8 questions to ask to ensure you select the ‘right’​ processes to automate using RPA | IA.

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8 questions to ask to ensure you select the ‘right’​ processes to automate using RPA | IA.

Identifying the right processes to automate using RPA | IA is a critical first step to the success of any RPA program. Choose the right process to automate and your program may pay for itself within 6 to 9 months. Choose the wrong process and your team will spend many unhappy, and expensive, hours fixing and rebuilding both the process and your team’s reputation.

When processes are highly manual, don’t require human decision-making and can be computerised, then they’re a generally a good fit for RPA | IA. If a supplier sends an invoice, for instance, RPA | IA can be used to update accounting software, initiating an electronic payment and downloading the invoice. With RPA | IA now taking on manual tasks, human employees have more time to focus on higher cognitive tasks like handling a large volume of data.

However, before companies rush to automate processes there are numbers of questions they need to ask including;

1. Is this process required in the first place? One of the advantages of an intelligent automation program is that firms, for the first time in many years, review the processes undertaken by their teams. Firms often find staff completing processes, or parts of processes, that were created for a specific purpose in bygone times but are redundant today.

Therefore, firms can save money by simply stop doing processes without spending a cent on RPA. Often, large firms find that similar processes are being completed elsewhere. By combining teams, as well as simplifying and standardising the process they can achieve significant people savings.

2. Is this process suitable for automation? Not every process is suitable for RPA, AI maybe more suitable or indeed a person completing the task may, in fact, be more applicable.

“There are a number of criteria that make a process suitable or not suitable for automation. Before you start your automation journey make sure you have a set list of criteria to use during process selection. You need to ensure your process is rules based, high volume, in a stable system and also fits in with your business case or vision for RPA.”

Matthew Coffey, RPA Delivery Lead at Pearson

3. Do your existing applications have inbuilt automation options? IT teams often know features, control screens, inbuilt scripts or automation options etc. that can be turned on within applications to save people processing time. For example, Oracle ERP has an option to prevent journal posting if the journal type is not within the company Chart of Accounts (COA). This means that businesses don’t need to implement manual cross validation checks, RPA | IA, or scripted VBA to identify journal postings with no corresponding COA cost centre.

“Process selection requires many characteristics to consider, and one less often talked about is selection in an RDA vs RPA scenario. Mission critical process selection vs quick, desktop task automation OR front office automation with exception handling vs back office automation – require a multi-variable approach to process selection and associated success metrics.”

Shail Khiyara, CMO | CXO | CCO – RPA & Intelligent Automation

4. Is this the right process to automate? A process may looks like the problem child that needs fixed using automation but it may be downstream from the source of the actual source of the problem (think LEAN root cause problem solving). Fixing a broken process upstream may negate the need to fix a process using RPA | IA.

5. What is the outcome I want to achieve? Is RPA the right tool to use? Or is an API, DLL, AI, OCR, NLP the tool I need?

“Automation is complex and multi-faceted; the chances that one tool fits all are slim to none. Therefore, it’s imperative that you aren’t naive, negligent, and don’t buy into the vendor hype and marketing BS – do your research and ensure proper due diligence of the available and chosen tech stack against your needs.”

Paul Arnold, Head of Product and Development at Cortex Intelligent Automation

6. Are both IT and Operations behind your change program? If either or neither re not behind your program then it does not matter how good a candidate for automation you have, your program will most fail without their cooperation. RPA | IA is not an IT project. It is a business project and everyone from the business must be involved.

“Whilst I would always suggest that automating bad processes leads to bad automation, it may in fact be the application of automation that enables a siloed business to become one, by transforming how they are able to communicate and work with one another. If you wait for your culture to change to implement new technology, you’d never change anything”

Edward Halsey, RPA Enterprise Account Manager

7. Are your executive team willing to sponsor your program with cash, time and executive support? Without executive support and funding your program has limited to no chance of getting off the ground or succeeding.

8. It the process aligned to your organisations strategic goals? If a process or value stream is not aligned to your organisations strategic goals then don’t spent time and money on RPA | IA. Focuses on processes that contribute, or move you further toward, your strategic goals.

If you have asked all those questions, then RPA | IA may now be considered.

Whilst it is recommended to start small and achieve quick wins to build automation muscle and internal customer confidence, not every process is suitable for RPA | IA. RPA | IA works best when processes are;

  • Digital: RPA is a digital technology; there are no physical robots marching across the workplace. If the process you are attempting to automate is not digital, or can’t be made digital, then RPA won’t work.
  • Deterministic / rules based: follow simple rules and logic; it costs less money to automate processes that follow simple rules and logic (i.e. processes should follow simple, logical steps with few exception rates or be able to be redesigned to have fewer exceptions).
  • Completed by a high number of employees (to get value from automation)
  • Need human cognition (i.e. when judgement and decision making is low or non-existent).
  • Have high cycle times: alternative to high number or people and/or in addition too
  • Low change rate – RPA | IA won’t work if the application RPA | IA is built to automate constantly changes (e.g. continual monthly updates and patches, or screen layout changes).
  • Low exception rates – If a process is not standardised such that even humans can successfully complete the case competently and consistently, then the digital workers won’t have any chance. The maximum acceptable exception rate for a process is 10%. Whether that percentage is acceptable or not, depends on the automation benefit that comes with it.
  • Structured data: RPA | IA cannot read unstructured data. for that you most likely need a combination of AI and OCR.
  • Not a seasonal activity, that has a low ROI return rate.
  • The benefits from automation outweighs the cost of automation. The value you get from automating a process in real $ or £ savings must far outweigh the costs of doing so (e.g. RPA platform and licences; configuration and implementation costs; development costs maintenance and overhead costs; Center of Expertise costs; IT infrastructure costs; governance costs, etc.).

If the above are not immediately true, then you next need to ask?

1. Can the process be redesigned for automation (e.g. using lean for digital or design thinking tools and techniques)? A process may not be suitable for automation in its current guise. By redesigning or altering the steps in a process more opportunities can be made available for automation (e.g. change a hand-written form to an online digital form).

“RPA & IA is your single best opportunity to revisit and rethink old legacy processes. Fresh people and fresh minds should be involved in the process assessment and analysis phase, so that they can challenge the status quo without any emotional connection with it. The more you challenge and question the status quo, the better solutions you deliver. The problem doesn’t only lie on the old and legacy processes though.”

Konstantinos Vogiatzakis, Global RPA Lead at Babylon Health

2. It is worthwhile financially to automate the process (i.e. the benefit of doing so outweighs the financial cost of automation). Just because it is technically possible to use robotic process automation, is not always recommended.

For example, companies that fail at RPA | IA the first time around, often automate low ROI tasks, high value giving processes. Having done so they discover that the cost of licences, developers, maintenance and change control grows beyond the value the automation delivers. Unless automating a process or large task offers significant value don’t go there.

“If a process does not deliver a tangible business outcome aligned to your core business strategy, then stop and look for a process that does.”

Gourav Datta, RPA and Intelligent Automation Delivery Lead

The path to successful RPA | IA adoption can be bumpy and challenging given the number of decisions a firm must make along its journey and selecting the right processes to automate is the first step on that winding road.

Setting a well structured, consistent processes in place to select processes to automate is the first step in guaranteeing RPA | IA success. Excellent processes deliver the data quality required for your AI programs. So all the reason to focus on the right processes from day one.

In our next article we will look at how to find processes for automation and build a business case.

What process selection criteria do you consider to be essential when selecting processes to automate?

If you like this article then you may find these useful too.

  1. When to use robotic process automation (RPA) – 8 filters and 10 criteria to consider before implementing RPA.
  2. 14 rules for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (AI) success
  3. Behaviours of an Agile Developer
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  5. If you are not willing to go all in, then don’t put on your RPA swimsuit.
  6. The biggest lie told to RPA customers – 50 robots equals success
  7. 40 essential selection criteria to choose an RPA platform
  8. The A-Z of RPA, AI and Digital Transformation
  9. 9 Key Roles in your Robotic Process Automation Centre of Expertise

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Further Help: If I can help you in any way please do reach out.

Note: The views expressed above are my views and not those of my employer.

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