An experts guide to the A-Z of all things Robotic Process Automation, Data Analytics, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation – the letter W
Welcome to the TWENTY THIRD 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 ‘W’.
Workflow Management: Workflow management software orchestrates repeatable patterns of activity. Workflow management software allows organisations to create a visual representation of a business workflow including all conditional tasks and exceptions.
Figure 1: Example of a business workflow
“Workflow management defines the optimum process method to ensure the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness. It is easy to create a visual representation of the workflow using the latest software; the hard part is determining the process flow. Therefore, skilled facilitation is required to harness the collective knowledge of the process team to design the best workflow.
Davenport and Short (1990) initially described Business Process Redesign as the new ‘Industrial Engineering’. This concept is just as applicable today because the Lean ‘eight wastes’ can be used to design the workflow with the shortest lead time and highest quality. The eight wastes were created by Taiichi Ohno in Toyota to optimise process flow and they are commonly known as ‘DOWNTIME’.Paul White, a Master Black Belt with 20 years Operational Excellence experience
War for Talent: There is a global shortage of exceptional digital and automation talent that has both the knowledge and war wounds needed to successfully run most organisations digital transformation programs. Organisations need to invest resources in hiring and developing talent to support their move to digital.
The shortage of talent within digital transformation and automation is not due to lack of technical skills. There has never been a larger output from universities and schools of well-trained developers with technical prowess. It is rather due to a lack of what I call authentic transformation agents, as opposed to synthetic, skill-based ones. Let me explain.
First, a couple of dimensions that are needed for this role: Manual experience and Sheer ability.
- Manual Experience: You need experience and training in working as a not-transformed employee. Knowledge of a before is essential to an after. Naturally, this does not come from being a well-trained RPA practitioner, for instance. It comes from having worked under the constraint of manual and knowing all the pitfalls of a non-happy path process. Basically, this gives the ability to know how the result should probably look and not just take it at face value. Just like a mathematician can ask questions of his TI-82 because he knows what to expect. This facilitates Understanding.
- Sheer ability: The most sought-after skillset? Ability to analogize. Close to being a direct dependent on sheer intelligence, the ability to analogize from a set of challenges and results to a different set of challenges and results and being able to navigate the non-identical scenarios is an absolute key ingredient for a transformative agent. This facilitates Improvement.
Digital transformation is all about Understanding to Improve. Authenticity comes from understanding, while transformation comes from improving on an understood base.
Authentic transformation agents are themselves transformative: they operate between. Not between anything specific (usually business and IT), but just generally between. They will always seek to occupy a vacuum and tend to know more than just their apparent area of expertise. They can analogize between different areas and they are not schooled for a synthetic interception or insertion, but rather for incremental, organic growth and movement of a base.
Talents able to perform as authentic transformation agents are extremely trim on the ground. The unquenching thirst is not for more synthetic skill-set talents (although good ones are worth their weight in gold) but for the bold and creative eye for transformation that takes flight from not a common mountain owned by none and everyone, but from the company’s own hill of unbridgeable challenges, manual legacy and resigned processing.
Lasse Rindom, Chief Digital Officer
What, where and why?
Organisations must have a clear understanding of what they hope to achieve with digital, automation and analytics programs. These programs must be tied to the organisations overall strategy and have a clearly aligned objectives to that strategy.
“Understanding of what transformation is, what it isn’t and what it can deliver varies greatly. It is worth sharing an overview of your transformation plans with your vision and how it is intended to be used in your organisation, to educate and set expectations. Getting this right, engaging the organisation and delivering feedback will provide a solid foundation for relationship management.”Mark Barrett, Automation Business Founder and Lead
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA):
RPA is an emerging form of business process automation technology. It is used to mimic repetitive human tasks. It is ideal for those processes that do not require cognitive (human) decision-making or repeated human intervention. Processes with yes/no decision points are usually perfectly suited to RPA. RPA software interacts with user interfaces (computer programs on PCs screens) much like one of your employees might. RPA software is used to build computer code. A bot, also known as a robot, or digital worker, is a software application that runs scripts that automate processes or tasks.
A robot is a robot, right? Er, not quite! There are different types of automation solutions. RPA solutions tend to come in 3 different ice cream, or is that ‘I scream’, automation flavours (i.e. attended, unattended and hybrid automation).
- Attended automations run on a worker’s desktop and are invoked by the user via context-based screen triggers, an embedded screen button or hotkey combination, etc. An attended #RPA application ‘works’ alongside agents with humans and robots working together to run a process greatly reduce the time required to perform activities.
- Unattended bots are deployed remotely on a server away from workers desktops and ‘supposedly’ without the need for human intervention. Unattended automation is used to automate high-volume transaction-based back-office processes attempting to remove people from the process entirely.
- Attended and unattended #RPA can also be used together in a hybrid model. A task can start with an agent and be enabled by an attended automation, which can kick-off unattended RPA to complete a process.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can play a significant part in a business’ digital strategy. It is a tool that can unlock value that can set an organisation apart from its competitors. RPA is an exciting technology that is drawing increasing amounts of IT, analyst, consulting and business attention.
“An Automation Ecosystem is essential to every enterprise today whether modern, traditional or contemporary. It underpinned a critical need for enterprise operations to reduce and reverse the increasing dependence of human work in business workflows.
Software platforms of the future should enable work to happen autonomously and efficiently by removing the friction between performance of work and the eventual business outcomes. That friction happens in a workflow through human work, thanks to RPA that is being reduced, paving way for algorithmic decisioning and hence autonomy of business workflows!”Mahesh Vinayagam, CEO, Founder and Automation Ecosystem Evangelist
There has been massive growth in the RPA sector with many diverse tools and product features popping up faster than toast (see AI Multiple’s blog posting listing 52 RPA companies). The top three companies in the sector have been estimated to have a collective market valuation of $11bn or more (Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and UiPath). This enormous valuation is largely derived from RPA’s ‘promise’ to help enable firms to realise value from vast amounts of inefficient, manual processes with cheap ‘bot’ workers rapaciously executing costly, processes 24/7 without the need for a person (or rather the cost of a person).
“Boston Dynamics claim all the headlines with their physical back flipping Robot’s, but the software type is what is currently driving business efficiency in the Enterprise at least for now. The Robotic part of RPA is all about the ability to complete repetition of process, and it’s this aspect that drives efficiency, accuracy and auditability in your deployments.”Wayne Butterfield, Automation Expert
Workforce: People transform organisations not technology. Organisations, that are transforming, must remember that customer (EX) and employee experience (EX) is a key as the technology that is being used to transform an organisation.
Figure 2: The Digital Transformation Value Pyramid
Organisations should be as excited about their talent as their are their technology. If they want their digital transformation programs to succeed then they should invest as much time and money, if not more, in their people as they do their tech.
Organisations must paint a bight and shiny picture of how automation, digitisation and analytics will improve the organisation and where they fit within this brave, new, digital world. For without an understanding of where an organisation is headed and where they fit in then a companies employees are not going to be able to support drive exceptional customer experiences (CX) using digital and automation technology (TX). They may in fact resist change if they are uncertain how this will impact their futures.
Quite often people, not the processes, are the most challenging part of any digital transformation program. Gaining employee buy-in for an RPA | IA program is not an easy task. It is key is to involve staff from the very start of any change program and genuinely take on board their emotions, feelings, fears and concerns. You must win support.
It is incumbent on the executive team to communicate the ‘why’ behind the transformation program before and during the event. The key to helping staff become comfortable with change is selling the benefits of the IA program.
As people gain an understanding of how RPA and IA works, they will then begin to understand operational improvement opportunities and how RPA helps them on a personal level. And once they start to see what’s in it for them, they’ll be more likely to embrace it.
‘RPA requires buy-in from all levels of the business. However, for it to be truly successful firm-wide, it needs to start at the top. I’ve seen many examples of where the wrong stakeholder have been engaged from the start and this has led to a failure in getting traction on the automation journey. Start at the top and work your way through the organisation getting interest, excitement and buy-in from all your key stakeholders and you will start the journey on the right foot.’Faisal Iftikhar – VP Global Head of Automation
This article highlighted some things relating to intelligent automation and digital transformation beginning with the letter “W”. There are many ‘W’s’ organisations need to consider but what ‘W’ do you think is the most important?
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