RPA readiness checklist: 6 questions to ask before you embark on your RPA journey
The bots are here to stay, they’re popular, and no wonder. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the top technology trends in the world today because of the multitude of benefits associated with it. RPA helps boost your organization’s bottom line, improves your team’s productivity, provides more data-driven business insights, ensures accuracy and efficiency of functions, makes your business processes more secure, and empowers your team to focus on creativity and innovation for long term growth.
However, technology implementations and deployment are not immune to failure — and the bots are no different. According to Ernst & Young, 30% to 50% of RPA projects fail in their experience. These numbers, however, should not discourage you because these failures are simply a result of poor planning and implementation; most of which can be overcome with a thorough RPA readiness assessment of your organization.
In this blog, we will guide on the key areas that you need to address before you get started with your RPA strategy so you can assess if your organization is ready for RPA or not. You can then embark on your RPA success story with a holistic plan and the right technology partner.
1. Is RPA a strategic priority in your organization?
RPA must be a business priority in your organization. Its adoption is a top-down process, championed by an organization’s leadership team. Start organization-wide conversations with all teams (be it finance, HR, IT, marketing or customer services) early. Address the following at this initial stage:
- RPA evangelism – Identify the RPA evangelists in each team. What will be their responsibilities as you make this transition and how can you help them in their roles?
- A communications strategy – RPA is associated with many misconceptions and it is important to reassure everyone in your team about their job security. If there is hesitancy within the team, this is the perfect time to listen to their concerns.
- Knowledge transfer and training plan – Bots will not replace all tasks. In the post-bot phase, is your team properly equipped to concentrate on the other tasks that they will now focus on?
- Possible problems – One of the advantages of early consultations is to gain a thorough understanding of issues and risks that may arise with RPA. Plan for contingencies, where possible.
- A change in culture – Adopting RPA often results in the change of an organization’s culture. Is everyone, from the leadership team to junior employees, ready for the change?
2. Are your business processes fully documented and optimized?
The role of RPA is not to redesign your processes, it only automates it. While the goal of RPA is to optimize processes, a poorly performing and overly complex process riddled with operational inefficiencies and unnecessary steps that don’t add value will see very little benefit from RPA.To harness the full benefits of an RPA implementation, businesses must ensure that they have made a solid effort to improve the process by taking a second look at outdated standard operating procedures. Applying RPA to an inefficient process means that you also automate inefficiencies so start off by identifying process defects, gaps, and underutilized resources.
Ensure you have comprehensive workflow knowledge. Map out the entire process, with its bottlenecks and complications. Your workflows must be as frictionless as possible before you introduce RPA.
Review the processes to ensure that it is fully digitized with standard readable electronic inputs such as Excel, Word, email, XML, PPT, readable PDFs, web service payloads. If there are non-digitized inputs involved in the process, leverage AI-powered technologies like intelligent Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to scan data, digitize it, and structure data that is not structured or digitized.
3. Is the selected process the best candidate for RPA?
Candidates for automation must be evaluated with the right criteria. Look at urgent business need, specific business cases, and low-hanging fruit. Think about your business needs and automate the right tasks. What are the tedious, routine, and mundane tasks that are also time consuming? Examples include file management, responding to the same customer queries repeatedly, time recording, raising orders, collecting data, etc. These are often best served by bots.
- Employee Involvement – Does the process require high attention to detail? Does it require high levels of employee involvement to do mundane work? If you answered yes, RPA might be the route to ensure these tasks are executed quickly and accurately, while releasing valuable FTEs to work on more value-adding, strategic activities.
- Volume & Frequency of Processes – Ask yourself: What is the frequency and volume of the selected process? Look for high transaction volume processes as well as processes that recur on a daily or weekly frequency basis as these often involve a lot of manual work and are prone to human error.
- Process Complexity – Dive deep to understand the complexity of the chosen process: What are the total number of steps in the process? Are there many applications to be interfaced? Are there multiple channels involved? Are several complex datasets processed as part of the process
- Rule-based Processes – Do the chosen processes have clear processing instructions, with decision-making based on standardized and predictive rules? If your process does follow “if this, then that” rules, it is an ideal candidate for automation. However, RPA enhanced with AI (Intelligent Automation), can help you go beyond these rules-based limitations of RPA and offers endless possibilities of potential tasks and processes to automate.
4. Have you identified success criteria and KPIs to measure the impact of RPA?
As success can be very context-specific, performing a cost-benefit analysis that considers all aspects of your business operations is a must for organizations before formulating an RPA strategy. To ensure that you are getting the best possible return on investment, focus on the following:
- Background research – There are many case studies on successful RPA implementations. Study them to understand what exact factors facilitated success.
- Define success – Defining business success includes considering your unique business goals. What is your organization’s definition of a successful RPA strategy, incorporating both tangible and intangible factors
- Alignment of RPA strategy with business goals – Identify what you want to achieve in the immediate aftermath, in the medium term, and for the long term after introducing RPA.
- Sustainability – Is your RPA strategy financially sustainable in the long term? Understand what’s possible with your organization’s budget.
5. Are your RPA goals aligned with the expectations of all business stakeholders?
Implementing any new technology requires stakeholder buy-in at different levels across the enterprise – from the executive suite and the employees to external stakeholders such as customers and partners. It is not uncommon for conflicting views to emerge. On one hand, in-house tech teams may be wary of new technologies such as RPA as they may worry about rolling out new solutions while also managing existing, under-utilized technologies. On the other hand, employees may view RPA as a threat to their jobs. It is, therefore, necessary to actively engage stakeholders across the organization and address legitimate concerns related to visibility, access, controls, support, and management of the RPA environment and software bots. The organization must also clearly communicate the benefits of RPA to get by-in, and bridge knowledge gaps by training employees in the skills needed to fulfill their new, bot-powered roles.
6. Is RPA compatible with the existing underlying tech architecture and infrastructure? Do you have data governance structures in place?
RPA cannot compensate for outdated IT infrastructures so the business should work in close collaboration with the internal IT team and RPA consultants to build an RPA roadmap to ensure integration problems with existing systems do not arise.
- A data security strategy – Bots are used to collect, store, and transfer data. It is extremely important that your team members in charge of data related functions are adequately trained. Do you have the in-house expertise to deal with data security or will you have to look outside for training?
- The right infrastructure – Legacy infrastructure may not be the best base for RPA. Can you integrate RPA tools securely with your existing infrastructure? Or do you have to re-architect your existing infrastructure?
- Data governance – A key area that enterprises cannot afford to overlook during an RPA implementation. A centralized control and a robust governance framework that clearly outlines the structures, accountability mechanisms, rules-of-engagement, roles & responsibilities, data access, security and processes to manage and control RPA activities is essential to realize the full benefits from technology.
A ‘business-led’ only implementation approach of RPA that does not integrate seamlessly with the wider IT infrastructure could put the implementation at risk. Inclusion of the organization’s DevOps team can help the business consider both technical and practical objectives when formulating the RPA strategy to ensure that enterprise is well-equipped to harness the full potential of RPA through scripts, bots and APIs.
RPA Readiness: Choosing the right technology partner
RPA success does not merely depend on the technology alone – but it is also about the capabilities of the technology partner you select. Your technology partner must work with you throughout the entirety of your RPA adoption, implementation and optimization process.This includes providing the technology, relevant consultancy, implementation, and follow-up support along with setting up a test project.
Fortude works with organizations to build intelligent RPA solutions. At Fortude, our approach to automation does not stop at automating repetitive daily tasks. Our consultants will work with your leadership and technology teams across a range of functions:
- Automation consulting – Assess existing processes, perform a gap analysis, build automation frameworks for web, mobile, and API, and train your team. We will provide the strategic roadmap.
- Automation implementation – Identify the tasks to automate, build and deploy the bots, and develop and test the solutions.
- Automation managed service – Offer continuous improvements and track the progress of projects, help you validate the results, and scale the solution as required.
- Test automation – Testing options span functional, performance, security, and mobility. Our experts will devise a test strategy after understanding your business scope to ensure functional compliance and product stability.
Fortude recently implemented a UiPath-based RPA solution for a leading Australian food and beverage manufacturer, which helped:
Reduce the inventory reconciliation processing time from 3-4 hours to 10-20 minutes, freeing up the manufacturer’s resources to focus on the more strategic initiatives. This is a 90% reduction in the cycle time after the implementation of the RPA solution. Improve accuracy rates in the payment order creation process by 99% through automation. Each purchase order creation now saves 10 minutes, boosting efficiency within the team.
Completely automate the tedious, manual process of collecting new customer records by the integration of two ERP systems using connectors and APIs.