Without proper strategy and planning, it’s almost impossible to guarantee success for a business initiative. Robotic process automation (RPA) is no exception. RPA lets people, robots, and systems come together seamlessly to achieve an efficient, scalable, and flexible enterprise, and many businesses are eager to take advantage of this transformative technology. But rushing into automation without an effective strategy leads to disappointing results and even failure.
Before you get too deep into your RPA journey, it’s important to understand the people, processes, and infrastructure needs that guarantee successful RPA adoption.
Put People First When Working with Robots
You may be transitioning to a digital workforce, but your human team is still the key to a successful transformation. Putting together the right cross-functional operations team lays the foundation for your Automation Center of Excellence (CoE). Most companies have islands of automation—individuals using automation tools to make their jobs easier. But to successfully adopt and scale RPA, you need to find where automation is happening and where it is not and make a plan to bring it all together as one project through an Automation CoE.
Your initial CoE team may contain only one or two people to start with—ideally someone with business skills and someone with technical skills—while your company is working towards a few initial automation successes. Once initial success is achieved, your initial RPA team members can start reaching out to the various departments to ask what sorts of work they are doing regularly for 30 minutes or more each day where automation might help.
The core team members in a proper CoE come from three backgrounds—business analysts, IT, and operations. The business analysts document the process and assess the impact, IT builds out the automation in the most efficient way possible, and operations is involved in testing and monitoring production to ensure all is well. Then this CoE committee reviews automation opportunities, prioritizes new processes, and determines if there is enough ROI and time saved to move on.
Understand the Best Processes for RPA Adoption
As the CoE team starts looking to adopt RPA across the organization, you’ll learn that not all processes are created equal. Some processes can’t be fully automated, but there is still some level of automation to be achieved. A fully or partially attended process means that the process must be watched and possibly interacted with at certain points. Transactions must be visually verified before completion or possibly a credential such as a captcha or keyfob security value must be entered for the task to continue.
In these types of tasks, the idea is to reduce overall transaction time by finding parts of the process that can be automated, like screen navigation, data entry, or duplicate data elimination. An example ROI for this type of task might mean that a team can process 2 to 3 times more work with the same staff level so the business can grow faster.
Unattended tasks are background workflows that can run without user input and can be scheduled to run on a regular basis without user intervention. These may be a combination of user interface driven applications and API driven components such as file transfers and reading input from a database or an Excel or CSV file. Another example is receiving an email and triggering custom processing.
Whether your process is attended or unattended, there’s always room to streamline, no matter your RPA approach. But identifying the right processes that will bring you the highest ROI is key in ensuring your RPA project is successful. Keep in mind that as you expand your automation footprint in your organization, the time will come to automate a mix of the different types of workflows. Develop best practices to make sure that you can re-use your automation by breaking your processes apart into re-usable portions to save time creating workflows.
Infrastructure Needs For Scaling With RPA
Your CoE is only as good as its technological foundation. Making good choices about systems and infrastructure sets the stage for rapid growth and prevents issues down the road. If you follow the same development best practices for your automation as you would for your other critical systems you’ll be on the right path—test everything, monitor usage and changes, and measure and evaluate results.
If your automation solution will eventually be running key processes across the entire enterprise, it’s critical to protect it from downtime with high availability and disaster recovery. It’s also important to consider that as your automation efforts grow, there will be more and more employees needing access to the automation tool. Make sure you have role-based security in place so that employees only have the access they need. Some may need to execute workflows but shouldn’t be able to edit them, while view-only access will be adequate for others.
The more people using your automation tool, the more necessary it is to have audit logs of everything created, edited, or run. A high volume of automated processes also requires robust error handling and notifications. All tasks and workflows should be designed to report on failures with real-time notifications so that issues can be resolved immediately.
Training is also a critical piece of your CoE infrastructure. Organizations purchase an RPA solution to solve an immediate problem, but don’t realize many of the other capabilities the product has and miss out on how it can streamline other workflows across the business. Training gives you the knowledge to get more use out of the application and give you a quicker return on your investment.
Learn More About an Automation CoE
In The Business Leader’s Handbook for Building an Automation Center of Excellence, go beyond the basics of CoE’s and dive deeper into why your organization should adopt a CoE framework.