Organizations worldwide have been flocking to RPA to streamline their business operations, reduce errors, improve employee and customer experiences, and increase data security. But to fully realize these and other RPA benefits, strategic planning as soon as organizations get started and agile implementation are critical.
As you’re getting started with RPA, it can be tempting to cut to the chase. You may want to streamline the beginning steps of the RPA journey to meet internal pressures of timelines or even budget constraints. However, taking the time to examine, strategize, and perhaps even redesign your processes is critical to see the results you want both in the short and long term.
It’s also essential to ensure that you have the right people on board as a dedicated team to advocate for RPA and see your goals through fruition. To get you started on the right foot, we’ve broken down five key steps you can take to lay the foundation for a successful RPA initiative:
How to Start RPA in 5 Steps
1. Determine Your Best Use Cases for RPA
Most organizations have no shortage of business processes to consider when it comes to RPA. After all, PwC estimates that 45% of work activities could be automated, which could save $2 trillion in global workforce costs. But some processes have more automation potential than others. So, how can we capture the most impactful initial automation opportunities.
How to Identify RPA Opportunities
Here are some pointers for determining if a process is a suitable fit for automation:
Identify Business Processes that are:
- Prone to human error
- Repetitive and tedious
- Constant over time
- Low exception rates
- Involved with sensitive data
- Impacts the bottom line
RPA All-Stars: Popular Use Cases Across the Industries
Often, multiple of these characteristics can apply to a single pesky business process. Standard processes that tend to have these characteristics and are popular RPA use cases include:
Insurance claims validation is high in volume, manual, repetitive, and involves considerable data collection and consolidation. As a result, it’s one of the most suitable processes for RPA.
Finance and Accounting: AP Automation
The AP process is highly error-prone and slow, which puts organizations at risk of both fraud and expensive fines for late payments. RPA can accelerate invoice processing, which enhances employee productivity and allows payments to be made to suppliers faster. It also eliminates the concern of costly errors.
Accounts receivable, like accounts payable, replies on repetitive, rule-based processes that are time-sensitive. They must also be flexible customer-to-customer as organizations often have their own way of processing invoices. With RPA, accounts receivable can accelerate the process of billing customers, which means they can receive payments faster. It also helps to maximize revenue due to the elimination of error, all while saving time.
Onboarding and Training New Employees
Another popular area to automate when organizations get started with RPA is the onboarding process. RPA can help cut down on time spent on training new employees and ensure that the training process is standardized and as efficient as possible. It also can help team members learn through hands-on practice, which allows them to retain what they’ve learned more effectively.
Call centers can use RPA to tackle challenges such as eliminating errors, improving average handling time (AHT), reducing operational costs, and increasing both customer and employee satisfaction.
Additional Common Use Cases:
- Data extraction from scanned documents, PDF files, and other formats
- Automatically generate reports, including Excel spreadsheets
- Data entry, data validation, data migration, and updates
2. Examine and Rethink Your Processes
Now that you’ve identified promising initial RPA opportunities, it’s time to assess how these processes operate in their current state. RPA shines its brightest when automating clearly defined, streamlined processes. Automating a convoluted process that doesn’t follow an efficient path will result in diminished ROI. As a result, you must streamline your processes, even if that means completely reimagining them. Not doing so is a primary reason why some RPA projects fail. Bad processes are bad processes, and automation can only take them so far.
Process Mining and Your Employees’ Input
Many organizations turn to tools like process mining to map out their business processes, both pre-existing and new. These tools can drive more success within RPA implementation, as they give you a complete view of processes. For example, For example, process mining tools like ABBYY Timeline can help organizations identify, analyze, and optimize their business processes. In doing so, they can discover powerful unbiased insights into improving areas of their processes.
Your employees know the processes they use every day better than anyone else and have valuable input to offer. Your employees know the processes they use every day better than anyone else and have valuable input to offer. Always listen to your team’s perspectives, ideas, and any significant pain points they can identify. Doing so will also allow your employees to feel included and cared about, which is -an essential component of successful change management.
3. Develop a Strong Proof of Concept (PoC)
Don’t just tell your stakeholders what RPA can do for your organization. Show them. Completing a PoC is a powerful way to demonstrate the technology’s potential value to your organization and create buzz around getting started with RPA. In addition, it acts as a tool to demonstrate how automation will work in your unique organization.
An RPA PoC can help you determine if automation will be successful in the scenario of a customized business environment. Additionally, it will demonstrate its potential impact on your existing systems. It’ll also give you a taste of how your chosen platform performs and what resources go into it.
Identify your desired end goals for your PoC. Set specific parameters of success. With this vision in mind, you can move onto process selection. Processes best suited for a successful PoC possess features as described in step 1, notably.
- Has easily accessible test data
- Constant over time
- Will have an impact on the bottom line
- Handles a high volume of transactions
Once you’ve identified a quality process for your PoC and determined the target scope of automation, you can quickly deploy your PoC, typically taking 1-2 business days.
4. RPA Pilot Run
Now that you’ve put together a successful PoC, it’s time to put your plans into action with an RPA pilot run. Here, you’ll put your chosen process into everyday automation operations. Choose an implementation model that works best for you, setting the requirements, testing, and overall design.
Here, your predefined measures of success will come in handy. Assess how your pilot performed with these criteria in mind. Be ready to learn from any results the pilot may bring, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Apply this knowledge as you continue with your RPA journey as you prepare for more widespread RPA adoption. Remember that continuous process improvement is critical to the success of any RPA project, and more broadly, any digital transformation.
5. Create an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE)
Assemble a team dedicated to the strategic success of your RPA investment, or an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE). A CoE can help you reach your RPA goals, maximize your ROI, drive innovation, and ensure that your solution is constantly firing on all cylinders.
An effective RPA CoE team unites internal professionals from various disciplines to share their diverse perspectives and knowledge. This team of internal professionals will manage your RPA system during implementation, adoption, and beyond. It’s the CoE’s job to pay attention to the solution’s costs and benefits and make modifications as needed to maximize results. The CoE should also use these insights to inform use cases for RPA expansion.
But it’s also vital that CoE members are aware of your organization’s long-term digital transformation vision. This way, they can make informed decisions that support these goals throughout planning, implementation, and beyond.
More Forward with Perspective
A successful RPA implementation can lead to enterprise-wide change. As a key element of digital transformation, RPA can boost process efficiency and speed, free up resources, improve accuracy, and ultimately takes the robot out of the human. But to enjoy these benefits, strategic, thoughtful planning is necessary from the get-go. Wherever you are on your RPA journey, always keep your long-term digital transformation goals top of mind. Let them guide your decisions as you’re getting started with RPA, and from thereon out.
RPA Checklist: Opening the Door to Process Automation
Use this handy checklist to keep you on track as you determine the right processes and tasks that you should target for best results.
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