Sunday, 5th December 2021

Six tips to make RPA work its magic

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) used to conjure up visions of workplaces made up of a robot workforce. Today, we know that RPA isn’t about a physical presence at all - it’s a clever way of automating tasks, generally the more mundane and repetitive ones, through the use of software technology. By Roman Mykhailyshyn, Robotic Process Automation Technical Lead at Ciklum.

RPA has been adopted by many industries and sectors, but it is banks, insurance companies and utilities who are perhaps at the forefront of incorporating it into their business processes. Researchers at The London School of Economics found that RPA in the Energy Sector delivered a 200% ROI. In this instance, only 25% of the processes were automated, indicating that if this was increased then productivity and returns could be even higher.

Global insurance company Zurich is a fantastic example of how the implementation of RPA as part of their insurance claims process resulted in the savings of millions of dollars. Organisations which depend on defined processes to operate can use ‘bots’ to carry out some of the more repetitive tasks with greater efficiency, allowing staff to concentrate on higher-value work.

Another example is Walgreens, one of the largest drugstore chains in the world, which adopted RPA in their human resources department. By doing so they identified 2,000 members of staff were on leave of absence each day and were able to optimise the tracking and reporting of paid and unpaid leave, boosting HR efficiency by 73%.

Automation through digital processes can also ensure greater efficiency by reducing the chance of human error. It also increases the speed that tasks are carried out. So no wonder it has been identified by Gartner as the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market. In fact, they estimate that by the end of 2022, 85% of organisations with revenue of more than $1billion will be using a form of RPA in their business.

It’s important to remember that RPA will not work for everyone - or at least not on the same scale. Businesses need to be highly mature ‘organisationally’ operating via defined processes in order to benefit from the cost-saving and time-saving benefits.

How to successfully implement RPA at your company

If you are considering adding the magic powers of RPA to your team and operations, these are the main points to think about:

1.What aspects of the business will benefit from RPA?

Whilst implementing RPA is certainly beneficial for many aspects of your business, it cannot solve all of your business problems.

RPA delivers the best results for organisations which are structured in their approach using standard operating procedures (SOPs) within each department, and having processes in place to track both successes and mistakes. There is little value in automating ineffective processes.

The next step is to review your business goals and analyse whether implementing RPA can contribute towards achieving these.

For example, if your business is struggling with a perception that it is losing touch with new technology, launching a business transformation programme implementing innovative technology may be a solution. RPA can deliver immediate productivity benefits, whilst other innovative programs may take longer to pay off, meaning quick proven results.

2. Address employment concerns directly

Your staff might feel threatened by the launch of an automation project. There will be worries over job security and the concern that they will be ‘replaced by robots’.

But I like to think humans & RPA bots complement each other. While an RPA bot handles all routine, mundane and repetitive tasks, a human can focus on what they are still better at than machines - strategic initiatives (how to improve processes and open a new source of revenue) and building stronger relationships with clients and internal stakeholders.

It’s also worth considering whether staff can be retrained or have transferable skills which could be used elsewhere within the business. Employee loyalty and adherence to company values and policies are worthwhile qualities that are worth holding on to wherever possible.

3. Adopt an 80/20 analysis as a focus tool

RPA can improve a variety of corporate functions such as finance, human resources, supply chain or procurement, to name a few. A good place to start when implementing RPA is by adopting the 80/20 concept as part of your project planning.

Begin by asking yourself which significant department or function is 80% driven by repetitive processes? Then identify within that department where 20% of tasks have the most repetitive process and make this your focus.

For example, if the finance department has been identified perhaps consider automating invoice processing.

4. Analyse and track your outcome

This might sound pretty obvious, but a completely hands-off automation is not here yet so it is important to monitor work undertaken to minimise any unpleasant surprises. When implementing RPA, the general rules apply more than ever - think clear planning and KPI based goal setting. Introduce management review monthly reports focussing on both quantitative data points (e.g. a number of tickets or issues solved) and qualitative elements (e.g. comments from customers and employees using the system) analysing and tracking outcome.

This will allow any issues to be quickly resolved and processes to be improved as and when required.

5. Manage the implementation as a project

Introducing innovative technology will never be challenge-free. Consider starting with a small and agile pilot project in one department such as human resources, to monitor the automation process, allowing any issues to be quickly identified and resolved, then slowly ‘expand’. Start with a task such as XXX before taking on more complex tasks.

It may be worth considering appointing a project manager to oversee the implementation, especially when it comes to larger organisations. This will, in turn, reassure stakeholders by having an experienced and qualified person on board, as well as helping to eliminate any unexpected surprises.

6. Seek external support

Introducing new technology will present a challenge to staff, particularly when it has not been used before. By gaining external support through training, consultation or full project implementation provided by experts like Ciklum will help ensure the easy transition to the adoption of RPA in your business. Ciklum supports clients through all phases of their RPA journey starting from business case analysis & PoC up to deployment bot solution & production support.

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