If you’re thinking about automating some of your business processes, you’re likely looking for two outcomes – lowering operating cost and improving your customer and employee experiences. Sometimes it’s just not possible to do a complete digital process transformation. You may not have the time, resources, or budget for that kind of project, but you still may need to fix certain areas of your business. How can you quickly address the pain points and get them fixed?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a fast, cost effective choice that uses methods that are noninvasive. What do I mean by that? RPA works with your existing systems to target specific problems. Before implementing RPA, I recommend that you run a pilot program to first address the upcoming organizational and process changes required for success.
Here are six strategies to consider for a successful RPA pilot:
1. Position it at the Top
RPA provides the opportunity to lower cost without the need for operations redesign or large scale IT transformation. As illustrated in the figures below, RPA fundamentally disrupts the risk-reward equation unlike any other lever, reason why it should be positioned at the top.
RPA provides the ability to create quick wins, however it does not improve the reliability, availability and performance of your underlying systems. In most cases RPA and Process Digitization will coexist to deliver value. To understand this better, let’s analyze the results produced by a digital transformation initiative on the scale of Time and Cost. In one scenario it might make sense to make RPA investments upfront, knowing that it will pay off well before process digitization catches up (the “Compete” scenario illustrated below). In another scenario, RPA investments can be made for the longer term to fill the gaps that process digitization may never fulfill (the “Complement” scenario illustrated below).
RPA can be a long term solution when processes lack the sponsorship for digitization
Let me explain this one through a scenario. A commercial lending company enjoys major market share in a niche segment. It may not benefit from digitizing its sales and fulfillment processes, however it has an opportunity to lower service delivery cost by digitizing the booking and servicing processes. Even when process digitization is cost prohibitive, RPA can be the ideal long term solution for improving automation in one aspect of your business. Where there is a strong business case for process digitization, RPA can play a complementary role.
3. Give business the “RPA lens”
As you transition from IT-led advocacy to a business-led self discovery program, IT leaders will want to start shifting the onus onto their colleagues in business operations. This accomplishes two very important things:
- Self discovery leads to quick identification of opportunities.
- Change management becomes a non-issue when business operations is discovering the automation opportunities.
Consider holding workshops with examples for business operations and IT to teach the cause and effect of RPA-based automation. When your colleagues in business operations understand how best to analyze their own processes, they will propose solutions that are inline with IT.
4. Define an RPA pilot
The process of discovery needs to be a cohesive exercise between business operations and IT. This is best accomplished through a team workshop that ‘mixes the grains of both silos’.
5. Complete the pilot with a clear end in mind
A typical pilot starts with a proof of concept (POC) to validate feasibility. During this stage, your goal is to unearth technical incompatibilities and limitations. The proof of concept becomes a pilot when you test the solution with your users. The results of that test will help you validate the business case and benefits profile. Put your pilot into production use for at least 30 days to test and tweak the plan and to analyze the benefits. If you stop at POC then you are missing the opportunity to demonstrate cause and effect.
6. Build a pipeline and establish governance
As business users discover a new and improved experience at work, they will proactively contribute by identifying new automation opportunities for RPA initiatives. Successful pilots will almost always create a “pull” effect.
Consider delaying the set up of governance structures until the successful completion of the pilot. This creates quick results upfront and amplifies buy-in from colleagues in business. The right time to make sustainable decisions about governance is when you have a committed long term RPA pipeline. While governance could be an entire blog topic by itself, some of the key focus areas to consider include tools selection, choosing the appropriate licensing construct and firming up the business-IT operating model with focus on innovation, design, implementation and operational control.
These initiatives offer a new paradigm to drive automation and cost leadership objectives; however, it takes the right strategy and approach to create a successful outcome within your organization. I’m very interested to hear your questions or your experience driving RPA in your organization.
If you want to learn more, check out a framework depicting the next wave of Intelligent Automation.