SPS 10 Tips for Effective Robotic Process Automation
1. Set and Manage Expectations
Quick wins are possible with RPA, but propelling RPA to run at scale is a different animal. Many RPA hiccups stem from poor expectations management. Bold claims about RPA from vendors and implementation consultants haven't helped. At SPS, we emphasize clear expectations and realizable goals. Initial successes lay the groundwork for additional expansion.
2. Consider the Business Impact
RPA is often propped up as a mechanism to bolster return on investment or reduce costs. SPS emphasizes that RPA projects should also be focused on improving the customer experience. For example, airlines employ thousands of customer service agents, yet customers are still waiting in the queue to have their call fielded. A chatbot, could help alleviate some of that wait. With a Virtual Agent, there is consistent delivery and messaging, with no downtime or absenteeism, with less wait time.
3. Involve Professionals
Effective RPA involves a strategy. While many RPA utilities have enabled Do-it-yourselfers to undertake the simplest of projects, many of these have hit walls during implementation in sophisticated IT environments. Empirically, the most effective and scalable RPA projects involve technical professionals working WITH the business stakeholder, to ensure consistency and integration with the existing IT infrastructure and architecture.
4. Poor Design, Change Management Can Wreak Havoc
Many implementations fail because design and change are poorly managed. In the rush to get something deployed, some companies overlook communication exchanges, between the various bots, which can break a business process. Architecture – the operating model design – should typically be considered prior to implementation. The Project Lead should be able to map out how the various bots will work together. Similarly, CIO need to understand and negotiate the changes new operations will have on an organization's business processes. CIOs must plan for this well in advance to avoid business disruption.
5. Test, Test, and Test
Do not cut corners on the testing cycle. If it turns out the RPA solution in question has some missing or inadequate capability, it may require a rewrite. Proper documentation of all the steps in each task and process will mitigate the risk of having to re-create all of the bots from scratch.
6. Avoid the Data Volume Rabbit Hole
Consider the following scenario. A bank deploying thousands of bots to automate manual data entry or to monitor software operations will generate a huge volume of data. This can lure CIOs and their business peers into deploying Machine Learning (ML) to leverage the data, and then throw a chatbot on the front to enable users to more easily query the data. Suddenly, the RPA project has become an ML project that was not properly scoped as an ML project. To avoid this, CIOs need to consider RPA as a long-term arc, rather than as piecemeal projects that evolve into something unwieldy.
7. Project Governance is Paramount
Each RPA project is a piece to the company’s overall application portfolio. As such, every RPA project needs to comply with and anticipate the corporate guidelines and governance. In one case study, an employee changed the company’s password policy, but no one programmed the bots to adjust, resulting in lost data. CIOs must constantly check for chokepoints where their RPA solution can bog down, or at least, install a monitoring and alert system to watch for hiccups impacting performance.
8. Build an RPA Center of Excellence
Several of the most successful RPA implementations have established a center of excellence staffed by people who are responsible for making efficiency programs a success within the organization. The RPA center of excellence develops business cases, calculating potential cost optimization and ROI, and measures progress against those goals. While not every company has the budget for this, the group can be fairly small, but nimble, scaling with the technology staff that are focused on the actual implementation of automation.
9. Understand the Impact on Employees
RPA, while attractive to Business Executives, may be met with fear and resistance at the worker level. Some organizations are so focused on implementation that they neglect to loop in HR, which can create some nightmare scenarios for employees who find their daily processes and workflows disrupted. The concept needs to be sold to an organization at multiple levels. The idea is not to eliminate jobs, but rather to eliminate the things that most people dislike about their jobs, and free them up to provide higher level value to their company.
10. Put RPA into Your Whole Development Lifecycle
CIOs must automate the entire development lifecycle or they may kill their bots during a big launch. As easy as this may sound, empirically this has been missed. Ultimately, there is no magic bullet for implementing RPA, but it requires an intelligent automation ethos that must be part of the long-term journey for enterprises.
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