

You can find more details on these areas here.

Where the compliance gaps are likely to occur:

Organisations across many sectors, and especially gambling companies, have developed robust processes and controls in order to perform and evidence the diligence work carried out in relation to customer verification.

However, one fundamental challenge that appears time and again is gaining the knowledge of, and identifying which, accounts require checking and monitoring.

This challenge largely occurs because online customers can be both creative and determined, creating duplicate accounts to take advantage of online offers, or in an attempt to circumnavigate controls.

The commission is well aware of this and has a clear expectation that gambling companies will do their utmost to address and mitigate the impacts of this workaround.

How you can remove the duplicate account complexity when managing verification processes:

To help companies rise to meet this challenge head on, our automation team created a robot that seeks out potential duplicate accounts based on a logical sequence of checks to help strengthen the CDD toolkit.

For example:

Let’s illustrate this with a challenge and the solution.

Suppose a customer (let’s call him Eric) created an online account with the following details:

Eric Twinge of 29 Acacia Road, Anytown, BN1 1DY, born 16 February 1980, email address of banana1@hotmail.com, and a mobile phone number 0310 8315486.

Eric then moves to a new house a year later and wants to update his details.

However, he’s forgotten his login credentials, and really wants to get online as soon as possible, so he creates a new (duplicate) account for his ease.

Because he had already created an account, he entered some slightly different information changing his email address to banana2@gmail.com and his phone number to 0789 1982007.

Never underestimate the creativity of people!

Confusion reigns!

Eric now has two separate accounts, which may not be linked automatically by the online platform, particularly if the unique identifier is the email address and/or telephone number.

If Eric subsequently requests to self-exclude his latest account, the gambling company would ideally need to identify all accounts that Eric may have created, in order to compete his request.

This is obviously a very simple example in isolation, in reality scenarios are much more complex and plentiful, and therefore more challenging for any service provider to manage effectively.

So, what can be done to ensure compliance, and to keep Eric safe?

One solution is to try and solve manually, by reviewing as many accounts as possible to spot connections and/or related data points (such as common postcodes for example), but this can require a lot of resources to achieve within the timescales required by regulations.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers the ability to automate manual processes, and in far shorter time, can complete the review tasks across hundreds, thousands or millions of data points. For example, by programming a robot to search customer records to identify and “match” multiple key data points:

  • Each match results in either a full or partial match of the target data points determined using algorithms (for example, flagging that Eric’s creative use of banana 1 and banana 2 could possibly be the same person)
  • Each full and partial data match is assigned a weighting score
  • The cumulative result is an overall score per customer based on those matches and that overall score equates to a confidence level of a duplicate account match
  • The final outcome is that a customer account will be considered either a duplicate match, no-match, or partial match for further review

The RPA can be programmed to match any number of data points in theory, but in order to achieve a higher confidence rating the laws of diminishing returns will take effect at some stage.

Reducing false positives and negatives quickly:

Complex algorithms have been developed in order to improve the accuracy of the results, far more quickly than a person could do so. This means your staff can focus more on helping the customer, as opposed to scanning thousands of data points.

These algorithms look at data points such as:

  • keyboard proximity data entry error (e.g. Erix instead of Eric on a qwerty keyboard)
  • data point transposition errors (e.g. Eirc instead of Eric or 3/2/80 instead of 2/3/80)
  • data substitutions, additions or ommissions (e.g. banana1@hotmail.com instead of banana1@hotmail.co.uk)
  • logical data variance tolerances (e.g. 16-Feb-1980 instead of 15-Feb-1980)
  • extraction of common data points within data fields (e.g. Rose Cottage, 29 Acacia Road instead of 29, Rose Cottage)

More sophisticated results are attainable by incorporating external data references and services to cross-check and validate personal data points.

Transforming due diligence and verification:

Customer Due Diligence processes can be truly transformed by combining RPA technologies to compliment existing systems and services, and ensuring staff are free to help customers enjoy gambling safely and legally.

The RPA can continue to scan and search through high volumes of data in order to identify and action account updates in accordance with regulatory requirements.

Only the true exceptions need to be escalated for human intervention, adding value for customers, employees, companies and regulators alike.

If you haven’t yet considered how RPA and the above approach could augment and optimise the customer verification process for your organisation, consider some of the points above within your specific circumstances and how these might be applied. What other logical arguments or tests would your process need to incorporate? We’d be interested to hear whether you feel this type of solution could work or not and why.

Leveraging RPA for business continuity planning

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.

Webinar – How to Unlock RPA with Process Discovery

We partnered with Craig Willis, Customer Success Director at Skore, on a recent webinar to discuss the end-to-end process RPA development. This includes rapid process capture, identification of automation opportunities, building a business case and collaborating with business users to create the perfect automation projects.

Watch our 30-minute video here:

Once you’ve completed this webinar, why not take a look at our recent blog to understand how to identify a suitable process candidate for automation?

Webinar – Getting Started with RPA

We partnered with Craig Willis, Customer Success Director at Skore, on a recent webinar to discuss the steps to take when you want to get started with RPA.

Topics Include:

  • What is RPA?
  • Things to Avoid
  • RPA Operating Framework
  • How To Get Started
  • Prioritising
  • Things To Think About

Watch our 20-minute video here:

Once you’ve completed this webinar, why not take a look at our recent blog to understand how to identify a suitable process candidate for automation?

Identifying a Suitable Process Candidate for Automation

Before you start automating, it’s important to have your “why”, which determines the automation imperatives to select and prioritise your candidates. If you don’t have this yet, take a look at our earlier article here.

We like to begin the process of identifying suitable automation candidates with an RPA Immersion Workshop, where we gather a number of representatives from several departments from across the organisation. We introduce RPA, what it is, what it isn’t, the art of the possible and the proposed RPA programme for the company.

We also introduce the tools and techniques we’ll use to discover and assess likely candidates. We work through some examples of how to do this with the client, and then break out into groups to compile a number of possible ideas and candidates onto a pipeline.

For pure Robotic Process Automation (excluding more intelligent automation capabilities) the ideal candidates should initially:

  • Be High Volume (transactional) or High Value (time-consuming) activities
  • Deliver the defined benefits (per the organisation objectives) such as productivity, quality, customer experience, compliance, etc
  • Create tasks which are rule-based, and logic-driven
  • Use well-structured digital data
  • Ensure both the systems and process are generally mature and stable and therefore unlikely to change significantly

Ideal examples of RPA candidates involve activities where data is currently manually obtained, manipulated and/or entered into or transferred between applications, especially where integration is not readily available.

It’s advisable to avoid too much complexity initially if you have to, pick the “happy path” first, and work on more complex variations subsequently.

Those candidates that “qualify” these initial criteria are considered suitable for automation and can subject to a more detailed assessment to determine prioritisation for implementation.

The successful process candidates are then prioritised into a book of work and the necessary time and resources to develop and deploy them are planned out. 

The Future of Employees & RPA

Automation is transforming businesses and directly impacting bottom lines as a result of improved productivity, but it also can raise employees’ concerns about job security.

A Forrester Consulting study was commissioned by UiPath to evaluate the impact of automation and how firms are enabling better planning and preparedness for the future while still considering employee experience.

Click on our infographic below for more:

How RPA Increases IT Efficiency

Author: Christian Wedlock

RPA demands IT and business collaboration:

In our experience, most IT teams are still only beginning to understand how different it is to deploy contemporary intelligent process automation technologies, and how the role of IT and their relationship with their internal business customers’ needs to be much more collaborative, adaptive and dynamic to fully exploit these technological capabilities.

We’re also finding and proving that it’s more essential than ever to have an effective framework in place that supports and focuses on business objectives and enables the democratisation of key steps in the automation deployment lifecycle to avoid bottle-necking efficiency and speed.

A long-term IT infrastructure plan is crucial:

IT readiness is key. It’s important for IT to focus on the infrastructure primarily, not just what’s needed now, but in 12, 24, 48 months’ time, according to the roadmap and this ought to consider cloud and other emerging technological opportunities too.

Maintaining the RPA IT environments is also critical and relies on well-coordinated interaction with the business users to ensure system updates across multiple environments minimise disruption of robotic and operational effectiveness.

RPA lightens the load for IT:

The recent UiPath/Forrester paper highlights what I feel is a really important point; that RPA can truly lighten the load for IT, both in supporting technology-led business process innovations and reducing the daily workload for IT. We’ve seen several practical benefits/examples of this, for instance: IT has been using scripts for years to automate hardware monitoring and maintenance and onboarding / offboarding in multiple systems, but many are still being run by humans, driven by numerous IT service tickets. Whereas RPA can be used to effectively reduce this burden and remove the human in the loop, and at the same time provide a faster more tailored service to the business.

Once the IT organisation does indeed see how beneficial RPA can be to the business, they’re often very enthusiastic to implement it, however, this can lead to issues if IT assumes ownership for the RPA programme and attempts to fit the programme within more traditional policies and practices. With the appropriate governance in place, RPA allows lasting but quick results.

Using RPA to optimise data storage:

Another common example we see for RPA to lighten the load for IT is in optimising the use of data stored in bespoke and often home-grown legacy systems, which can create a lifetime of knowledge-dependent maintenance, especially if those systems need to be modified to meet changing business needs. RPA is a perfect solution to meet changing needs and customer demands for true reusability, without lengthy integrations.

Where the challenges lie:

The biggest challenge we still see in deploying RPA is the infrastructure set-up, and there are a few possible reasons for this:

  • Some IT professionals are initially dismissive of RPA as basic screen scraping technology and aren’t that interested, or they occasionally see RPA as a threat too, but it needn’t be that way. Read our recent UiPath Case Study here.
  • POCs have long been the starting point for RPA, however, the technology is generally well proven from a technical standpoint and if the initial discovery work is completed adequately, the infrastructure environments are best set-up as they mean to continue with full deployment scalability.
  • What critically improves the time to deploy, is clearly understanding the requirements, accepting that they are simple, but different, so reading technical documentation and undertaking on-demand training can really help, but involving IT professionals who can assume responsibility for the end-to-end set-up cycle is also beneficial, and ideally people who understand the existing eco-structure properly really helps.
  • Ultimately however, it boils down to how much of a strategic enabler and business partner role IT provides to the business, as this determines the effectiveness and success of the working relationship and success of RPA.

IT policies are another critical area where change and collaboration are essential. In practice, most IT policies didn’t anticipate RPA when they were created and so some adaptation and tweaks will be required to work properly, examples include: Release Control; Maintenance and Upgrade; System Access Controls; Password Management; Segregation of Duties; Logs and Logging. 

We’ve observed examples where more traditional approaches to technology deployment can stifle the speed and effectiveness of an RPA programme, so it’s important to be open to new ways of working. But, there’s also no need to reinvent the wheel and develop brand new frameworks, there are plenty of proven RPA operating models already that will suffice and can be implemented with minimal adaptation.

Finally, IT must engage with the business, as they’ll be the ones interacting with the automation on a daily basis, not IT, in order to deliver on business objectives.

You can download the Forrester Report here.

Christian is co-founder and Technology Director at Lawrence & Wedlock.

How should you begin your RPA Journey?

Two common questions we hear a great deal are: “How to start an RPA journey” and “How to scale an RPA journey”. Strangely, the answer, in part at least, to both is actually very similar… engagement!

Start at the beginning:

First steps in RPA should always start small, with a restricted group of participants, as you very much need to walk before you can run. Have a clear understanding of “Why” you want to use RPA, and what outcomes you are looking to achieve, and in what areas of the business.

Once that’s agreed, you should then look to select potential candidates to help you meet these essential first priorities. Don’t focus too much on the technology side of RPA either, look to develop and deploy with collaboration from both the business and IT, but agree on expectations upfront. With an easy to use platform such as UiPath, business users can quickly get to grips with the process and it saves time overall.

As you scale out further you should plan to work with a broader group of people, but still maintain the best practices established at the beginning.

What that looks like in practice:

For a recent, large scale gambling organisation, we ran an RPA Immersion Workshop, where we assembled an all-star cast from across the business. Various departments, functional areas and physical locations were represented, including HR, Finance, Operations and IT. This is a great way to get everyone excited about the possibilities that RPA offers.

When we start, we show this video:

It’s a great tool for dispelling RPA myths and getting everyone in the right frame of mind.

“I really thought robots were about taking away jobs, but now see that it’s a cool way to free us and work smarter”

Time for the big questions:

Why are we here? Running through the reasons that the organisation has decided that RPA is a good choice, gets people bought in.

Then we jump straight in, show a demo of a bot in action, managing a process that everyone is familiar with, perhaps responding to and processing emails to a generic account such as hr@client.com.

 As soon as that’s done, we get everyone to roll up their sleeves and start joining in to answer, “how do we know what makes a good candidate”. People really love this part, and soon everyone is jumping in with suggestions and ideas, it really lifts the energy.

People are always amazed at the possibilities RPA can offer for their departments and often aren’t aware of how much RPA can do. Whether it’s answering web queries, processing documents received via email, handling job applications, closing accounts or handling benefits queries, RPA is incredibly versatile.

So many opportunities to free up our staff from mundane, time-consuming drudgery work”

And finally, we get them to build a bot so they can see for themselves how it works. By directly applying it to the ideas they brought with them (We always ask them to bring three), adding some details and quantifying where possible they quickly see the results for themselves.

One example of a process that got the company really excited was that bots could be deployed to actually enhance how we interact and engage with our customers and supply chain directly and sell our services, which would not only improve customer experience, but also our margins…switching the outcome from operational efficiency to competitive advantage was a true eye-opener for our client.

What’s next?

Well, led by the business users, you’ll need to take that knowledge gained to analyse and prioritise further processes in order to plan the scaling out of RPA over time. And that’s exciting!