Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a popular topic and emerging buzzword “darling”. In spite of that, it deserves discussion. Move over micro-services, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. RPA needs some room on the overcrowded buzzword couch.
Every buzzword has its application. It’s the bandwagon of ubiquity that’s dangerous. Use things where they’re appropriate in an architecture. But, if you’re more interested in using buzzwords to gain attention or investors, please move along. For those that want to learn an approach to achieve near-term value from RPA, read on…
Scenario: Fast Growth led to Slow Adaptivity
One of my clients went through a period of extraordinary growth. They grew so fast that the only way to keep up with demand was to hire people to scale out manual processes. These processes exist across several departments. Plus, there was no technology shop to speak of when the growth began. They hired as fast they could, but keeping pace was a challenge.
When growth slowed, having many hands execute manual tasks had become the “way we do things”. Everyone agreed that it would be great to do things a different way. The trouble was getting there. Typical questions were:
- Could a new tech vendor have a solution to ease the burden?
- Could the internal tech team build something to digitize a manual process?
- Is this going to put jobs in jeopardy?
Fear of Change is Normal
You know the situation. New technology can take months and millions of dollars to develop. And it could introduce countless errors. Parallel testing would run for some time to make sure it was OK (and there aren’t always enough resources to do that). And what about jobs? People performing the manual tasks may be at risk if the manual work was no longer required.
All valid concerns. But not worth snubbing RPA and its benefits.
Remember that the prior growth created manual processes because of the challenge of responding fast. And now, change seems like a dream state, with potential nightmarish consequences.
Quite a dilemma. And this is where RPA excels.
The Proper View of RPA
How do you go about putting your arms around something whose scope could be immense? Here’s are great way to think about what RPA can mean in the near term:
It’s not a big bang approach. And, it’s not always a people replacer.
It’s a surgical tool designed to reduce cost and reduce errors.
It’s a way to help relieve some of the burden of operations allowing time to focus on legacy systems.
And it will free up valuable time for the business to focus on further improvements.
Three Reasons to Consider RPA
1. You Can Try it Out with Pinpoint Accuracy
RPA does not demand an all-or-nothing approach. You can test it on a discrete process without affecting others. Inventory candidate processes for early implementation of RPA, and choose one or two to start.
My clients have processes that include downloading data from one system, changing the format of the data, then uploading it to another system. This is a great place to start. It’s a simple, clear task. It can be automated quickly to provide an early sign of RPA benefits.
It’s a matter of taking one step at a time, moving down the list of those tasks. From easier to more challenging issues, taking one at a time.
2. RPA Frees Resources to Focus on Less Mundane Tasks
As your team begins to see the benefits of RPA, they’ll be able to help guide you to other areas where RPA may be of benefit. Once there’s breathing room, you’ll begin to get suggestions on how to make things better.
I’ve found it to be the rule, and not the exception, that there are process details of which very few people are aware. Moving these to an automated solution is exactly like ensuring that more than one developer knows about a piece of code.
A recent study by McKinsey mentions that the ROI on RPA can grow from 30% to 200% within a year. It is surprising how fast RPA shows benefits for the business. Plus, many automated process have the side-effect of creating a better customer experience.
In a sense, RPA streamlines bureaucracy. Done well, it removes the red-tape created by having manual processes between a request and an outcome.
3. RPA Creates Space for Thinking about Longer Term Solutions
One of the most frustrating things for a development team is a lack of time spent on creating better systems. Instead, they spend much of their time helping fix things that went wrong with a manual process. That’s a challenging culture for retaining top technical talent.
In other words, no seasoned technologist wants to spend their days doing this. Robotic Process Automation is a way to remove the burden of support from technical staff so they can then focus on what’s next.
In many high growth organizations, this is a challenge. Not because the technical talent isn’t available. But because the priority is on maintaining the way things are instead of building what should be.
And it frees the business, too:
- Imagine having time to think about whether a manual process even make sense anymore!
- Imagine having some of that “breathing room” to rethink current systems.
- Imagine being able to align technical strategy with business strategy?
This is all possible while automation is making life easier.
Where to Start?
Before downloading an RPA tool and beginning to experiment, here’s what I recommend:
- Identify some straightforward, high-volume processes
- Document processes to the detail and identifying idiosyncrasies
- Determine how automating a given process will affect other process. For example, will making one process fast put others further behind? Will timing issues cause other processes to break?
Robotic Process Automation can lead to amazing results if approached with the right strategy.
Get in Touch
If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch using the form below. You can also contact me on LinkedIn. In addition, I’d be happy to spend a few minutes on the phone learning about your business and the unique challenges you are facing.