Looking beyond Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is transforming the digital support experience. The global RPA software market is expected to reach nearly $2 billion in 2021 according to the latest figures from Gartner, and there’s no doubt that process optimisation has moved higher up the enterprise board agenda over the last 12 months.

But while advancements have made it easier to fully automate many mundane and manual tasks, some enterprises have found their productivity and ability to automate has plateaued. So, why is this?

As enterprises strive towards greater efficiencies, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing technology can solve everything. However, the interdependency of people and technology shouldn’t be underestimated. Organisations must strike the right balance between the two.

When embedding RPA into any business, there are a few key steps to consider.

Look before leaping

Put simply, to reimagine process you need to understand it first. As RPA has gathered pace, some organisations have been guilty of leaping before pinpointing exactly how and where RPA could benefit their business.

User analytics is central to providing a complete view of digital processes, allowing business and IT leaders to begin to paint a picture of where key efficiency gains can be made.

Evaluate tools which offer greater insight into the everyday tasks and processes employees are completing on software applications. The most valuable insight will go beyond surface-level process mapping, and provide intelligence which can provide you with a roadmap for RPA.

Insights such as how users are interacting with platforms, which tasks are repeatedly being corrected, or those with the longest duration will not only help to identify which processes should be automated, but highlight areas where the software needs to work better for employees.

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Set out a two-pronged approach

There are a whole host of reasons why a process might not be suitable for automation, but you should consider things such as the time it will take to automate and how many steps in the process require human intervention. Generally speaking, the more logical and easier to define the process is, the faster and easier it is to automate.

With a holistic view of processes in your organisation, you will be able to pinpoint which processes can and should be automated, as well as those where people are the key drivers. This will not only be crucial in achieving greater efficiencies, but in demonstrating the benefits to employees and an understanding of where they fit into this new way of working.

Consider where upskilling or knowledge sharing might be needed to ensure employees are equipped to support automation. It’s all well and good having technology in in place, but it won’t run effectively without the right people and buy-in alongside it. The relationship between people and technology is going to become even more important as the capabilities of RPA and other machine-based learning advance over the next few years.

Empower people in the flow of work

Just because you can’t fully automate a process, doesn’t mean greater efficiencies can’t be achieved. For those processes where people are key, consider how you can empower them in the flow of work. Many enterprises are now moving towards this form of digital support, looking beyond traditional communication methods such as emails or online resource hubs.

Delivering communications ‘in the flow of work’ – for example via in-app pop-ups or notifications – ensures employees have the tools and guidance to solve problems quickly. It also reduces context switching – the action of flitting between multiple applications throughout the day. It’s a key step towards unifying the digital employee experience and ensuring that software works better for the people that use it most.

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Remember, KPIs are king

If you’re reimagining a process, you should be reimaging metrics too. As with any technology investment, having clearly defined metrics is key to ensuring the success of RPA in the enterprise environment, but it will also be key to monitoring any enhancements made to the flow of work for employees.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be linked to long-term business outcomes such as productivity and cost-savings. This will be crucial to achieving leadership buy-in, as well as in demonstrating the benefits of RPA to the wider employee base within your organisation.

Written by James Maude, product strategy lead at AppLearn

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