Date: 24 November 2021
This blog is to provide an overview of the discussion and questions asked, including those by attendees, for quick reference to support your process automation efforts.
Michele Caminos Executive Strategic Advisor
Brendan Shea Head of Business Optimisation
The presenters discussed the following:
- How to identify opportunities to optimise and automate business processes
- The pitfalls to avoid when setting up and implementing an RPA (Robotic Process Automation) program
- How to ensure the ongoing success of your RPA program
- What criteria are required to select the best RPA technology for your organisation
- What are the skills and capabilities your team needs to be equipped with to effectively manage your RPA program?
Following is an overview of what was discussed in the webinar:
Why should you automate your business process? And how do you get started?
Key benefits of process automation are:
- Allows an organization to scale the workforce.
- Improves quality as it is built-in bot. Humans on the other hand, despite all we’re capable of, find it difficult to do things 100% right, 100% of the time. And for those who do things manually, we know just how hard it is to do that. Also, some organisations absolutely need to get it right as they are legally obliged to.
- Cost is also a driver – you can keep your costs down or you can do more for less. For example, in a team I lead at another organization, we’re able to remove 68 roles because of automation. That’s quite a big number.
- Retaining the right people has become critical today as a result of border closures. One of the easiest ways to do that though is to remove the monotonous and repeatable activities and make their job more enjoyable by allowing them to focus on the more interesting work.
So where to start?
RPA, like most other transformation initiatives, it’s a simple matter of crawl, walk and run, but there’s a method around how you do this. And we call this the ASSURITY FOUR STATE PROCESS:
- Identified opportunity
- Data availability
- People capability
- Repeatable methodology
Start by looking at areas of the business with good stable process, with high handling in rules-based logic, but which demand manual oversight and need access to data in stable and reliable systems. The key here is the involvement of the key people who do that for you. There’s a saying we use: give me access to the fifth-best person who knows the process and I’ll give you the fifth-best bot. That’s how important people are to this process.
It’s difficult early on to pinpoint exactly where the processes are best suited for automation. It’s best to start with a business process analysis because sometimes what may look like a simple process actually isn’t.
People often think that automation is all just about the technology, but in reality, your processes and also your people are just as important as the technology. The key people know how things work and they need to be with you as you automate the work that they do to avoid failure.
How do you ensure ongoing success with your process automation efforts?
There are a number of ways through this at Assurity we believe there are three critical enablers:
(1) Set aspirational targets around what you want your program to deliver: For example:
- 25-point increase in customer satisfaction
- 50% reduction in complaints
- 10% reduction in churn for example, of some of your key people.
Of course, the obvious one is cost. In the last organization I worked in when we put RPA in, we were able to deliver just shy of $20 million in just under two years.
Just to note though, about what your targets shouldn’t be, and that’s around the target and the number of bots you release. Why? Because it’s very easy to automate stuff, and it can become quite addictive for your teams. Businesses can get caught up with constantly rolling out bots and lose track of the value.
(2) Assign accountability for this program: You need a single line of accountability for delivery…it has to be someone’s day job to ensure this is successful.
(3) Identify the right partner: You need help to establish and scale your program. A lot of programs get to a point of volume, and then they just start to drift along. A partner helps you move from a technical program to a strategic one. This is not about creating a dependency on your partner, but rather helping you quickly get to a level of maturity to carry it forward yourself.
Once you’ve automated a process, it needs to be treated like a virtual employee. It needs to be fed and it needs to be watered. So, the project team needs to hand it over to an owner who’s responsible for making sure it continues to work as designed. And this is where a lot of things can happen because bots like people can have sick days – passwords change, processes change. So, you need someone to be there looking after that bot and making sure it’s working as it has been designed.
Who should be the sponsor(s) for an RPA program?
When you have a sponsor from an individual business unit, you generally find that the program is scalable within that business unit but it’s very difficult to go across values streams. If you have a sponsor, for example, like the CFO, they have a view across the entire organization. The challenge for CFOs is that they are very much focused on things like costs and revenue, etc. So, it’s about getting that balance right. Someone who’s got a view around the organization, but naturally can think about all those factors like costs, customer experience, scale, and capability and retention as well. And every business unit has a slight bent on one of those. Try to find someone a bit more independent who can look at all of them holistically. So really the answer is a classic one – It depends on your organization and how your structure is set up.
End-to-end automation is complex…why and how should you handle it?
End-to-end automation of processes is a collection of processes that connect to each other. So, by definition, it’s not impossible, but for it to work successfully, you need to create one value chain that goes all the way with connected processes, with a high level of maturity and stability in those processes. So, by definition, it’s a bit harder to do when you’re connecting 5, 10, 20 processes. It’s not impossible, it just takes a bit more work and a bit more effort, but the rewards are greater as well. So don’t certainly be put off by that.
What are the criteria to evaluate an RPA solution?
There are a few things we feel are important when selecting your RPA solution:
- A single pane of view for automation: You need to be able to manage, monitor, and control the entire automation life cycle from a single window.
- Users interact and communicate with each other throughout the process: Your team will need to communicate and work seamlessly throughout the various stages of built, managed, engage, and discover.
- Quick ramp-up with tailor-made templates: You will want to get quick ROI from your investment and in order to achieve that UiPath has a number of tailor-made templates around a number of processes to help the ramp-up process.
- Open ecosystem platform: You need a product that integrates easily with enterprise applications in support of the business process.
When should IT Teams be involved?
The RPA program cannot be done without the support of the IT team, and they need to be involved from day one. This is because there are lots of technical choices to be made along the way. The business needs to be responsible for the ownership and be accountable for what the program delivers. IT will then be responsible for providing the infrastructure to support the solution and giving businesses access to reliable data sources.
What are the major differences between Microsoft Power Automate and UiPath Solution?
UiPath has a strong user interface for automation, allowing humans and bots to work seamlessly together on the same machine at the same time. This has a positive impact on productivity.
UiPath platform is an open ecosystem, where robust rich integrations are built-in with all the technologies that our customers use today, including not only Microsoft but other systems like Salesforce, Google, AWS, etc. And the UiPath platform is flexible to deploy and use on-premise in your cloud provider of choice. So these are some of the specific differences. The UiPath solution also has robust governance capabilities, so users have visibility control over all automation initiatives across the enterprises. It’s not a personal productivity tool that we are talking about here, but rather an enterprise-grade, highly scalable tool. As you start rolling automation out to all of your users, you’re going to need a platform that allows you to do that easily.
The managed service versions of the robots and manage the versions of the process to have auditability and audit trail of what’s happening to take what automation is being used. Lastly, ensuring a high quality of service for your automation and a key capability for that is testing. Being able to test the automation themselves when there’s any change, and testing the applications that not only your automation depend on, but your business users, the painters depend on as well. So, the UiPath platform provides a fully functional testing capability, as well as business process automation capability there.