So, you’ve built your robotic operating model and you’re starting to deliver processes for your digital workforce, but how do you know if you’ve identified the right processes for automation?
When you ask your business team, they’ll quickly tell you their ‘pain points’ and identify these as the goals for your automation. But are these actually the best and most strategically relevant processes to automate as part of your wider digital transformation?
One of the most important steps when beginning any project at scale starts with determining the correct tasks to automate in a business. This is a critical first step in setting up robotic process automation (RPA) and getting the most bang for your buck.
This is your opportunity to realise quick return on investment (ROI) and demonstrate the efficiency of RPA to stakeholders, while also evangelising a culture of continuous innovation within your organisation.
Overcoming automation friction
When an RPA journey begins, there’s usually a pocket of enthusiasm within the business, whether from a senior executive who has a vision for digital transformation, or from a business unit itself. They may want to do more with less or have a particular business problem they’re trying to solve.
This enthusiasm provides the initial thrust to create a pipeline of processes to be automated. And it’s that thrust that’s needed to get a project going.
When an RPA project doesn’t scale, however, it’s often because it isn’t achieving wider cultural adoption or is weighed down by an ill-defined approach to pipeline management.
There are a number of challenges that lead to this. The most common is where there’s a big initial push to collect a list of processes, but no wider structure is in place to ensure that it’s consistently reviewed, so processes keep on churning.
We often see the start of many RPA journeys targeted towards a limited to a number of business areas, because they are often the most enthusiastic or the friendliest team, rather than the area that can provide the biggest ROI.
Pipelines also tend to be populated by processes where people feel most comfortable letting go of, rather than the best candidates for automation. While sometimes that can be the same thing, often they’re not.
Another challenge is when prioritisation isn’t strongly enforced. This leads to processes being automated in order of receipt or who shouts the loudest, rather than those that have a sound business case in place.
In many cases, a lot of time is wasted up front doing deep dives into many processes, rather than applying basic criteria to see if there are any show stoppers to focus on. Where pipelines are managed most effectively, organisations have a well-defined process for submitting, triaging and defining candidates for automation.
Without having a proper structure in place, it’s sometimes difficult to get past the friction. This can limit an organisation’s success in rolling out a transformational digital workforce.
Discovering the right processes
Proper process discovery helps organisations identify the processes that are automation-ready and primed to deliver the greatest returns. By ranking processes by ease-of-automation, hours returned to the business and even potential savings, organisations gain an ongoing automation pipeline to support continued growth and scalability.
When process discovery is done effectively, it minimises the cost of process discovery itself. It shortens the time to automation because the structure is in place and expands the digital workforce across the organisation faster. All of which helps to deliver ROI.
The good news is that there are some fundamentals that can help most organisations to build a robust and consistent pipeline. There are three key stages in process discovery that deliver the right business outcomes.
The first is process triage. By applying high-level criteria, you can quickly identify the processes that have potential for automating immediately and those that don’t. Focus on areas of the business where there’s the highest likelihood of return, rather than those that people are most enthusiastic about it.
Once you have identified potential processes, you can then move onto the second step of creating a shortlist by assessing them further in terms of suitability for automation and their potential benefit.
The final step analyses and defines the processes in much greater depth, both from the perspective of looking at the process itself and the associated meaningful insights. By carrying out a detailed analysis at a task level, you can definitively identify those processes to be automated and prioritised.
The benefit of this approach is that processes are prioritised based on business objectives and ROI. As new processes are added to the pipeline, they go through the same process.
By frequently assessing these processes, you can give regular feedback to the business. Decision makers and stakeholders actually see progress, which helps automation projects maintain momentum.
Rob Mills is VP ANZ for Blue Prism, responsible for driving the company’s digital workforce solutions throughout Australia and New Zealand. Rob has over 25 years’ software sales and operational experience.