According to the recent Harvey Nash/ KPMG CIO Survey 2020, almost half of all respondents have said that digital transformation has permanently accelerated, and that Customer Experience and Automation are amongst the top 4 priorities when considering adoption or acceleration of technologies and programs. While PWC and others feel that 45% of all tasks completed in the workforce today can be automated using current technology, rising to 50% by 2025, for perspective it is estimated that the 45% of automation could save around 2 trillion USD within the global workforce.
So, what is driving this digital shift? Businesses are now more than ever faced with the familiar challenges of gaining efficiencies right across their organisation while also increasing customer experience and staying ahead of their competitors.
Increasing productivity using next generation technology is the first places companies look to when facing challenges such as reducing revenue, increased cost to serve, and even reductions in customer satisfaction.
The question that we are often asked is “How does my organisation get started?” and “How can RPA fit within our digital transformation strategy and roadmap?”. There is plenty of information out there to read, much of it is published by the vendors themselves, so getting to understand the best approach for your organisation can be challenging.
Getting insights into how other organisations have adopted and deployed RPA can help the decision-making process although approaches, ability, budget, and technology will differ. Gaining access to a proven approach RPA can be even more powerful.
One of the advantages of RPA is that it should produce quick and measurable results. But assessing which platform is likely to be best for your environment follows similar stages when assessing most other technology platforms:
- Understand objectives and requirements of the business and getting buy-in
- Assess the market against requirements, commercial models, etc
- Try it out – Proof of Concept or Pilot
- Rank and Decide
- Rollout and scale
- Maintain & Support
- Optimise, &/ or manage lifecycle
Understanding Objectives and Requirements of the Business and Getting Buy In
Let’s start with getting buy-in from the business. This is a key element to the success of RPA. The business needs to understand and agree that RPA (and a digital workforce) will form a part of delivering on business strategy and objectives. Getting buy-in may require a number of inputs for consideration by leadership and the broader team, so being clear in defining the role RPA will play, and the expected outcomes that are aligned to the goals of the business, will go a long way in determining the effort required to get the technology across the line.
The main difference between most technologies and RPA, is that RPA can also be treated like a digital workforce that can be developed or ‘trained’ to do many different tasks at different times, and then retrained to execute other tasks should the need arise (technology reuse – which we all love). RPA allows organisations to be flexible on where it is deployed and how it is utilised, however, it should be viewed in the context of the rest of the business. RPA isn’t a ‘point’ solution and is best applied alongside people and technologies existing within the operating environment to ensure the most positive impact.
The first step to determining applicability of RPA to the business, is to understand what objectives could be addressed by introducing the technology. Many of our clients want to be able to:
- Improve business and operating efficiencies
- Growing the business or service delivery options without increasing headcount
- improve handle times (of both customer facing and business transactions)
- reduce error rates, and improve compliance outcomes
- reduce the effort of working between non-integrated systems
- reduce manual handling of processes
- reduce transaction costs
In addition to these important benefits, and almost consistently, we see RPA being introduced to release capacity of the workforce to focus on areas of higher value. Whether it be more time spent with the customer or being able to respond or act quicker to changes in the business. With RPA in the mix and with the release of capacity, those higher-value projects and initiatives are getting the attention they deserve instead of teams focusing on process.
The best part about everything above – it’s measurable. So when the business has stated objectives, then RPA can be assessed to determine whether or not the expected outcomes measure up against the business’ objectives.
Assessing the Market – What’s on Offer
When considering automation, and specifically RPA, there is a growing body of information that is available to assess your organisation’s needs against the market offerings. Getting to the ‘real’ picture as to how this information applies to your organisation is where things start to get complex. Some of the areas you’d likely consider include:
- What are the capability requirements to deploy and manage the technology
- What commercial models are offered by each vendor
- How will each vendor’s RPA platform function in your own organisation’s IT and operating environment
- What is the likely investment required to assess and adopt the technology
- Where do we apply this technology within the organisation to get the best ROI
- How will this technology impact people in the business
- How will the technology align with business objectives
- How will it be managed and maintained
Being able to undertake an agnostic assessment of the market offerings can take a significant amount of time, meetings, demonstrations, preliminary pricing and rounds of calls and emails getting into enough detail to uncover differentiators across the platforms. And this doesn’t just include the products themselves. Other areas to consider include:
- What expertise is available to develop and maintain the platform i.e., how many people in the market have the expertise to support the product that you are assessing. We’ve seen RPA platforms that are great in their feature set, but accessing someone who has the expertise to develop and apply those features were a major limiting-factor of success
- How easy is it to get in contact with the company developing the platform? Although this may not initially sound like a consideration, having a voice as a user of the platform directly into the technology vendor can make a valuable difference when the road gets bumpy
- A local presence – a substantial benefit when considering that RPA is an evolving journey, having a vendor with a strong local presence will support your organisation in getting the most value from your investment
Seeking independent advice can accelerate the market review as well gaining those valuable insights around some of the common issues encountered when deploying RPA and avoiding the mistakes that others have made – before you make them.
Developing the Business Case
Whether you decide to get started with RPA using internal resources or looking for assistance externally, will depend on a multitude of factors. Accessing independent advice and expertise via a consulting firm or RPA specialist can be a great first step to cut through the advertising and marketing and to obtain detailed insights as to what options would be best suited to your organisation’s needs. This approach can also greatly reduce the time taken to assess how each RPA platform will address both operating and business requirements, as well as avoiding the mistakes that other organisations have had to endure when adopting new technologies.
Going through this exercise doesn’t require significant time or cost AND will save plenty of both when done correctly.
An independent advisor should be able to work with an organisation to understand strategy, business objectives, internal capability, measures of success, budget, and operating environment as well as what the key drivers are that RPA are expected to address.
Market offerings should be assessed against business needs, and a business case developed expressly stating a return on investment, benefits specific to the organisation, as well as assessing change impacts on people, process, and existing technology stack – having this information clearly detailed will go a substantial way to getting buy-in from both leadership and the broader business.
As part of this assessment, also consider the type of RPA management & operating models that are available to deploy and manage RPA – with internal resources (acquired or existing), external expertise, managed service, or some blended model.
A business case for RPA should also include a set of processes called “candidate processes” that have been assessed for suitability for RPA as well as a calculated ROI and payback period. RPA is almost always ‘by the numbers’ when it comes to ROI – inputs and outputs are highly measurable, which means that there is a comforting level of clarity when it comes to making the decision to proceed.
In addition to the numbers stacking up, this is the stage where RPA gets airtime with the broader business. The opportunity should not be lost to ensure that the right message is being communicated as to why the organisation is considering RPA.
In summary, the business case is the distillation of:
- Statement of how RPA can achieve business objectives
- Market review of vendors
- ROI calculation on a prioritised list of candidate processes correctly assessed based on current versus future state
- Defined benefits that RPA will bring to your organisation
- Technology and business readiness
- Change impacts and how they will be managed
- Capability and capacity statement in relation to the business’s ability to adopt the technology
- Commercial and operating models that will support the introduction of, and ongoing management of the technology
Launch a Pilot or POC
Assuming that ROI was favourable and there is buy-in from leadership along with the green light given to proceed, a pilot or proof of concept (POC) is a great next step to demonstrate robots operating within your business environment, and showing people how relevant the technology is to them in reducing effort, eliminating errors, improving turnaround times and allowing them to focus on the more valuable and interesting parts of their workday.
Agree upfront what a successful POC looks like. A POC should be short and get straight to the point. No endless repeats, new processes, new scenarios. Make it sharp and representative of proving the technology within your business and IT environment. It also gives the opportunity to discuss how effective the RPA management & operating approach will be.
Another benefit of a pilot or POC is that people from the organisation can see how it operates. Our clients find that when we show the business how the technology operates, there’s an “Ah-ha” moment, and the team gets excited about the possibilities of how RPA can help them individually, help their teams, and help their customers. The conversations are positive and candidate processes start flowing through to be assessed for deployment.
Once the POC has been completed and successful, it’s time to really get moving on deploying RPA broadly across the business, developing the RPA strategy and drawing up an RPA process roadmap.
Get Started – Deploying RPA
Our clients often ask how many processes should they start with – many, few, complex, simple, high volume? The best way to get broader buy-in and adoption for new technology or processes, is to demonstrate success – having RPA operate in the wild and delivering benefits.
The decision as to what processes come first should be drawn down from the prioritised RPA roadmap, and align with the benefits and payback period defined as part of the business case.
The types or complexity of processes to be deployed initially should fit the bill to quickly demonstrate benefits of RPA. If that is automating a single simple process, or a subset of a processes, then this is the best approach for your organisation.
We would recommend starting with low-complexity processes to build knowledge of the RPA platform and the challenges of operating in your organisation’s environment. This approach will also help identify any hidden challenges or gaps in capability or operating environment and that’s a good a thing. Being able to identify issues early, or even making mistakes early, will bring about valuable lessons on how to correct them, or avoid them altogether, in the future.
Scaling RPA and Benefits Realisation
Scaling RPA is where benefits are truly realised. In order to scale RPA, the organisation needs to be prepared to invest in building expertise to support scaling. Whether this is done utilising internal resources or external professional services or a blended model, may mean the difference between an earlier payback period on the initial investment, or waiting until there is sufficient knowledge and expertise within the business to get enough momentum to see wins on the board. The most effective RPA operating model/ approach (and governance) will depend on the individual organisation’s priorities, capability and capacity and should be fully explored as part of the assessment mentioned above.
Regardless of the operating model, what will hold true is that processes submitted for automation will need to assessed, ranked against the organisation’s RPA roadmap and strategy, and prioritised to go into the automation pipeline. The governance structure supporting how processes are assessed and deployed should be engrained to ensure the best opportunity for success.
RPA platforms are moving in the direction to allow individuals to manage and maintain their own robot assistant. And although the technology has come a long way in a short amount of time to be accessible to business users (versus technical developers), currently there is still a level of technical capability required to get the most of out of each platform.
So, in summary the approach to deploying RPA will be based on:
- Commercial model
- RPA operating model – internal delivery, external delivery, blended model
- Governance structure
- Investment in capability and capacity
Some of the vendors have their own online training centres with free to access certifications allowing an organisation to build capability. Like any training, they are focused on building from fundamentals through advanced knowledge of the platform.
People from the business know what processes that they work on that are repetitive, are low value, or are across a number of systems that aren’t truly integrated.
Assessing the Marketing
When selecting any technology, a business needs to assess the market to determine what is available and what would be the best fit. At the best of times, this is a challenging activity with claims made by vendors that their product is superior to the competition, that their product is easier to use, performs better, has a better ROI etc.
Questions? Wondering how all of this can benefit your organisation?
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