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How to successfully scale RPA in 2020

(Image credit: Image Credit: MNBB Studio / Shutterstock)

1. Select a RPA platform designed for the enterprise

To achieve successful, longer-term, outcomes with RPA across the enterprise, it must enable business people to inject greater speed, accuracy, productivity, efficiency and innovation across their global operations. It’s therefore critical that organisations first chose a RPA technology platform possessing the right design credentials.

Organisations that experience greater success when scaling up automation initiatives should consider those RPA technologies underpinned by no-code, centralised, business-led, design principals. This means no lengthy design, programming, build, projects, so RPA maintains the promise of delivering swift transformation.

Additionally, for RPA to also deliver the highest value, longevity and resilience – at scale, it must ensure that all automated processes are carefully planned, achieve design standards, are completely transparent and centrally pooled to offer the potential for re-use. This collaborative facet is important, as it introduces the widest range of non-technical, business users who contribute their automations, so they can be managed and reused by the whole business – accelerating gains.

2. Get strategic with enterprise

If there is one activity that shapes and informs all related RPA activities, it’s the adoption of a strategic approach to its introduction and management within the enterprise. Having a strong vision for the use of RPA ensures that it meets the collective needs of the majority. It’s important to first establish the reasons why a RPA programme is being undertaken and these must be clearly aligned to corporate objectives. RPA programmes will therefore become less tactical and more clearly aligned to corporate strategies, vision and objectives.

For example, this could include linking RPA to strategic imperatives such as ‘accelerating  speed of response to stakeholder demand’ or ‘service improvements’ – and these can be agreed by board-level of directors. This enables organisations to start taking a more holistic, strategic approach to RPA - by re-imagining processes and organisational structure and other technologies.

3. Keep IT and other key stakeholders involved 

For the RPA journey to be successful, early support must be gained from key, IT personnel. This is because although RPA is managed by a business team, it’s still governed by the IT department using existing practices. IT must therefore be involved from the start, as they can support connected-RPA on many critical fronts, such as compliance with IT security, auditability, the required infrastructure, its configuration and scalability.

Getting a RPA program up-and-running may prove difficult, without buy-in from IT. To ensure that delivery of a new process is smooth and remains operational, liaising with IT must be an ongoing activity – as at various points in the delivery of a new, automated process, IT colleagues can help limit any operational impacts.  For RPA to be sustainable, it must also receive buy in from the C-suite too. If they see RPA as a strategic business project, they’ll help provide the relevant financial and human resources.

4. Put in a governance structure

The next stage is identifying those process automation opportunities that will generate the fastest benefits. This will also provide great proof of concepts and use cases for greater business adoption. It’s important to be clear about what makes a truly good process. Typical selection criteria includes processes where there is an increased need for regulatory compliance and auditability, processes where errors are costly, or where the ability to scale up operations – while minimising costs - is important too.

To gain quick wins, it’s best to starting small by automating simple, yet high impact processes first. It’s also worth remembering, that automating an inefficient process, will potentially just speed up the inefficiency. It’s therefore best to either make the process more efficient, prior to automating - or to redesign the process during the design phase of delivery.

Even if the ideal process for automation has been found, liase with IT to ensure that there isn’t any maintenance planned for the target application, or the process automation will have to be stalled.

To guarantee the traceability of the automation program, a set of indicators should also be defined that can include; financial, process, quality and performance related KPIs – prior to any activities taking place. Other considerations can include how to generate demand for RPA within the business. This could involve providing employee incentives for identifying suitable processes, internal communications and running workshops for engagement.

5. Better change management 

Ensuring continual business buy in to RPA is a challenge, so organisations must work hard to create interest and engagement in this area – to help sustain the journey. Demonstrating proof of concept and value are key to this – so RPA business cases and positive impacts must be clearly evangelised across the enterprise.

An organisation’s progress can sometimes stall if team members haven’t taken ownership or understood what’s actually occurring with RPA. Also, when staff have to change the way that they work, as new process automations are being deployed - there is fear, uncertainty and doubt. Therefore, to help remove staff anxiety, organisations should keep communicating about the fruits of automation initiatives - while keeping it accessible too. This could involve involving people in process design, or selection, humanising the robots – with names - and regularly posting information about their positive impacts on the roles of human workers too. 

6. Better measure value

The actual impact of connected-RPA can be measured in many ways - such as how it’s generating operational efficiencies, incremental cost savings and higher levels of workforce productivity – while delivering better transactional speed and accuracy. In fact, a Knowledge Capital Partners study -  ‘Keys to RPA success’ - reveals that organisations using connected-RPA are experiencing improved service speed, consistency and quality, faster deployment of new services, improved regulatory compliance, differentiated customer experiences, and more flexible, satisfied workforces too.

7. Get better human talent

Companies are scrambling around desperately to acquire the best talent in RPA because there simply isn’t enough of it to go around. The rapid rise of RPA technology has led to demand outweighing supply. Businesses may have this fantastic software, but they don’t have enough people to operate it.

Therefore, look at partners providing the human resources, governance, management and methodologies to support global learning programmes and integrate training into rapidly expanding RPA implementations. In fact, some will even source, train and mentor a fully accredited RPA team of people within weeks. This team is then committed for several years and are subsequently equipped to maintain a dynamic, sustainable centre of intelligent automation excellence.

Tom Gardener, co-founder and director, Robiquity