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.

The bots are already here, time to Reskill & Redeploy?

For those employees who have embraced change and freed themselves from the drudgery of robotic tasks, how are they now exploiting the benefits of process automation and adjusting to life with bots?

Less is written about what happens after the initial phases of RPA; after the pilot has gone live and a handful more processes deployed, what are the results and the impacts, especially on the people. How and what happens in practice…do they feel empowered and free? or threatened and bored? Everyone will no doubt have a unique experience, but here are some of our insights and observations from our ongoing projects over the last eighteen months.

Creation of New Roles & Responsibilities

Excluding the more obvious RPA specific roles if you happen to be building an internal RPA team or centre of expertise, there are a few critically important new skills developing within the operational teams, which are essential to the automation-first era and the scaling of the RPA programme more broadly across the organisation.

RPA Process Coordinator

RPA process coordination involves the day-to-day ownership of automated processes, performed by people who really understand the business process, provide and receive inputs or outputs, manage exceptions or errors and invoke process contingency plans when needed. They also provide the first line of support to help understand and diagnose any issues with the robot, applications or operating environment.

These process coordinator tasks are being incorporated into existing process teams, with responsibility shared between resources to ensure adequate cover and continuity across all automated processes. Training is provided to all coordinators on how new automated processes work, how to access and navigate the RPA tools and how to deploy automations correctly in accordance with release control policies. An additional benefit is that the process coordinators begin to examine and consider processes in a new light, with an automation-first perspective, and pretty soon, more automation candidates are proposed as a result.

RPA Specialist

Also termed Citizen Developers, are business users empowered and enabled to identify and develop basic automations for processes directly within their control.

RPA Specialist skills can vary from the very basic to the very technical. In practice, operational and business users are the very best people to identify task and process candidates for automation, and if they have access to the right tools (ease of use!), they can capture the process and provide the data required to assess suitability. More complex areas can be handed over to higher-skilled specialists to more sophisticated develop solutions.

These higher-skilled RPA specialists are also providing an invaluable service to the business by developing ready-made, fully tested, reusable automation components, which are being utilised by the citizen business users to automate processes faster but robustly and aid the RPA programme to scale more effectively.

Upskilling

With reduced manual task based work, where time has genuinely been freed up, business users are finding room in their working day for more important or value-adding activities, some real examples being:

  • Analysis, interpretation & investigation, less time consumed with the production or processing of data, and more time dedicated to review and interpret results, which in turn has meant more timely or informed decision-making
  • Handling true and legitimate exceptions and responding more timely to customers has improved customer journeys and overall contributed to reducing exceptions and standardising processes
  • Expanded scope of work to include activities that previously weren’t performed at all or simply not adequately due to time constraints, which provided greater control and reduced risk
  • Take on new tasks and objectives following internal reorganisations from company acquisitions or mergers and also from regulatory changes which forced a change to processes and a significant increase in workload

The Future of Work

Rather than replacing jobs, so far we’ve seen an overwhelming augmentation of jobs through automation of tasks, but it makes us think about what will be the likely future for the workplace, and importantly, how will people need to prepare for the changes and affects. UiPath alone reports over 360,000 students and over 20,000 certified developers registered, so a new breed of skilled automation-savvy employees are well and truly on the rise.

With an increase in human-in-the-loop automations and the growing trend toward democratised Citizen Developers, the workplace of the future could perhaps be one where employees and robots (or “cobots” as they’ve been called – see also UiPath’s Guy Kirkwood post) will more seamlessly work together, with programmable tasks performed by the bots leaving employees to focus on more social and human-based activity.

So future workplace skills to become far more important will hopefully include those relying on more complex human attributes, those involving emotional intelligence, people management and social skills, creativity and collaboration, but in addition, the skills to understand how to interact with our automated collaborative co-workers.

What if you had more time?

So, if you had more free time at work or worked less overtime in the evenings or weekends as a result of collaborative robotic process automations, what would you do with it?

  • Build more effective social relationships with colleagues or customers
  • Invest in your personal or professional learning and development
  • Provide support to help others
  • Work on longer-term projects to improve further

What would you do, out of these? Or do you have any better suggestions?

5 Steps To Maximise RPA Success

RPA Definitely!…But What’s Your Why?

In this article we outline five key steps and our recommendations for any RPA journey to help maximise your chances of success:

  1. Clear objectives and priorities
  2. IT infrastructure
  3. Process Management
  4. Business Case
  5. Operating Framework

Read the full article here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-steps-maximise-success-rpa-daniel-lawrence/