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Preparing your tech and business for RPA

  • Oliver Cook
  • Mar 3, 2020

2020 is the year of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) as companies realise the productivity benefits of automating tedious, repetitive but necessary tasks currently performed by employees.

MEDIA, PROCESS AND AUTOMATION

Any organisation thinking about automation will benefit from a structured approach based around the discovery and identification of those processes that could be considered RPA ready. 

Many companies start thinking about RPA when they look at processes which are repetitive and slow and are seen as causing real pain points to the business. And while these are often ripe for RPA and should be automated first, it is sometimes the case that the discovery stage reveals other processes where automation will deliver quick wins and generate the greatest ROI.

A structured approach is to take a holistic view of as many processes as possible. For example, today many organisations are PDF heavy and burdened with  processes that are yet to be digitised. Organisations may rely on PDF media for handling purchase orders or invoicing to many different suppliers. Although digital, the process for handling these documents is not digitised, requiring much human intervention at different stages. 

Another example of something considered RPA ready may be document management involving hand-written notes with multiple stages to process.  

Both are good candidates for automation. 

But at a discovery stage it is also worth exploring other processes that may present as automation-ready. These may be existing end to end processes that are already logical and digital. Processes may already be in place that only use digital forms, have well documented procedures and are consistent in format and data. These may be good candidates for easy to deliver intelligent automation.

In some cases, a thorough evaluation of all the processes can show there will be faster time to value in choosing to use RPA for those that are already mainly digital. 

The human+ methodology for the delivery of successful RPA is based on Proof of Value (POV) and, where appropriate testing with minimum viable product (MVP.)

For example, RPA experts such as human+ know that processes involving hand-written forms with wet signatures present particular challenges to intelligent systems [think of Bots reading hand-written forms] and are often not the best option for initial RPA projects. 

RPA READY TECH

From a technology perspective the ideal RPA ready environment looks much like the standard infrastructure stack already deployed in most modern IT environments. Typically this means having access to scalable, highly available VMs on prem, where spinning up is fully controlled by the owner operator. VMs on the cloud, where access, authentication, authorisation and security protocols and permissions are in place are also a viable option. 

In both IT and business process terms it pays to start to make small changes to create an environment which is RPA ready – and which can make the digital worker more efficient.

An RPA ready environment will typically have access to highly available VM based scalable infrastructure that can stand up multiple VMs in a day – as well as enterprise grade SQL cluster to host the back-end database.

HOW TO START PREPARING FOR RPA BENEFITS 

RPA does not have to involve swallowing wholesale change in one gulp. Instead by taking a structured approach it can be considered incremental and evolutionary. Even before deploying RPA technology there are steps which should be considered now. 

These are:

  • Start by mapping processes in order to gain insight into which are ready to automate (and which will deliver the greatest benefits through automation.  

  • Look closely at your existing processes and see which ones can easily be made digital end to end – e.g. when it comes to signatures, start using DocuSign and electronic signatures wherever possible.

  • Start to lower the amount of manual handling

  • Get your PDFs ready for RPA Where processes completely rely on or are heavily PDF dependent it is possible to get your PDFs ready for RPA.  The quality of the PDFs is paramount. In preparation for RPA, when converting original information to PDFs – it pays to ensure they are of the highest quality possible to ensure text is RPA machine readable – rather than, for example relying on OCR or image recognition. 

Use the tools already available in existing applications. For example, there is much that can be digitised in Outlook and other applications. This is something which many business users don’t take advantage of and sometimes even IT support teams are unaware of.

In both IT and business process terms it pays to start to make small changes to create an environment which is RPA ready – and which can make the digital worker more efficient.

It is also important to communicate with your dependent and partner organisations and inform them you are looking to automate processes. 

The human+ methodology for the delivery of successful RPA is based on Proof of Value (POV) and, where appropriate testing with minimum viable product (MVP.)

RPA success will deliver benefits by exposing workers to automated processes and preparing them for additional future automation. By freeing resources through easy wins – digital workers are made more productive Read our blog on Cultural change and RPA.

MAP FOR SUCCESS Taking a considered approach includes assessing your level of ambition to produce the greatest chance of success.  In terms of deliverables, remember a key advantage of RPA can be speed.  RPA delivers fast benefits because it automates particular processes quickly. It is also important to recognise that RPA is containerised meaning there are no changes required to other applications and systems. Taking a structured approach on your RPA project journey starts with mapping processes and going for easy wins. 

Contact us about succeeding with RPA.

Oliver Cook

Oliver is one of our automation consultants and prides himself on improving the customer experience through the use of RPA.