RPA – Proof of Concept (POC) or Proof of Value (POV)? Who cares, just get going! Part 1 of 5
RPA works BUT it is a journey, not a project!
Many businesses are intrigued by the idea of starting an enterprise-wide robotic process automation (RPA) program but struggle to take the first step. For some, an RPA proof of concept (POC) or a proof of value (POV) is the right catalyst to begin. It is the test bed to ensure that RPA ‘works’ in a specific environment.
“Do we need a POC when the concept of automation has been so irrefutably proven it’s now an inevitability? One view is that the point of automation is to deliver a scalable ROI that increases productivity and output. This should result in benefits not just to the organisation, but also to the economy, society, and the environment. Proof of Value is the first step for validating your automation vision and that is has the proven capability to deliver the required benefits.”Mark Barrett, Director Automation
But isn’t RPA supposed to be dead?
“RPA is not dead – not by any means, it is still at the heart of the kernel of all Automation Programs we have seen. Whilst RPA may be central, it is the real killer of expectations, hopes, targets and careers. Don’t rely on RPA alone, or believe the hype that buying 50 robots will lead to Back office Nirvana, it won’t.”Nick Andrews, Founder Virtual Operations
OK, so what needs to be proved about Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software or platforms that we don’t already know? Answer: nothing really.
“A POC is not only to understand the capability of the tool but also to measure the organisation’s competence in undertaking the journey. It needs to understand the stage of the digital transformation journey it lies in, i.e. digitisation, digitalisation, process transformation, etc. It will help filter out vendors and partners.”Supratik Ray, Head of Digital Transformation
Digital transformation programs can cost organisations many $10s or $100s of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it is incumbent upon an organisations technology leaders to understand where they are going or where they stand in the digital transformation journey milestone (i.e. strategic direction) and to test they can get there in advance. This is very much the case for Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a tool where many have struggled to make successful.
“We last counted 100+ Automation tools and technologies, very few of which were compatible with each other. Once you understand what your business problem is, you can then look at the role Automation tools and Process re-engineering may play in solving them. Depending on the nature of your problem you may have to kiss a number of technology frogs before you select the combination of tools that is right for you (i.e. what you have in your Automation Kitbag). Technology providers all profess ‘plug and play’ and their claims for functionality and efficiency can be mind-boggling, you have to get them to open the Kimono….”Nick Andrews, Founder Virtual Operations
Building an RPA Proof of Concept (POC) or Proof of Value (POV) in advance of any full scale technology transformation program, is key to understanding the moving parts and costs that may be incurred ahead.
“A POC and POV are different in their objectives. A POC proves that a technology or approach will technically work for you. It can be used to validate the functionality of potential tool sets as well as internal or supplier resources capability. A POC assumes the value benefits are proven and achievable or will be later in a POV. It can be used to provide an internal example of automation in action, for the purposes of achieving buy in from a broad range of stakeholders. A POV expands on the functional aspects of a POC with a clear value led objective that measures the success of your POV. That in turn triggers adoption and scale of your automation project.”Mark Barrett, Director Automation
- Building a business case for robotic process automation (RPA)
- 5 Must Haves to Building A Minimal Viable Product (MVP) The Right Way: Author – William Roseberry
“Companies use RPA POC/POV to test the water with the new technology, working relationships with a vendor or supplier to quickly enable an outcome as a throw away piece of work. This gets the team engaged, the benefits realised and RPA understood. Not everyone understands what RPA is and can be threatened by the thought of bots running loose in their systems.”Gavin Price, RPA Jedi
Authors note: this article is about RPA. However, please remember that RPA may not be a suitable tool to being your automation journey, nor may it ever be. Each organisation is different. However, the very first step is the same for every organisation contemplating their journey and that is ‘understand the business outcomes they want to achieve’. Firms must work through the various options and challenges that their firm needs to address and only then select the automation tool(s) needed to solve that organisations unique challenges. Don’t buy a hammer first (i.e. RPA) and hammer that solution into every problem you see. That approach will inevitably end in failure.
“The biggest problem I have is with the implied assertion that if it’s an automation project then it must be based on RPA. And that’s entirely the wrong entry point. You have to start with the business process. Define the process, its inputs and its outputs, and its subprocesses. Then work out an architecture for automating it based upon best-fit technologies. Anything else is a focus on tools & technologies, not solutions. It’s like “I’ve bought this great new tool, now I’m going to look for jobs to do with it”. Nobody in their right mind does that. Technologies shouldn’t sit around waiting to have requirements fitted to them.”Jon Silver, Automation Guru, Conference Speaker, Author
A POC | POV allows a team to observe an automation solution working with an organisation’s existing applications, risk and governance frameworks and processes in a live environment. The beauty of a POC | POV is that it proves whether a solution will or won’t work in the confines of an organisations unique environment.
“So why have a proof of concept? Why potentially spend thousands before you “dive in and do”? My answer is what I call the Forrest Gump effect … “life is like a box of chocolates ……”
You do not know how your RPA tool will behave with your applications. Some applications are a joy to automate, and others, well, are not nice to deal with. That said, different RPA tools have different strong points, it’s well worth while to experiment!”Dermott Caroll, RPA and IA Consultant
The key thing with any RPA program to rapidly create, deliver and capture value as rapidly as possible. When it comes to RPA strategy the more time spent creating an automation plan, the less time there is to execute it, increasing the risk that the world has moved on and the plan is out of date. Therefore, implement a POV promptly to help to surface any automations plan’s flaws and identify where to improve. Dont wait, start now.
Make mistakes but learn and learn fast. Iterate and succeed until you have an automation plan that works. This inevitably involves accepting a level of risk, but enterprises that embrace risk and respond quickly to events as they happen are more likely to succeed in an uncertain world.
Does your organisation run POC | POVs before implementing new technology and if yes, then what are your organisation’s best practice advice?
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Other articles: If you like this article then you may find these eight articles of use too.
- How to build a business case for Intelligent Automation and Robotic Process Automation
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- I’ve now met 150+ RPA developers but these are the 20 signs of a ‘truly exceptional’ RPA developer!
- 8 questions to ask to ensure you select the ‘right’ processes to automate using RPA | IA.
- 14 rules for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (AI) success
- The A-Z of Robotic Process Automation, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation
- The biggest lie told to RPA customers – 50 robots equals success
- 40 essential selection criteria to choose an RPA platform
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