Robotic process automation can bring resilience advantages to mission-critical IT and business processes but its introduction requires wider business planning. Here Ravi Dirckze looks at key considerations on the path to effective business automation.
Embracing robotic process automation (RPA) can have a significant positive impact on any business, streamlining time-consuming manual processes and greatly reducing the burden on employees, leading to great operational efficiency across the board and enhanced resilience. However, effective implementation of RPA requires a robust understanding of business automation goals, both now and in the future.
To fully understand what RPA can achieve, businesses need to first have insight into four key areas – their existing automation needs, the cost of scaling over time, the evolving RPA landscape, and the role of intelligence in their RPA approach. While everyone’s RPA journey will be unique, knowing and understanding the transformative role that automation plays, both now and in the future, will have a huge impact on deciding how best to move forward.
Existing automation needs
To achieve shorter-term automation goals, businesses must first evaluate their existing automation needs and ask themselves several key questions. Are they looking to increase personal productivity? If so, they must focus on automating mundane tasks, like organising network files, setting up notifications and processing emails. Personal productivity automation is employee-driven and used in tackling multiple tasks for productivity gains at the individual level.
Maybe the automation target is to streamline its operational processes, such as moving data from one system to another or quickly processing a high volume of invoices. Business process automation (BPA) is employee-driven but used to streamline business processes that result in efficiencies and productivity gains across users and departments.
Alternatively, they may be considering automation as an ongoing project, often referred to as an automation Centre of Excellence (CoE). Businesses of all sizes can benefit from an automation CoE, which focuses on intricate, enterprise-wide automation and orchestration.
While these examples are not mutually exclusive, they all require a unique set of characteristics to be successful. For example, CoE driven automation is fairly complicated and has a significant influence on automating connected processes. Conversely, RPA tools that are deployed across the organisation with a focus on business or power users typically emphasise ease-of-use and time-to-value as the most important characteristics.
At the individual level, the actions of a personal productivity tool target those tasks that increase efficiency gains quickly. By understanding your current automation goals and strategies, you can choose the right place to start that best meets your automation needs now.
The cost of scaling over time
Naturally, a firm understanding of the costs associated with scaling over time will play a key role in planning a business automation strategy. No one likes to be hit with unexpected costs down the line that can quickly diminish the return on investment and make additional spending difficult to justify.
When evaluating RPA solution providers, businesses must consider several factors associated with scaling. First, it may not be cost-effective to scale with some RPA providers if they require extra payments for add-ons, they employ linear pricing structures, or they charge for attended versus unattended bots. Second, some RPA solutions lack usability when scaling. Specifically, they require intensive consultation services, need high-level programming support, or are narrowly focused on individual productivity for single users.
The evolving RPA Landscape
RPA is rapidly changing the nature of business today and will continue to do so in the months and years to come. According to Deloitte, up to 50% of tasks performed by employees are considered mundane and time-intensive, opening up numerous opportunities for RPA to replace upwards of 16% of repetitive duties by 2025.
With the digital shift to RPA now firmly embedded in industries around the world, it’s important to understand the three primary types of automation providers available today.
Automation solutions offered by the largest enterprise providers tackle processes that have a significant impact across the organisation. These providers offer solutions and services that are usually implemented by consultants or well-trained users because they are tricky to scale on their own, require a more consultative approach, and typically cost more. However, enterprise-wide automation typically offers several essential RPA features and advanced capabilities like cognitive and AI functionality, enabling users to build a well-connected enterprise.
At the other end of the scale are RPA vendors that offer impressive low-code or no-code automation that focus primarily on individual or personal productivity. These types of tools offer solid, single-user automation that is intuitive and straightforward for users and can tremendously boost efficiency at the individual level. But these solutions focus less on automating process complexity and can lack more sophisticated automation functionality.
In the middle are solutions, which offer powerful UI with back-end automation capabilities with the citizen developer in mind and more flexibility to scale across people, teams, and processes. Providers in this category enable both individuals and teams to streamline processes and automate end-to-end workflows across the business.
The role of intelligence in RPA
RPA is perfectly suited to automating routine tasks. However, like machine learning, AI and predictive analytics are introduced and refined, automation becomes even more sophisticated, augmenting human capabilities and improving decision making at all levels.
Intelligent automation or intelligent process automation integrates intelligence in lockstep with RPA to broaden the range of processes that can be automated within any business. In essence, intelligent automation considers the entire lifecycle of an automated process across tools and functions concerning the overall complexity.
Deloitte indicates that 47% of organisations have already combined RPA and AI as part of their intelligent automation strategy, while Gartner predicts that by 2024, companies that leverage automation and intelligence will reduce operational costs by nearly 30% overall.
When implemented properly, RPA can transform the way businesses operate, easing administrative burdens on employees and optimising operational efficiency across the board. Taking the time to consider the key areas discussed in this article will help ensure that any organisation considering RPA will not only get it right from day one, but also future proof their investment for many years to come.