RPA: what to know before implementation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a modern way of automating the processes by repeating the actual user actions and by mimicking its behavior to complete the rule-based repeatable tasks. This approach to automation of the activities has appeared recently on the market, and it became fast popular.
This popularity is based on a critical benefit: companies can perform almost any actions that users do on a machine (laptop, workstation). With such capabilities, businesses can help the users get rid of the boring, monotonous activities and concentrate on the ones that are more innovative and require greater creativity, and also are more critical for the company.
However, there are a few factors and requirements that should be met during these processes, as they allow a company to automate the tasks, and also to provide the sufficient return on the investment through automation. Of course, some of them are mandatory and not having those factors diminishes the usage of the RPA, while others are just efficiency factors, which determine the impact of RPA implementation. Let’s see which are these.
Mandatory factors that impact the overall possibility of using RPA
As mentioned above, the first set of factors can affect the overall success of the RPA implementation significantly. Taking into account these aspects will help businesses prepare better for the deployment. Let's see which are those:
- The process input should allow standardization
Regardless of the type of process (commercial, HR, support, etc.), it always starts from the data provided at the beginning of the process. The data can be simple and provided as excel files, flat files, or external systems and databases. In this situation, we can speak about structured data, because they come from sources which are stable and have a defined format.
However, mostly in the financial processes, we work with data that come through different documents and formats, so we are not able to define all the input formats from the beginning of the project. Depending on the number of different formats and the capability to define the input format for each one, we talk about structured or not-structured data.
Of course, there is also a risk: if the process has the input data format not precisely definable, the process might not be able to be automated, as we don't know how to get the data for the start of the process. Still, we can implement the intelligent OCR, which learns about the different formats of the documents and tries to extract some patterns, but if the input data format is continuously changing, the cost of the automation might exceed the potential benefits and the ROI.
- The process should be rule-based
It is essential to understand that the robots we design don't think for themselves. They perform the actions they were learned to do, so we need to define as clearly as possible the path for the robot, which is a set of actions to be performed to complete a specific task. If the process is very complex and involves decisions undefinable in the algorithm way, we should not automate the process, as it won't bring the expected result compared to the manual actions.
- The process should be digitalized
All the actions of the process should be performed on the computer. If during the process there are various activities the users perform in the office, such as scanning the documents or moving them between the offices in a paper format, it is clear that we won't be able to automate these tasks as the actions that a robot can perform are only computer actions. What we can do is to print a document, fax it somewhere, but we are not able to completely replace human activities.
Factors that increase the proficiency of implementing the RPA
The second category of factors is the proficiency one, which determines the efficiency of the overall process after implementation. Let's see a few examples:
- The high volume of the process executions - if the process is often executed in the company and is rule-based, the automation of it will bring many profits
- The process is stable - if the process is not stable, every small change will generate a cost on the development, which can impact the ROI negatively
- The process is not restricted to working hours - if the process is fully automated (meaning that it doesn't require any human intervention), and it doesn't have to be executed only during the working hours (any data source does not limit us to the office activity hours) we can schedule the process to run continuously, which increases the effectiveness of the process, bringing additional profits from executing it after the office daily hours.
- Your employees are overworked - there is a high volume of the repeatable tasks which need to be performed by employees, and due to that, they don't have enough time to think about the process which indeed requires the human intervention. By implementing an RPA system for the repeatable, rule-based processes, companies can allow their workers to focus more on the actions that require their intelligence.
- Having a detailed step-by-step process flow is an additional benefit, as it helps in creating reliable requirements for the robot, as well as sequences of actions which are targeted for automation.
RPA became extremely important for agile businesses all around the world. Understanding its potential and the requirements will help companies be one step ahead in their digitization process. Even more, by taking care of the above factors, businesses should be able to estimate if the internal processes are suitable for being automated using the RPA tool. If so, we strongly recommend to do it, as it offers not only financial benefits, but it also has a significant impact on the level of innovations in the company.
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Senior Dell Boomi & RPA Developer