Every business, no matter how interesting, has certain mundane, repetitive tasks that have to be performed. These are frequently tasks that can suck up enormous amounts of time, but do not necessarily involve an enormous amount of variation — although remain a critical part of the core business. Thanks to software advances, these tasks can now be carried out through a process called RPA. What is RPA? It stands for Robotic Process Automation, and refers to the use of software-based “robots” or “bots” which can be programmed to carry out these rule-based tasks.
Implementing RPA solutions can free up your human workforce so that they can focus on more valuable, cognitively demanding business tasks. It can also greatly speed up certain business processes, thereby improving efficiency — such as reducing how long it takes to process customer returns from weeks to on-demand. The impact of these changes will positively impact the customer journey, along with the bottom line and the experience of those working for the business.
But how do you make sure that RPA solutions prove maximally valuable for your business? Here are three things to consider as you set about considering adopting RPA in your organization.
Find the right processes to automate
RPA is a game-changing proposition for businesses. But to get the most out of it you’ll need to select the right processes to automate. A business may have hundreds or thousands of processes involving a large number of people. Some of those tasks could be more efficiently carried out using RPA methodologies, while others will require humans to perform them for the foreseeable future.
How do you choose which are viable candidates for automation? The good news is that you don’t have to guess. Modern RPA solutions will provide you with desktop tools that can monitor the tasks carried out by employees, compile these into a database, and then use algorithmic analysis to determine which could most optimally be automated. These processes will typically be time-intensive tasks that are repeated over and over, with minimal variation, by a large number of employees. This is an invaluable first step in the path down your automation journey.
Automation for the people
Business owners may love the idea of RPA. Employees, however, might be skeptical of it, fearing that these are processes which might automate them out of a job. After all, the idea of a system which doesn’t seek to finish work at 5.30pm, take weekends off, and ask for vacation weeks seems like it could pose a threat to employee longevity.
In reality, RPA can be a productivity revolution for employees, as well as business owners. In the same way that a smartphone app like Google Maps makes it easier to navigate when people are driving their cars, RPA tools can assist humans in all sorts of ways as they do their jobs.
Time-saving is the obvious candidate, by automation some of the monotonous jobs people have to carry out on a regular basis. But it’s far from the only example. In industries with stringent regulatory requirements, where violations may be accompanied by a heavy financial penalty, RPA tools can be used to monitor behavior and alert users of potentially costly mistakes. Similarly, they can call up other relevant information where necessary. These are great illustrations of scenarios in which RPA isn’t about the binary choice of humans or machines carrying out a job; it’s about automated tools supporting humans in the workplace.
The automation center of excellence
The positive effects of RPA tools can be felt from day one. But you want your RPA solution to be with you for the long term, not to be a quick fix that will rapidly outgrow its usefulness. To ensure that you get the most out of RPA solutions, it’s important that you have people in the loop who can ensure that these processes are running as smoothly as possible, and that they continue to evolve over time to deliver the right results.
In order to achieve this, you need what is often referred to as a “Center of Excellence.” This is the human part of the RPA equation, referring to those with the right knowledge and strategic vision to roll out automated solutions in a way that is optimally beneficial to a business. A Center of Excellence will usually have three components. The first is a leader, who will take responsibility for the strategic side of RPA and its execution. Then there is an analyst, who can handle the roadmap, business process assessment, tracking of return on investment (ROI), and more. Finally, there are the developers themselves, who will design, create, test, and be responsible for the deployment of RPA bots, along with providing ongoing support and, where needed, enhancements.
Like any tool, RPA is only as valuable as the way that it is used. A Center of Excellence will ensure not only that it is, but that it creates an automation solution that will be useful for the long term.