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Robotic Process Automation

How to Get Started with RPA in 5 Steps

The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) hype is drawing a lot of attention. One of the first questions I’m asked by those investigating RPA is, “what can I do to improve my chances of success?” While success looks different for each customer, thematically, customers seek improved productivity, strengthened compliance, increased workforce morale, enhanced data quality and reduced transaction costs.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer, but there are certain considerations that should be taken into account to improve your chances of success:

1. Engage your CIO early.

Most RPA pilots are business-led initiatives. However, if the pilot is going to scale into a program, the CIO is one of the most critical stakeholders. It’s important to acknowledge that RPA will be a catalyst to several new conversations including how you grant your new RPA digital worker system credentials and access, multi-factor authentication, single-sign on, and so on. All of these conversations require collaboration between the business that wishes to employ the RPA digital worker in a specific capacity and the CIO that will help determine how to maintain network security within the confines of the risk management framework.

2. Develop a holistic business case.

RPA is new to so many of the stakeholders that it’s important the RPA champion establishes quantifiable credibility to maintain continued support. I’ve seen a lot of success in developing a business case that addresses:

  • Strategic Alignment: Link the desired outcomes of your RPA program to the larger enterprise strategy. In most cases RPA can be linked to a higher-level Digital Transformation strategy.
  • Operational Impact: Document improvements to key operational metrics such as improved compliance, reduced cycle times, enhanced customer experience and reduced transactional costs.
  • Financial Impact: Develop a model of cost savings and/or avoidance to justify investments required to sustain and scale.
  • Workforce Impact: Identify the ‘people impact’ of RPA on the workforce. This is one of the most important elements of your business case. This should include impact on reduced contractor support, time given back to the workforce and how that time can be used on higher-value work to improve employee morale.

3. Design a sustainment model.

I always encourage each RPA pilot to include the design of an RPA sustainment model, which I like to call the Digital Management Office. When the pilot is briefed out to leadership for approval to implement, it should include a sustainment model. The most successful sustainment models I’ve seen include six competencies. Those competencies include Governance & Strategy, Tools & Training, Innovation & Vendor Management, RPA Operations, Performance Management and Change Management.

4. Understand RPA’s strengths and weaknesses:

I hope this doesn’t burst any bubbles, but RPA is not a silver bullet. RPA is great, but most organizations have complex business processes that include unstructured data and process variation — neither of which RPA is fit to handle. My recommendation is to demand that your RPA provider address these needs with appropriate RPA-complementary automation tools to ensure you are building a dependable automation solution.

5. Collaborate with the workforce:

The most critical stakeholders throughout the RPA journey are the individual employees performing the process(es) you are trying to automate. First, they are the experts who will identify all the ins and outs of the process that will need to be accounted for as you apply RPA. Secondly, if you attempt to apply RPA to an individual’s process without including them, they are rightfully going to be suspect of the implications of RPA. Including them will go a long way in educating them on what RPA is and how it is going to empower them.

No doubt about it — RPA will drive a cultural evolution. RPA adds a new ‘digital worker’ persona to the workforce. By taking the human element into account throughout the integration of the digital and physical workforce, you will increase the probability of success in creating a new total workforce.

Originally published in Information Management

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