How to make connected-RPA a success

1. Pick the right RPA platform

Organisations now face a dizzying choice of over 45 ‘claimed’ Robotic Process Automation (RPA) products – all varying significantly in quality, design and approach. So, picking the right option is critical to achieving long-term success. However, gaining clarity on RPA is a major issue; especially as the majority of newer offerings such as Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) – or ‘desktop robots’ – don’t offer enterprise-grade capabilities as RPA.

These RDA tools promise ‘quick wins’ that may sound compelling – but as organisations attempt to scale these RDA tools to achieve greater business goals – their design limitations become increasingly apparent. For example, organisations get a little business benefit as a desktop robot is inefficient, there is an inherent lack of central process design control, security, audit and governance – and being deployed across multiple desktops, creates silos, which means RDA is near impossible to scale.

Organisations that avoid long term disappointment are the ones that have opted for connected-RPA technology that’s been designed to help organisations innovate, pivot and become as agile, nimble and technology-fluent as their entrepreneur-driven start-up competitors.

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They understand that a business-led connected-RPA platform fosters a nimble, entrepreneurial spirit among business-users by giving them instant access to easy drag-and-drop automation technologies with AI cognitive capabilities. By putting automation and AI technologies into the hands of business leaders, they are promoting innovation, creativity and digital transformation. So, these organisations will consider ease of use, along with security, resilience, governance and scalability, as the most appropriate RPA selection criteria.

Ultimately, the best automation technology is driven by business users – through a collaborative platform that gives them the ability to seamlessly download and begin using AI technologies – all while operating within the full approval of the IT department.

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2. Get key stakeholder buy-in

Once a connected-RPA platform has been selected, for the initiative to be successful, early support must be gained from key IT personnel. This is because although connected-RPA is managed by a business team, it’s still governed by the IT department using existing practices. IT delivers the infrastructure required and applies roles and permissions to a digital worker or robotic user account, so without its buy-in, getting an RPA program up-and-running may prove difficult.

For connected-RPA to be transformative, it must also receive buy-in from the C-suite as they will then sponsor and champion it. If they see RPA as a strategic business project, they’ll help provide the requisite financial and human resources. Gaining stakeholder buy-in means instituting strong change management practices from the start, with continuous communication of the vision, clarity about the endpoint, what’s going to happen – with full information about individual roles and RPA’s likely impact on them.

3. Have a clear RPA usage strategy

An important factor in achieving superior outcomes with connected-RPA — one that shapes and informs all related activities — is 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 the right software is chosen to meet the collective needs of the majority.

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For example, this could include linking RPA to strategic imperatives such as ‘improving productivity’ or ‘increasing efficiency’. This way, the software can fit with existing IT frameworks and support mechanisms. Organisations are therefore starting to take a more holistic, strategic approach to RPA by re-imagining processes and organisational structure and other technologies. As a result, a wider range of RPA cases is emerging.

4. Select the right process candidate for automation

RPA implementations work more smoothly where processes have gone through a thorough selection process by employees from the enterprise. Criteria typically considers regulatory compliance, cost of process and ability to scale.

Starting small by automating simple, yet high impact processes first, is the best route to gain quick wins. Demonstrating proof of concept and value is also key to ensure that the business case and positive impacts are clearly evangelised across the business. And remember, 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.

5. Keep talking with IT

IT can support connected-RPA on several critical fronts, such as compliance with IT security, auditability, infrastructure configuration and scalability and prevention of ‘shadow’ IT. Liaising with IT must be an ongoing activity – as at various points in the delivery of a new RPA process, IT colleagues can help limit any operational impacts. For example, for the building and testing processes – they can provide access to test environments, support on roles and permissions within an application, and crucially, possess knowledge of imminent changes – that could affect live processes. To ensure that the delivery of a new process is smooth and remains operational, regular contact with IT is key.

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6. Managing change

One of the challenges most organisations face is gaining continual business buy into automation, so organisations must work hard to create interest and engagement in this area – to help sustain the journey. An organisation’s rapid progress can sometimes halt because team members haven’t taken ownership or understood what was actually going on with RPA. Also, when people have to change the way that they work, as a new automation is being deployed – there is fear, uncertainty and doubt.

One approach is to actively keep automation fun to help remove staff automation anxiety. This could involve involving people in process design, or selection, humanising the Digital Workers (software robots) – and regularly posting information about the resulting positive impacts of automation projects.

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Final thoughts

Used intelligently, a connected-RPA platform can empower operational agility by promoting innovation. Ultimately, organisations will be able to automate more – by expanding on their early RPA endeavours, intelligently and strategically with insight; automate better – by building and running higher quality process automations, faster and more easily for the long term; and automate together – by trying, playing and learning quickly and intuitively within a community of best-in-class of researchers, providers and experts.

The 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.

The golden rule with connected-RPA is to always gain company-wide support, create a vision of desired results – then start small – and deliver using trusted advisors with experience of multiple RPA delivery initiatives.

Written by Bart Peluso, Head of Product at Blue Prism

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