Robotic Process Automation: How to get started
Robotic process automation (RPA) covers a wide range of enterprise processes and delivers distinct competitive advantages. The RPA adoption rate is picking up in every industry. It is very high on the industry-specific process, especially in finance and accounting (F&A) functions. For RPA, the industry-specific knowledge is not necessarily mandatory, but it could be helpful. You will find the F&A function in each industry, and experience from one industry domain can easily be applied to another industry.
Return on investment (ROI) can be effectively utilized for RPA transformation. RPA has the potential to pay for itself. To build and deploy a typical RPA robot takes roughly 8 to 12 weeks. You will start reaping the benefits after three months or so. Senior technology managers may assume that RPA should pay for itself in a one-year time frame. The key to a successful RPA program is selecting the right processes for automation. One of the critical elements for selecting processes is ROI. Each potential process should be scored and selected using a few parameters such as ROI, technical complexity, high volume, type of robot (front/back office) and others. RPA SAAS or service models are not yet popular in the marketplace. You do need CAPEX for the initial setup of the RPA platform, including the infrastructure, software cost, and COE setup. Some organizations use the OPEX budget for annual license costs, building robots as they have the potential of paying for themselves.
Crawl, Walk, Run and Fly
Keep in mind a methodology that allows a step-by-step process of crawl, walk, run and fly. Starting with a proof of concept to see the value and benefits of RPA is a perfect first step. It is critical to pick up the right use case that has a good ROI identified. Building a prototype versus building bots at scale and supporting in production is a different animal. Do not try to force fit RPA to each process automation ambition. The RPA robots are not a cure for IT debt or process. Therefore, it’s best to implement an incremental approach that builds to scaling out RPA.
IT Partners on Day One
At the first moment RPA is no longer a concept but a true plan for digital transformation, begin to involve an IT partner as soon as possible. Some RPA vendors suggest that business users can build bots. Even though it is possible, it has the potential to create a disaster situation. The business may underestimate the complexity, potential misuse and multidisciplinary coordination needed among business units and security.
Think about a typical IT landscape where business users have various Excel/Access (VBA) applications running from their desktop. The IT department faces various challenges supporting such applications that have the potential of breaking with upgrades, patches, multiple sources of truth, and the risk of losing the data in the disaster situation to avoid. The RPA robots built by business users will get into similar situations if there is no proper governance structure and no planned management of the robots from day one. The business can build a robot, but you must define the framework that works for your company.
In the next part, we will review the critical considerations before you start.