What is RPA (Robotics Process Automation)?

What is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a productivity tool/software technology that enables organizations to automate manual tasks, helping to create efficiencies, freeing up resources from dull, repetitive work to concentrate on other more complex tasks and increasing productivity. RPA exceptionally well suited for high volume, repetitive, rule-based tasks with limited need for human intervention. Depending on the RPA vendor, RPA automation scripts are referred to as robots or “BOTs”, or a “BOT” is the one executing the RPA automation scripts. For large volume processes, there can be multiple BOTs executing an automation script. For low volume processes, one BOT can execute many concurrent automation scripts. 

RPA differs from traditional IT batch automation or scripting by working on the presentation layer of an application, mimicking every keystroke and mouse click a human would do to complete a task. Since BOTs mimic human actions, RPA rarely needs to modify application thus deployment of automation is usually faster than traditional IT development and at a low cost. 

True ROI comes from labor reduction from automating low-level tasks rather than headcount reduction. RPA can create a 40-80% cost savings, by enabling 24/7/365 execution; efficiency gains; speed to market and operational agility; accuracy and improvement in processing; staff freed up to do higher-value work. The standardization of processes, data integrity and speed to deploy will you an edge in your journey for modernization of legacy applications and digital transformation.

The Two Types of RPA 

Unattended RPA

Unattended RPA involves little to no human intervention and is best suited for high-volume, well defined, repeatable end-to-end back-office processes. RPA can be applied to:

  • Back-office processes and tasks in finance, procurement, business operations, IT operations, customer service, and human resources, such as data entry, business/IT processing, or any processes which require “swivel-chair” access to multiple applications.

Attended RPA

Attended RPA, also known as Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA), can make routine desktop tasks easy either by being triggered by a user or an action. RDA can be applied to call-centers and service-desk operations to investigate or solve known problems, and assisting in onboarding users or customers.

Examples of use cases for both unattended and attended RPA
  • Data Extraction: Processes that require extraction of data from the system (internal/external)
  • Financial Processing: Processes that include posting of transactions, adjustment to accounts
  • Email Requirement: Processes that include submission of reports or manual sign-offs (usually via email)
  • Reconciliation: Processes that include the reconciliation of data from 2 or more systems
  • Calculation: Processes that include calculation of models, adjustments, accruals, etc.
  • Report Generation: Processes that require the creation of internal and/or external reports

Reality Checks

According to Gartner
“Through 2021, 40% of enterprises will have RPA buyer’s remorse due to misaligned, siloed usage, and inability to scale.”

RPA is not intelligent

RPA is not intelligent; all actions in a process are scripted. RPA will not fix broken processes or operational problems. These issues will only be masked with RPA. Broken processes would benefit from process redesign rather than RPA. In addition, not fully knowing your process will extend and delay your implementation. Know who are the real subject matter experts of the process and have them as part of your project team. Knowing your process is key to a successful implementation.

You Need IT

Don’t believe that you don’t need IT. RPA is a software tool that interacts with other software tools. IT needs to be involved if you want your implementation to scale outside of your desktop or a single application. BOTs mimic humans, thus they would need the same application access as a human. In addition, any software changes to an application which has BOTs running on it could adversely affect the BOT. Involving IT is key to a successful implementation.

Create a Center of Excellence

If you want to scale, create a Center of Excellence. Include IT, IT Security, Security Access Management, Architecture, Compliance, Audit, and HR. RPA is not just about technology and business processes, it is also about people and changes to the workforce. There will be many winners in an RPA implementation, but there will be “losers” too. Know who they are and work on resolving their concerns. Addressing change management aspects is key to a successful implementation. 

Evolving Industry

There are many processes that need to have a “human in the loop”. This is because RPA is not intelligent, it is all rule-based. Any decisions or validations that would need human intervention. Combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities with RPA will give BOTs cognitive ability to tackle more complicated tasks and removing the “human in the loop”. This is the future of the industry, Intelligent Automation. 

Knowing industry direction, the organizational potential is key to a scalable, enterprise-wide intelligent automation strategy, and successful implementation

According to Forrester
  • Leaders in RPA: UiPath; Automation Anywhere; Blue Prism
  • Strong Performers: WorkFusion; Pegasystems; Nice; Kyon Systems; EdgeVerve; Kofax; Thoughtonomy
  • Contenders: Redwood Software; Contextor; Softomotive; Another Monday, AntWorks 

This is not a complete list. There are hundreds of vendors claiming to have an RPA solution. This is an evolving industry. In a couple of years, these vendors could very well merge or be replaced by others. 

For a deeper dive, follow the link to see a bakeoff between the big 3 RPA leaders.

RPA Implementation Methodology 

Working collaboratively with clients, the following high level best practices steps will pave the road to a successful rollout RPA. 

  • Define Intake Process: Define a strong intake process, including process documentation, RPA suitability evaluation, and process-specific business case development and measurement.
  • Execute Proof of Concept: Develop and execute RPA POC for the selected process. Review success metrics to determine POC effectiveness.
  • RPA Operating Model: Define next steps and go-forward operating model and governance framework that aligns with strategic automation goals.
  • Create Process Pipeline: Validate and assess additional processes identified as candidates for automation and develop a roadmap to scale RPA.
  • Establish RPA COE: Design and deploy a Center of Excellence (COE) to scale RPA capabilities, standardize method and controls governing RPA, and manage an enterprise-wide automation program.

Conclusion

Every industry has manual processes. Whether these processes are optimized or not, employees are not always engaged while performing them, which leads to a host of issues. RPA is an automation solution that will solve this and more. RPA is a journey, not a magic bullet. If implemented thoughtfully and strategically, the benefits of RPA are substantial to an organization. 

If you would like to learn more about RPA and how M&S can guide or implement you through the process, please Contact Us, we’d love to talk.

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