Robotic Process Automation, also known as RPA, refers to the use of software “robots” that are able to automate certain rule-based, repetitive tasks in the workplace — for example, re-entering data or copy and pasting information from one application to another.
RPA has proven to be a major paradigm shift by increasing speed, lowering error rates, and, just as importantly, freeing up human workers to focus on more productive tasks.
If a human job is high volume, frequent and repetitive, involves software, and can be described as a series of step-by-step processes, it may be a prime candidate for RPA automation.
But what should you consider before (or as) you go down the RPA route? Following these steps can help reduce some of the teething challenges you may face as you engage with workplace automation.
RPA represents an enormous opportunity when it’s implemented well. By considering the below questions as part of your automation transition, you can get the most out of it.
Be clear about your goals
An HR department could build up a talented team of employees by competitively recruiting the top candidates in a field. But if the business doesn’t have specific roles for them to carry out, their talents aren’t going to be as well used as they could otherwise be.
RPA is the same way. RPA can be a game-changer for businesses. It’s technology that many, many enterprises and other organizations could benefit from. However, you need to know what it is that you’re hoping to achieve when you start implementing RPA.
To avoid automation silos and non-optimized results, organizations need to take a systematic approach to RPA: utilizing a Center of Excellence model that can help with the implementation, communication, training, and other steps associated with a successful rollout.
Understanding your goals with RPA can help ensure you’re selecting the right processes for automation and that you have in place the right governance procedures to make it work.
Know what success means
This links to the point about goals: How are you going to measure success? If you’re one of the main voices pushing for RPA in your business, this is crucially important — especially if there are some more skeptical voices you’re trying to convince.
There is not a one-size-fits-all means of measuring return on investment (ROI) for RPA. You may be looking to reduce processing time from multiple weeks down to seconds — for example, in responding to customer queries. You might want to improve accuracy and reduce operational error rates (and, possibly, improve compliance where necessary.)
It’s possible that you also want to increase the flexibility of your offerings, such as being able to operate certain functions 24/7.
Be realistic about your goals. That’s not to say that RPA isn’t a transformative technology, but that you have to factor in the speed of implementing your solution and then the length of time it’s going to take to see a return on your investment. RPA is a long-term technology.
You need to know what success means for you and then give the tools (and their creators) a sufficient timeline to show they can deliver this.
Be prepared to rethink processes
Imagine bringing a world class chef into a restaurant and then giving them the same recipes to work with, or an operations whiz and then not allowing them to change anything about that side of your business.
To truly reap the benefits of RPA, you need to be flexible and consider that, in some cases, it’s not just about automating processes exactly the way you currently have them set up. Processes that you have in place may not be optimally streamlined or, in some other way, flawed.
As part of the automation process, it’s crucial that processes are designed to work as efficiently as possibly. Remember that RPA will carry out processes the same way every time. That means that any inefficiencies could be baked into whichever bot is developed for the job.
It’s all about communication
The majority of workplace conflicts are about lack of communication. Problems with RPA rollout can be no different. In each organization there will likely be “early adopters” more open to implementing new technologies.
However, others might be skeptical — or even hostile — toward technologies they view as impinging on the work that they do. When it comes to automating processes, some may worry that this is about replacing humans, rather than easing their workload to focus on other crucial tasks.
It’s essential to communicate the benefit of RPA: both what it can do and, just as importantly, what it won’t be used to do. Addressing concerns early on is a key strategic move.
Then make sure that early implementation of RPA demonstrates its business value, showcasing how the technology will help, not hinder, employees. You can also involve employees with the automation process, giving them an important role in automating workflows.