In the last couple of years, hundreds of industries have automated their systems to cut down operational costs and improve productivity. Robotic process automation (RPA) impacts nearly every walk of life, from employment to healthcare to retail. It was one of the biggest technology trends of 2018, and this last year, with the outbreak of the coronavirus, forced hesitant companies to automate to stay relevant. Thus, RPA has proven itself to be an industry game-changer that is neither fad nor fiction but inspired and here to stay.
Digital officers amass tons of information on trends in automation. However, the number one question by most companies is: where is the right starting point? How do they identify RPA opportunities within the organization? Pinpointing those opportunities requires an evaluation and thorough understanding of candidate processes. The following tips and considerations can help trigger the discovery process.
RPA is a desirable technology for its ability to increase productivity and reduce errors. In doing this, it improves business output at a fraction of the cost. But how does a company identify candidate processes with which RPA can deliver tangible results?
RPA automates clear, defined processes. Most companies do not have clearly defined processes. They start automating with no clear direction. This leads to automating the wrong thing or getting lost in reverse-engineering the process. It is a simple mistake. Most people do not know or realize that a complex process, like invoice approval, actually requires several different approval processes in the company.
Several vertical industries have processes well suited for automation. The healthcare industry, for example, has tasks on the non-clinical side which can be time-consuming and incidentally postpone care and payment. These tasks include checking claim status, eligibility and benefit verification, all of which can be automated. This, then, allows patients to get the care they need with less stress, and the physician or hospital has a certainty of payment.
In each instance above, RPA delivers business value and can improve human job satisfaction as well as customer experience. Each process is a series of tasks, and most department- and industry-agnostic tasks can be categorized as follows:
Updating information: RPA can update personnel and customer accounts – phone numbers, addresses, emails, etc. – and other important data across multiple systems and applications.
Migrating information: Sometimes information must be moved from one system to another, like in the event of a company merger. RPA can export data from the old system and key it into the new system at lightning speed. It can also format and store the data, as needed.
Urgent tasks: When red alerts, like a data breach or compromised credit accounts, occur, RPA notifies responsible parties of the alert so fast action can be taken to protect the privacy and mitigate losses.
System monitoring: RPA can monitor critical business systems and mobile applications to ensure functionality. RPA bots simulate human interactions and report back occurring issues. Maintenance teams can then fix the problem to spare human customers any frustration.
RPA possibilities seem limitless, however, not all areas of business are well suited for RPA. This is why it is important to properly identify RPA opportunities within an organization.
To start, make an analysis of the nature of employee deployment in the company. Identify those areas where personnel perform the following:
Next, ask this four-point question: which of your workforce’s tasks are:
Those tasks that check all four points are likely great fits for RPA. You might also consider these questions:
That last question speaks to the possibility that RPA can improve human job satisfaction. Think about it: a bot does twice the work in less time, and better yet, completes tasks overnight or on the weekends, saving hours of overtime. Because the bot takes care of those lesser, mundane tasks, human workers can focus their time and energy on higher-priority work, and leave for home at a reasonable hour.
RPA is also well suited for handling sensitive information, like social security numbers, account numbers, credit information, etc. Bots decrease chances of such data being mishandled as a result of human error or human sabotage.
Finally, here are some qualitative ways of thinking about where RPA can help:
Most of what has been outlined here may seem overwhelming, but it is meant to trigger a discovery process so your company can identify those processes best suited for automation.
Once you designate those processes to be automated, make sure they are mature and stable. Something that is commonly overlooked is whether a process is being done the way it “should” be done, or in an “optimized” way. Top management knows how a process “should” be done, but maybe the members that directly handle operations perform it differently. Maybe a simple process, like handling tickets, is treated three different ways between three associates.
You want RPA to perform a process one way, and it should be the best way. Sit down with the members responsible for completing the process, and work with them to choose the best method of completion.
Once you identify those processes best suited for automation, prioritize them to decide which ones should be automated first, and which ones can wait till later. Your criteria for prioritization may vary, but seven criteria should be:
RPA experts will also recommend the creation of a heat map and roadmap to tackle each process in order of priority.