Digital transformation is one of the most significant business shifts in recent years, and process automation is an important part of that movement. Robotic process automation (RPA) technologies have become a revolutionary part of the service environment, but like any new technology, there is risk involved in being an early adopter.
With the usual hype surrounding it, RPA may not initially produce the ROI expected unless those using it have a solid grasp of process basics before they begin automation. RPA vendors have become more mature in their approach to the toolset, recognizing the importance of process excellence to undergird automation.
But as with any innovative approach, businesses can get swept up in the excitement of automation without fully comprehending the organizational context and process for successful implementation.
In this blog, we’ll discuss two of the four ways to prepare your organization to embark on an automation path. Click here to read the second part now!
2 of 4 actions to take before you dive into automation
Make a strategic decision
Implementing RPA isn’t a Band-Aid to put over struggling returns or lackluster customer relations. It’s a carefully considered approach to enabling your business strategy.
Michael Porter identified three foundational strategies and they remain a good framework for considering how RPA will benefit your company. Broadly speaking, the three approaches are cost management, differentiation, and focus. That means you can either lead the market by offering lower costs, by offering something distinct from your competitors, or by focusing your efforts in either broad or narrow segments of the market and targeting specific needs accordingly.
The most common benefit of RPA is to allow processes to be executed more economically. That means reducing the time and resources required, and the number of defects produced. RPA can also increase customer satisfaction through faster responses, unique approaches to customer service, and reduced errors in data handling, all of which help differentiate you from your competitors.
Ideally, automation solutions like RPA would be decided on as part of a wider strategic plan, developed through something like the Hoshin Kanri planning methodology. More often than not, it comes about as part of more tactical planning activities. That is simply the reality of the speed at which new process technologies are being adopted.
Still, any RPA project should be considered the same way as other investments, and compared, tested, and adopted based on its alignment to the existing clearly-defined business strategies. If it doesn’t line up, don’t do it
A good way to ensure strategic alignment is to foster a robust approach to process management. That provides a good framework through visibility over your end-to-end processes and operations, as well as a clear picture of which processes are impacting which market segments.
When process management is well implemented, those snapshots of the process framework are continuously up to date, so there is a real-time assessment available to management at every turn.
See what you’re automating
You need a clear picture of what automation will be affecting before you apply it. Once you have strategic alignment for the project, you need to identify the best candidates for RPA, and further define, baseline, and optimize them.
A process map is the start of standard work, which is about ensuring that things are done in a consistent and repeatable manner. Before any automation takes place, it’s vital that the process map faithfully represents the ‘as-is’ state of your process and not an aspirational or legacy depiction of the procedure.
In order to capture that realistic image, it’s best to work with the teams that know the process best, and gain buy-in that what you settle on accurately captures the work they do on a regular basis. A tool like Nintex Promapp® is ideal for creating processes this way. It communicates simply and visually, representing standard work in an easy-to-follow and easy-to-find format. It also updates in real-time, so process owners, experts, and users can see changes the moment they’re implemented, and provide feedback for further enhancements.
With the process map built, teams have a foundation for applying RPA technology. First, though, those processes need to be optimized.
Prepare before you act
Applying RPA, or any automation solution isn’t something to be done without adequate groundwork. Identify the strategic purpose behind the push for automation, and how it aligns with your business goals and direction.
Then begin a systematic program of process improvement, identifying the data requirements, business rules, and potential gains of automation. With that data in hand, you’ll have a better picture of where to apply the technology and the ROI gains that are available because of it.