An experts guide to the A-Z of all things Robotic Process Automation, Data Analytics, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation – the letter V

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An experts guide to the A-Z of all things Robotic Process Automation, Data Analytics, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation – the letter V

Welcome to the TWENTY SECOND part of a 26 part series detailing the A-Z of all things Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Data Analytics (DA), Intelligent Automation (IA) and Digital Transformation (DT).

This article highlights all things relating to intelligent automation and digital transformation beginning with the letter ‘V’.

Velocity: It is hard to make money or maintain excitement surrounding a Robotic Process Automation or Intelligent Automation program if it does not grow at pace. But to scale a Robotic Process Automation or Intelligent Automation program, with ROI front and centre, there are a number of pre-requisites that need to be in place.

  1. Establish a Centre of Expertise to regulate, promote, govern, filter and validate business cases, PR, hire – train – coach – mentor and manage RPA colleagues, link with IT to ensure there is a suitable enterprise platform available (my preference is Cloud platform, for agility) and support.
  2. Executive sponsorship – digital and automation enabled transformation requires dedicated / proactive time and money.
  3. Has to be a top 5 agenda item and 100% align the RPA | automation program to the businesses broader transformation goals
  4. Build a robust business case – one a CFO will stand over and sign off.

“Demonstrate your ‘quick wins’ early on. This will enhance your relationship with the Executive Sponsor and Champions. And this will help to accelerate your automation program. From here you would have demonstrated trust and credibility to scale your program. The CFO will be pleased as well!”

Janine Gill, Intelligent Automation Client Director

  1. Bring an intelligent automation toolkit – RPA | IA cant do it alone – do, think, see… but automation muscle takes time so plan for this and take your time.
  2. Ideally streamline, redesign, standardise processes and only then digitise and automate.
  3. Treat RPA platforms as an enterprise platform – make available always.
  4. Build a pipeline or valuable processes
  5. Design for humans not machines i.e. great customer and staff experience
  6. Have an excellent governance model to assess, review and track process business benefits
  7. Develop an automation and digital mind-set. Culture eats strategy

“While most organisations get absorbed in trying to get as accurate as possible with the business case, this can have a negative impact on the P&L owners. RPA or Intelligent Automation is still a new entrant in the IT landscape of most organisations and the fear of the unknown will always push the business owners towards a conservative mindset. So, keep the numbers realistic, but, account for assumptions and a reasonable stretch to absorb the additional effort which is more often that not, highly likely in a new implementation.” 

Sudip Roy, Intelligent Automation Leader and Digital Transformation Strategist

Visual Basic for Applications (VBA): Love or loath Excel it is ubiquitous. Organisations large and small alike, use it to run their operations. One ‘hidden’, but hugely powerful, programming language built into Microsoft programs is Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Excel is used for a wide variety of things (e.g. budgets, forecasting, keeping lists of things, analysing data, etc.).

One thing most organisations, or Excel users, need is to automate some aspect of Excel. If a task is reasonably straightforward, then a VBA program can be written to do. That is what VBA is all about. For example, if an organisations needs to perform the same action on, 6 different Excel workbooks, then VBA code can be written to repeat the same action performed on the first workbook, on the other workbooks.

Sophisticated VBA programs can be created and executed at the click of a button, saving organisations a great deal of time and effort (e.g. to format and print your month-end sales report). Rather than struggle through a tedious sequence of Excel commands, VBA can be written to automate the task to free time and limit PICNIC mistakes.

“However much we’d like to believe that we don’t need additional code for meaningful RPA solutions, VBA and VB.Net are still needed to enhance our low-code platforms’ capabilities. RPA tools will most likely never be as sophisticated to incorporate all .Net capabilities pre-built.”

Balint Laszlo Papp, RPA Delivery Lead

Vendor: There are a great many vendors on the RPA and IA market. Some vendor companies are long established and some are new to the scene.

One thing is certain, Robotic Process Automation, Data Analytics and Intelligent Automation exist in a highly competitive market. And there is likely a platform suited to every business and budget. Don’t just focus on the so called top three vendors only, or rely on analysts reports that focus on a narrow range of vendors. Instead take time to research the market and find a product that will work for your organisation.

“Start-ups can pivot quickly to build platforms with new features and functionality that may suit your needs better than the more established players in the market. There is considerable value in looking beyond your industry to determine if non industry specific platforms are a better fit. Speak with the vendors’ references and avoid anyone wanting to sell you the big ticket enterprise solution at the outset. It is more cost effective and time efficient to start small and build upon the success of the smaller project.”

Sharan Kaur MBA, Global Architecture and Automation Lead

Automation is long term journey. Consequently, organisations should aim to bind themselves to a vendor that has a solid, well ‘thought through’ technology roadmap. The automation and digital platform roadmap needs to align with an organisations strategy. Make sure the vendor’s journey is aligned with the organisations journey.

“While roadmaps can and do evolve, strategic milestones should be clearly defined – the best RPA companies have a roadmap that shares a compelling vision and tells an ambitious story. Find the company that thinks big and then gets the big things done.”

John Grancarich, Vice President Of Product Strategy

Viability: The average company faces many challenges in getting started with Robotic Process Automation, Data Analytics or Intelligent Automation programs, including a shortage of qualified, experience staff and a viable business case. Not every process is suited to digital or automation.

“Firms need to think beyond what they are currently doing if they want to out compete your competition. Don’t just automate how you currently work. Digital has opened a host of opportunities that allow you to truly reinvent and transform how you deliver value to your customers.”

Faisal Iftikhar, Cognitive Automation Expert and Global Vice President

Whilst spotting Robotic Process Automation, Data Analytics or Intelligent Automation opportunities does not require a PhD in robotics or statistics or even the ability to write code spotting business cases is a critical exercise. If an organisation cannot build and articulate a business case for digitisation, analytics or automation then it is unlikely to start one.

There are a may ways to determine whether a task presents a good analytics or automation opportunity and by following a few simple steps these can be readily identified.

  1. First, grab your organisations level 5 process taxonomy or if that is not available write down what people do in their jobs. Break apart the activities into; things done daily or regularly versus things done sporadically; things that are routine and repetitive and things that require patient deliberation or lots of thought; things that are done by a lot of people in the same role and things that are done by individuals on their own; things that are part of a process versus things done by individuals; things that are digital and things that are not completed on a computer screen.
  2. Examine the nature of the tasks that have been identified. Does a task include predicting something, processing something or bucketing something into categories?
  3. Ask, if 10 colleagues in the organisation perform a task, would they all agree on the answer? If people can’t agree, then the chances are, robots or analytics programs won’t be able to reliably process transaction digitally or transform judgment into statistical patterns that can be represented in data model or charts.
  4. How long have people in the organisation been doing this task? Has the organisation kept a record of successfully completed tasks? If yes, then this process or the data collected could be used as a training data set for robotic process automation program or for a data analytics algorithm. If no, then start mapping the process or collecting the data today, and keep a human in the loop to train the robot or algorithm over time.
  5. Next, sit down with the robotic process automation, intelligent automation or data science team and show them the task. Walk through the process and the desired business outcome. This will help determine if an automation or a data analytics model is feasible and desirable.
  6. Ask, if this were automated what time would I save? Ask, if I built a data algorithm could an answer with a 80% plus accuracy rate be produced? and would this be sufficient to enable the business to automate this task?

“The hardest part of automation is deciding which processes are viable for automation. There is a temptation to apply a scatter gun approach and automate everything and anything. Stop. Build a Centre of Excellence and include individuals who are keen to automate processes they know intimately and do repetitively.

Do not be tempted to start with complex processes even if the ROI is immediate. This approach has limited success because enthusiasm wears off quickly and those involved will not have the appetite to continue with further automation.

Start with ideation sessions and process mapping as the basis of a working prototype. Automate easier processes that are repetitive and build on the success of those processes. This will keep the momentum going. Automation, whether it is RPA or Intelligent Automation, is an iterative process. Manage expectations accordingly.” 

Sharan Kaur MBA, Global Architecture and Automation Lead

Value: A Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Data Analytics (DA), Data Transformation (DT) or Intelligent Automation (IA) program that does not deliver tangible value then it has, in a purely financial sense, failed.

Different organisations have different business strategies or priorities. For example, some organisations may want to use automation to reduce headcount or overtime bills. Others may have a challenge retaining staff or customers. Some may need to retain their current output but at lower cost. Whilst different organisations have different goals, one thing remains true. Whatever the desired business outcome, automation programs cost money.

“Numbers and metrics don’t mean a lot without benchmarks and expectations to help interpret them. Automation efforts have many benefits, but it is critical that you first align with leadership on your organisations specific objectives for transforming and agree on achievable and measurable milestones.

These milestones will help to shape your strategy for transformation and provide you with the opportunity for transparency.

Every lesson learned and applied allows you to recalibrate your efforts and adjust expectations, with the initial high-level objectives in mind.”

Ema RoloffDigital Transformation Sales Executive

Organisations can achieve a balance score card of benefits from a successful digital and automation program. But, if they don’t recover the cost of their automation program then a CFO is well within her rights to challenge it. This has always been true, but especially now when many organisations are under greater financial pressure than ever.

Figure 1: Example Automation Balance Score Card

To be recognised as financially successful, an automation program’s benefits must be tangible (i.e. the type of financial benefit that appears in the P&L which a CFO will sign off on). They must also be realised over the life of your business case.

“If savings are not being achieved in terms of monetary measurements, efficiencies, or a better customer experience, then what is the benefit of automation?”

Dermot Carroll – Technical Lead, Virtual-Operations

Figure 2: Example Automation Business Case for Governance Committee

It is paramount that a governance committee and the finance department agree automation benefits and then track those business benefits over time. Too often, organisations forget to track benefits and the benefits promised fail to get delivered over the 1, 2, 3 or 5 year promised business plan. Organisations must track benefits diligently (e.g. every quarter or six months). If they find benefits are no longer delivered then remove the bot, take the benefit off the P&L, complete a retrospective and feed the learning back into your automaton program.

“Setting up for long-term success is a balancing act of P&L measurement on the side of finance and accountability on the side of IT and automation teams. Failure to maintain, scale as processes become more complex, and/or deliver entirely are all factors not to be ignored in calculating automation ROI.”

Antti Karjalainen, CEO and Founder

This article highlighted some things relating to intelligent automation and digital transformation beginning with the letter “V”. There are many ‘V’s’ organisations need to consider but what ‘V’ do you think is the most important?

Other articles: If you like this article then you may find these articles of use also.

  1. 32 real world experts outline the who, what and why when it comes to running an Intelligent Automation Centre of Expertise for FREE
  2. How to build a business case for Intelligent Automation and Robotic Process Automation
  3. 30 ways to build a pipeline of processes suitable for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA)
  4. The biggest lie told to RPA customers – 50 robots equals success
  5. If your RPA program is not making money then it has failed.
  6. RPA – Proof of Concept (POC) or Proof of Value (POV)? Who cares, just get going!
  7. 40 Essential Selection Criteria to Choose an RPA Platform – 5 part series
  8. I meet 150+ developers and these are 20 signs of a truly gifted developer
  9. The A-Z of Robotic Process Automation, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation
  10. How to scale successfully – you have 60 seconds to reply
  11. Can organizations implement RPA without having a digital transformation strategy – what would you have said?
  12. FREE training sites for Robotic Process Automation, Intelligent Automation, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence & Digital Training Sites
  13. 22 way to cut the cost of an automation program – 4 part series

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