Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is currently climbing the Hype Curve with RPA vendors benefiting from a genuine interest and recognition that RPA could be the answer to a lot of organisational questions, but what questions?
Problems are just questions without answers and many businesses can struggle to recognise what those questions are.
From a technology perspective business users and those tasked with delivering a business model with positive outcomes inherently mistrust the technologists and many enterprise vendors have not helped to counter this perception.
Because they have all experienced the constant IT cycle of upgrades, re-implementation, the ‘rip and replace’ vendor mentality. Every few years old technology is replaced for a new shiny system with the promise of better functionality and a more comprehensive, enhanced user experience.
However, the reality is that large project cycles become extended, change requests mount, budgets reach eye-watering levels and the savings or productivity improvements promised, soon disappear over the far-extended horizon (in some cases never to be seen again).
Why Change? The grass is never greener!
However, as with anything in life, any change is typically a 7 out of 10 experience.
Organisations replace their current 7/10 scored system and it is then replaced with another 7/10 system just exchanging the 3 old system dislikes for 3 new dislikes, hoping that the new ones aren’t as important or as needed as the ones you have lost.
Traditional technology implementation is top down
Here lies the eternal question, why do IT systems start from the top down, imposed on to the users who whilst may not be fully happy with the system and its process flows have through trial and error and more often than not blood, sweat and tears enabled the system to function and deliver value against their job roles and required value business outcome.
A New Approach
RPA can circumvent the historical approach to systems implementation and user experience as it does not rely on a top-down approach rather it builds from the bottom (user experience) up and can mask a lot of the old, clunky, multiple stage processes that users whilst not liking at least deliver the answer they are looking for to complete their defined task.
Also recent developments in project delivery using Agile frameworks delivers value quickly and allows users to assess core functionality and whether it is fit for purpose. Added to this approach is the recommendation that organisations do not need to base an RPA implementation on 100%, ‘get it right first time’ functionality.
The project should aim to deliver 80% of the key functions and user requirements with the complex, deep dive or detailed processes handled as exceptions and utilising human intervention. The bulk of the workload can then be automated, add value very quickly and then the exception handling can be investigated.
In this exception area Artificial Intelligence can be used to learn how the human handles the exceptions such as a new Invoice arriving and can learn from the actions of the user. These lessons are learnt and applied to the next exception to resolve it as part of the automated process.
So what sort of questions can RPA answer?
Reducing cost whilst improving productivity is the holy grail for many organisations. Financial Officers have typically relied on people power to provide the answers to growing a business benefiting from relatively low wages or offshoring workloads to distant lands at much cheaper hourly rates.
This is where UK productivity per worker has fallen as organisations have invested in people not in the products that increase productivity. With RPA this changes the operational landscape by removing the need to replace legacy systems whilst freeing up employees to perform high-value tasks.
RPA can mirror, copy and transact accurately again and again!
How can RPA be the answer where people are still a key asset and are needed across organisations especially in social settings such as customer interaction and relationship management?
With RPA the user experience is captured by mapping out the work process including capturing the user interaction and all stages of the process. This will include:
- Navigating to the start screen
- logging on using the user and security credentials
- Clicking on buttons
- Opening data sources such as Excel spreadsheets or tables in databases
- Taking reference information from other websites
- Closing off the process when complete
Once visually mapped out a process can be automated, cycled and run continuously no stoppages, lunch breaks, holidays, training or sickness will disrupt the process allowing staff to be freed up to perform human interactive work or complex exceptions needing specialist knowledge.
No need for Process Re-Engineering
Again traditional Process automation and re-engineering provided a means to identify over-complex and over-engineered processes that would then be reviewed and streamlined taking numerous steps out of the process.
Organisations would then operate on the revised process to lower the time a person spent transacting the process. With RPA this no longer required as once automated the inefficiencies are hidden by the automation of the process. What took a person 20 minutes to perform is now completed in seconds so why waste time and resources re-engineering and removing functions that the organisation has built up a reliance on over time.
How can organisations improve productivity, enhance our users experience and add value to the organisational process with a defined, transformational, measurable and cost-effective technology.
That is the question and the answer is RPA.