RPA – Proof of Concept (POC) or Proof of Value (POV)? Who cares, just get going! Part 3 of 5
Selecting the right ‘pipeline of processes’ to automate is essential to running an excellent RPA program.
Process capture: Don’t underestimate the effort or the importance of good process discovery and documentation. This is one of the foundations of your automation service and runs true to the “garbage in garbage out” phrase. Huge amounts of time and cost can be wasted across technology users, IT teams and developers, due to poor process capture and documentation. Use experienced Business Analysts who understand the target automation technology such as RPA. Coupled with the right process capture documentation and tools this can save in excess of 40% of your capture and development time.
Mark Barrett, Director Automation
Select the right processes and identify any inefficiencies that may exist in processes before proceeding forward to redesign any processes.
“If your intention is to run a major RPA program in a big company then make the POC worthwhile. Select a challenging process to test the tooling for real. But….don’t underestimate the Continuous Improvement part of RPA. I have experienced multiple times that CFO’s are much more enthusiastic about the fact that current processes are being analysed, cleaned and sometimes stopped AND people are suddenly starting to improve proactively. That is already of great value. RPA is a means not a goal itself.”Pieter Joosten, RPA and Lean Finance Expert
“Make Decisions based on facts, not on fiction! Understand the processes as “they really are” not as you perceive them to be. Back your hypothesis with evidence, not just intuition. Identify any process inefficiencies, duplicated processes or bottlenecks. Ensure compliance obligations are met. Simulate the future to identify what requires change and what does not. Analyse and improve customer experience. Identify and address the root causes of unfavourable business outcomes.”Lisha Taneja, Technical Architect
- 8 questions to ask to ensure you select the ‘right’ processes to automate.
- 30 ideas to build a pipeline of processes suitable for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA)
- RPA Process Identification and Prioritisation
There are two key criteria your organisation should map processes against when selecting processes to automate (i.e. strategic fit and financial benefit). If activities are being undertaken that are non strategic (i.e. part of a legacy you want to leave behind) or they cost more to automate than they deliver in terms of financial value, then it is time to assess their usefulness and redirect staff to more valuable activities.
Table 1 by Nandan Mullakara Strategic Advisor on Intelligent Automation | RPA | AI
“It is important to select the right processes especially at the beginning and show a quick return on investment. People have found it best to start with simple processes that are visible but not very critical to the working of the group. Studies also suggest that you keep away from processes that have a lot of Audit involvement in the beginning, lest we end up with questions you are not ready to answer.
Selecting the wrong initial processes could slow down or even stop the Automation initiative. In fact choosing the wrong pilot process has been one of the major reasons for failed Automation initiatives.”Nandan Mullakara Strategic Advisor on Intelligent Automation | RPA | AI
Organisation cultural readiness, business readiness and genuine buy in: It does not matter how compelling an organisations RPA | IA | DA | AI business case is; without genuine business | SME | sponsorship and buy in then an RPA | IA | DA | AI program will not succeed. Even if you can evidence the results of an automation program then the real challenge has only just begun.
“Automation requires sensitive and effective change management as much as any other substantial shift. As Mike Hobday always used to say ‘It’s not about robots. It’s about people.’ It works best when the people are engaged in the change, feel that the organisation is listening, and can see how it could benefit them. Trying to push ahead with automation in a business that is uninterested in breaking from ‘the way we’ve always done things’ is like trying to stand up with your feet in two different canoes!”Richard Jenkinson, EMEA Director
Without executive sponsorship an automation program is not going to get the investment capital it needs under any circumstances.
“RPA requires buy-in from all levels of the business, but for it to be successful firm-wide, it needs to start at the top. I’ve seen many examples of where the wrong stakeholder has been engaged from the start, and this has led to a failure in getting traction on the automation journey“Amyn Jaffer – Head of Intelligent Automation
Even if an automation program gets executive sponsorship, culture will kill a project if the people within an organisation don’t want to engage with it (‘culture eats strategy everytime’).
“It’s very important to have Executive level sponsorship, but it is equally as important to make sure the people on the ground are communicated to from the outset….very often it’s the people on the ground who play a huge part in teaching the BOTs.”Andrew Hartley – RPA Consultant
Platform fit: Whilst many of the main vendor’s robotic process automation platform features are coalescing, not every platform is the same. Organisations need to test a variety of platforms to ensure they select the platform(s) that best suits their unique organisation.
“Companies need to define the ideal situation that they want to reach and then prepare a plan to achieve that. If that plan requires RPA, then that is fine. But not every company needs RPA to solve their big challenges. If RPA is required, then it must be part of the wider business strategy and officially accepted by the both the Business and IT.”Konstantinos Vogiatzakis, Global RPA Lead at Babylon Health
Develop an understanding of the tool: Organisations only truly understand a tool or platform when they have used it in anger. When selecting a process to automate be conscious of under-achieving and under-performing. An RPA Proof of Concept should be a high profile event (recommend videoing and storytelling it) which received considerable organisational attention – go large or go home! Therefore, you need to test an RPA tool to a high degree by selecting a process that challenges the platform. This is key.
Test new concepts: A POC | POV is a perfect opportunity to test new concepts (e.g. design thinking; lean for digital; Agile Scrum, etc.). If a company truly cares about how its customers feel, then design thinking should be adopted. Lean for digital should be introduced to prepare processes for automation. Agile scrum or DevOps are a must, if you are to release waves of value in this fast moving digital age.
Testing: Who writes the test cases? Who completes user acceptance testing, business process testing, unit testing (BAs | SMEs | coders), robots testing, exception handling, IT application and performance testing; schedule testing, multi-code bot execution, and every other form of testing required?
“I always get the business team involved and get them building some objects that will form part of the POC. The POCs I create are never quick and dirty due to the unique framework I have created. Every piece that is created at the POC stage is reusable in the full project. Far too many times have I seen a dream team being deployed to build a POC quick and dirty, land the contract, pass this over to the less experienced team where they pick up the quick and dirty code and build onto that! Foundations in quick sand.”Gavin Price, RPA Jedi
Architecture: Who will be responsible for the organisations architecture? Will it be on premise or in a cloud platform? Will IT be able to build out the required infrastructure and governance model uniquely suited to the longevity, security, stability and scale needed to make RPA | IA | DA | AI a success?
- Lessons learnt in 49 technical design review sessions by Hewitt Trinh RPA | Business Intelligence | Machine Learning)
The key thing with any RPA program is 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 automation plan’s flaws and identify where to improve. Don’t 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, 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
- 30 ways to build a pipeline of processes suitable for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA)
- 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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