From Chaos to Conviction – Discovery is Essential for Successful RPA


Like any automation, when developing a new process in RPA a high degree of certainty is required to make it work.  Teams must clearly define exactly which screens to interface with, the exact data required and the correct manipulation, amongst other things. 

Get any of this wrong and your robot may be fast, they may be cheaper than a human, but the output renders it worse than useless, even potentially dangerous. However, the way humans work, especially in organic process, is rarely full of certainty. Processes can be opaque, overly complicated and difficult to explain. To bridge this gap you need a stable approach to discovery. 

A Solid Framework

Traditionally you could simply rely on an experienced consultant who’s done this before, however these are hard to find and can be expensive. A good analyst, or subject matter expert, should be able to achieve the same objective providing they are supported by a robust framework. 

This is so key because it makes sense of what can appear chaotic. Humans each have a unique way to describe what they do so one of the first things to do is to be able to standardise that output. 

As an example, in a recent project we looked at a global finance process that was executed regionally. During the initial discovery sessions one could have been forgiven for thinking these regional activities were completely different processes due to the language used and approach taken. 

By applying a framework we were forced to ask: where does it start? what happens? who does it? with what? and what’s the output? This immediately provided simple data to work with – essentially –  are they starting with the same input and are they aiming to produce the same output?

Using this approach meant that instantly it wasn’t us challenging the user but the framework itself. This simple technique avoids the user becoming defensive, or feeling threatened, when challenged about how they work. In our example our adherence to the Skore framework resulted in a successful process mapping exercise with the bonus of no egos hurt or relationships damaged.  

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

This first pass at discovery rarely gets you straight to the answer but it will start to make sense of what’s going on. Once you’ve established the start point and endpoint of one or more processes you need to understand how they actually work. 

Take each step in a process and break that down into the next level of detail. This ensures that all your work is captured in the context of the wider process. Continue the previous line of questioning until you can clearly describe the process as if you had done it yourself. This is much easier than it might at first sound, providing you follow the guidelines of the framework. You may need to repeat several times to achieve this but you can normally complete this in one or two sessions.

Apply the RPA Lense

Once you’ve captured the process you’ll already be thinking about which parts are suitable for RPA. It’s time to combine your solid process mapping approach with available software.

This helps to quickly identify standardised inputs and outputs, interfaces suitable for RPA, decision making and so on. Software will support your decision making to ensure you can do it quicker and more accurately. Build your business case by determining how much a process costs, how many full time equivalent roles are required, who will be impacted and the potential savings. 

Successful process discovery RPA business case dashboard created by Skore
Image taken from the Skore Robotic Assess Module

Capture and Approve the Detail

Finally, once you have selected the most suitable candidate for automation you can capture the step by step process. Again create a process map under the relevant step, capture the key stroke steps, along with screenshots, to develop a detailed design document in the context of the wider process and business case.

Conclusion

Through years of experience I’ve rarely come across anyone that can clearly articulate their own process when asked. RPA opportunities often arise as the result of some major shift or disruption in the workplace. Where workarounds prevail however, it is even harder for a coherent process description to arise. This means that RPA opportunities can often be tricky to make sense of and get right.

Too often what looked initially like a great candidate turns out to be overly complicated with too many exceptions. A strong framework, applied methodically, will weed out those processes and help you make more informed decisions. Don’t be afraid to take the time to go back and retrace steps until you fully understand the process. Repetition and reiteration are your friends in this. 

If you’d rather get the experts involved take a look at Skore’s Robotic Assess module. Our Digital Discovery platform will not only speedily capture your end to end processes but also provides insights to facilitate process improvements. Identify RPA opportunities, illustrate potential savings and demonstrate your return on investment to stakeholders all with the click of a button. Click here to request a demo.

Practice what you Preach. Using Skore in Lean Process Improvement

In the early days of Skore we didn’t set out to build a Lean improvement software. We just wanted a way to make process discovery workshops easier, quicker and more engaging than the traditional method using brown paper, sticky notes and a lengthy writeup. 

Initially I was surprised by the resistance displayed by Lean teams when presenting the capabilities of Skore. However I quickly realised that this had nothing to do with Lean and everything to do with human nature. Humans, generally, don’t deal with change very well. Change brings uncertainty and that makes us uncomfortable.

Ironically It turns out that it doesn’t matter even if you’re in the business of change and transformation, you’ll just as likely rail against the uncertainty that change brings. Competition, although, is a great motivator and recently we’ve seen more and more Lean teams turn to us when looking at ways of improving how they deliver their own work.

Make your Process Discovery Lean – How Skore is different. 

In our efforts to improve the effectiveness of  process discovery workshops we looked at how processes are described. A number of notations and approaches are available but we wanted something simple. Not to remember a lot of symbols or explain them to others and certainly we didn’t want to waste time discussing their meaning. So we reduced the shapes we use to 2.

Skore’s 2 shapes – the What and Why box

We did want people to think about the value of their work so we introduced the Why box. This ensures that for every piece of work that we describe in Skore we need to have a discussion about why we do it. That discussion could be 15 seconds, or it may take 15 minutes, but it’s essential to know whether the work is adding value or not.

Example of Process Step using What and Why box taken from Skore’s Software Platform

We created a software interface easy enough to use in a live environment and capture a process at the speed of conversation. This is done on a screen in front of people while they describe the process. We recognised writing sticky notes distracts from the flow of information from participants.  Whether re-writing a spelling mistake or having to completely rearrange all the notes on the board because they missed an important step out somewhere.

Of course the by product of this ‘process improvement’ is everything you capture is immediately stored digitally. There’s no need to take photos, roll up the paper and transcribe it into various formats afterward. Content is shared instantly at the end of the workshop. In a recent example one of our partners saves 2 days of follow up work for each workshop they run. At around 100 workshops per year  – that’s a significant saving of 200 days.

Using Skore going forward.

Finally Skore addresses the waste issues concerning the ongoing management of documents following a workshop. Huge amounts of information are gathered, not just process flows. Roles and responsibilities, risks, timings, costs, delays, questions, actions, issues, the list goes on. All are documented somewhere and relate to specific parts, or steps, in the process. They must be updated and kept in sync. Skore stores this directly against the process so that any change you make will instantly highlight any dependencies and be reflected through all the information. 

Using Skore enables Lean teams to ensure that their information gathering and process mapping is efficient and effective. Surely Lean consultants themselves should be able to recognise that sometimes we all need to change and embrace the new ways, even if that means recognising that Lean approaches can produce wastage too. 

Skore Digital Discovery is cloud based software that enables you to align your people, processes and tools. A process discovery, insights and improvement platform with a live workshop tool, it reduces the capturing processes stage from weeks to days. Skore’s Lean Assess module identifies value add and non value steps in processes and calculates savings for your organisation. Click here for a free trial.

Don’t drown in the RPA Sea of Opportunity.

Ensure your organisation’s preparations for RPA are watertight and ready for anything. Here are Skore’s recommendations for RPA process discovery success.

A previous blog (see here) explored the difficulties, especially in organisations new to RPA, in identifying good opportunities for implementing robots.

However, days after publishing that article,  I was engaged with another organisation that had had some fantastic early success with RPA. Requests were coming into the central team thick and fast as word of their achievements got out.

Interestingly this had led to a number of different problems to consider:

  • how to quickly evaluate and prioritise the requests
  • how to collaborate with the requesting teams 
  • how to maintain the growing number of robots.

It was the perfect example to demonstrate that getting RPA right means this situation will happen sooner than you think. We recommend that you start thinking about the following early on in your RPA journey. 

Evaluate and prioritise requests

You will move from a hunting model to a servicing model. Instead of searching out for opportunities and candidates for RPA, you will be receiving requests from colleagues across the business.

Remember that very few people will have the experience you have in identifying these opportunities. Requests will vary from a near perfect fit to wildly unsuitable and will differ considerably in size and complexity. You won’t have time to do a thorough investigation into each one before deciding whether to engage or not. You need to make sure your team are as prepared as possible to evaluate these opportunities effectively. 

With a Digital Discovery tool, such as Skore, you can quickly capture a high level view of the process. By applying Skore’s Robotic Assess, you can determine suitability, feasibility and the potential business case.

This can be done in a single conversation with the requesting team, or, you can even ask them to do it themselves.

The information is saved directly to the system and a pipeline of candidates is produced and ranked according to the potential benefits. Process discovery and evaluation is arguably the most important stage of the RPA model, do not underestimate it.

Image taken from Skore’s RPA Robotic Assess Module

Collaboration with the business

From the time a request is submitted, until the robot is delivered, communication with the requesting team is essential. If you’re accepting requests and managing comms via email this is never going to scale.

Consider a task management tool such as Asana, Jira or Monday. These can be configured to accept requests electronically, manage projects and provide dashboards so that both the delivery team and the requesting team can see the status of the project at any time.

With the processes captured in Skore it’s very easy to indicate which steps are to be automated and tested. This can be exported to your task management tool to provide the framework to the project, if accepted.

Robot maintenance

Ongoing maintenance of robots is something that very few teams consider… until they need it. Very few robots can be built and forgotten. Robots are using systems and forms that can change. Robots themselves are software and will receive updates and improvements that need to be considered. Data used by the robots can change too.

Ensure that you maintain a catalogue of previously built robots and their current operating status. Use monitoring to notify you of potential issues that arise before they have a significant impact on the process. Plan maintenance windows to allow you to update robots as and when required.

Ultimately, robots are like any other system the organisation manages so it’s essential that you have clear processes to deal with outages, issues and general maintenance. Don’t undervalue this step in your RPA implementation plan. 

Conclusion

Get RPA right  and it has the impact to transform a business and it can happen quickly. When it does you need to be ready to take full advantage. Think early about how you’re going to scale production and maintenance and what tools you will use to plan, evaluate and review. This will save you a lot of trouble and lost opportunity when your RPA vision truly sets sail.

Skore Digital Discovery is cloud based software that enables you to align your people, processes and tools. A process discovery, insights and improvement platform with a live workshop tool, it reduces the capturing processes stage from weeks to days. Skore’s Robotic Assess module allows you to build robust business cases on RPA quickly and effortlessly. Sign up here for a demo. 


No Pains No Gains?

Should we start by capturing pains first in a process workshop? Or are we just inflicting more pain on ourselves?

Recently, a lot of discussions with our partners has been around the order in which they should conduct workshops for improvement projects. They have described how they often started with a ‘Pains’ session with subject matter experts followed by a series of process workshops.

In fact in every instance, our partners expressed their own pain and frustration in completing this exercise. Time wasted discussing a pain that later turned out to be low priority or the really big problems they had to deal with that didn’t come out until later workshops. Of course by this stage they’d already spent a lot of time and effort exploring solutions that were no longer relevant.

Inevitably we wondered why they did it this way but the answer was predictable

 “we’ve always done it this way even though we always tell our clients that’s the worst thing they can say!”

It’s not however,  just “pains” workshops where this happens, we often see it with requirements gathering workshops. A team gathers around a flipchart and lists all the requirements / pains / risks etc that they believe are the most important. Yet when we dig into these they are either not as important as they first appeared, or those that didn’t seem important at first turn out to be the highest priority. This seems to be a common issue experienced in process workshops.  

Why does this happen?

Asking people what pains they experience, or what they require from a new system, are not easy questions to answer. On the face of it they appear straight forward. What do I not like about the current process? Sure I can answer that, but how I express it, how I perceive it, when it last happened to me and how I experience it are likely to be quite different to the next person.

It means that how I answer that question on any given day could result in a completely different answer. Combine this with a group of different people and you also have to contend with how loud someone talks, their individual personalities and the level of engagement in this particular session.

The psychologist Daniel Kahneman in his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’  describes ‘substitution’ a behaviour common in humans when faced with difficult to answer and ambiguous questions. The brain is inherently lazy and always finds the easiest way to answer a particular question. When asked about the pains you feel in a particular process you’re unlikely to think really deeply about this and will simply substitute an answer that you can easily remember – therefore the last thing that happened to you rather than the most painful thing.

Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

What we can do about it?

As process discovery experts we must make it as easy as possible for people to express the pains they feel in context. This means creating a framework. A framework they can use to start with and which becomes the process to which the pains, or requirements, relate to.

Rather than starting with the pains session, it is important to start with defining and agreeing the process as it happens today. This provides a common language that the whole team can use. A common language to describe the pains in the same way, rather than multiple people describing the same pains in very different ways.

As the process is laid out it  will become easy for SMEs to describe pains and requirements in the context of the process. The prioritisation and sizing of the problem can then be captured live at the same time. This also makes it unnecessary for the team to have multiple workshops.

Skore Digital Discovery

At Skore we have specifically designed our platform to capture business processes live in workshops. Along with the process descriptions you can capture pain points and requirements, and quantify them, all in the context of the relevant step in the process. As the information is captured directly into the software there’s no need to take photos and write up notes afterward. Its effortless as your pain points, requirements and quantification data are also stored in the same place so no more multiple spreadsheets.

Finally…

Instead of starting with a pain points or requirements session, you need to start with capturing the process. This gives you the framework with which to have a much more meaningful conversation about the pains and requirements in context. The conversations are not only more focused but the whole exercise is much quicker, keeping subject matter experts more engaged and onboard.

Skore Digital Discovery is a process capture, improvement and analysis platform designed to simplify the complexity. Click here to find out more about how Skore can revolutionise the way you deal with processes and transformation in your organisation.

Can’t see the robots for the trees?

Make sure your RPA process discovery clears the way.

As soon as you get into RPA you can’t help but see opportunities for applying the technology everywhere. Although not every opportunity turns out to be suitable, it’s important to keep feeding the pipeline. 

The concept of using robots to automate manual activities is very simple. Logically it should be fairly simple to spot opportunities for using them. However, this whole area, despite the phenomenal growth in the RPA market, is still massively under exploited in most organisations.

There are numerous reasons for this. Firstly RPA capability is still young and developing in most organisations and there is limited capacity to move quickly. Secondly, for many the value is yet to meet the promise, although when it undoubtedly does it will rapidly hit a tipping point. Finally, the workforce in general do not have the necessary skills, knowledge and information to spot relevant opportunities.

Last week a colleague was working with a client on compliance processes in Skore. It involved checking hundreds of PDF files to ensure the right data had been entered into the right fields. They could only check a sample each month which was about 1% of the total.

The client was aware of RPA, having seen it in action in their organisation, yet hadn’t spotted the opportunity to automate in their own department. It was as my colleague asked more, captured the reporting process and it came to life in Skore, that the light bulb moment arrived.


Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

As they summarised –  “the problem is that we spend so much time down in the weeds. We’re focused on getting all this work finished everyday we don’t see the bigger picture.”

When the wider process was laid out visually, with highly manual and repeatable steps clearly highlighted, it was obvious that significant improvements could be made. When the time and cost data was added to Skore there was a clear business case too.

Although it was the significant time saving that was exciting the client, the benefits went way beyond. Suddenly their 1% sampling could become 100% of documents with the team free to follow up on those that failed the compliance check. This significantly reduced the risk of poor customer experience, regulatory fines and the resulting effect that would have on the business brand.

Despite the fact that the client was well aware of the capabilities of RPA they had found it difficult to spot opportunities for applying the technology. They were so focused on the day to day activities that they couldn’t see the difference between those that were highly standardised and repeatable and those that weren’t. It was by taking the time to capture these processes that the RPA need and benefits became clear.

To identify RPA opportunities we need to take a step back and look at our processes objectively. We must devote time to understand what the company needs, what our staff need and what our customers need. It is very easy to get lost in the detail and lose the bigger picture. RPA promises great benefits but only if we can commit to taking the time to identify the right processes to automate.

Skore’s cloud based Digital Discovery platform rapidly captures business processes and produces instant insights. The Robotic Assess module enables organisations to highlight process to automate and creates the business case to support them. 

Transformation implies big changes but does it really deliver?

The word transformation implies big changes. To achieve them businesses invest considerable time, effort and money. You are justified in expecting a sizeable return for all that effort.

However most businesses finish a transformation program having only achieved minor performance improvements or nothing at all.

Aims v Outcomes

It’s a sad fact that the word transformation often symbolises the amount of pain and effort a business goes through. It is rarely about the benefits intended. 

Businesses often plan to carry on working in the same way as before whilst transformation focus tends to be technology driven. This doesn’t work because new technology might make things faster but if you’re NOT doing the right thing in the first place, you end up doing the wrong things faster.

It’s a common problem we see when working with customers on their own projects. Their focus is on changing the tools the business is using, not enough on testing their original processes and changing the fundamental ways of working. 

What does this mean to you?

If your business is pinning hopes of survival on the outcomes of your major transformation project.. If they plan on carrying on doing what they’ve always done…If they just want  faster tools… They’ll just go out of business even faster.

What it means is that, once the dust has settled, all your team can hope for are marginal gains. Some of the steps in your processes are now automated, or you’ve pushed some tasks out to other employees. Simply you’ve moved the effort to another part of the business rather than truly transforming anything.

The original vision for the program got lost and instead of a 25% cost saving or a 37% revenue increase, it became focused on “we need to get the system implemented and working”.  

It’s all too easy to focus on the tangible aspects of the technology you are implementing and ignore the need for less tangible changes on how the business gets stuff done.

Those opportunities for genuine transformation haven’t gone away. You just didn’t go far enough with the change process.

How do you prevent this?

Time for discovery

Allocating ample time at the start of the project to undertake a thorough discovery exercise is vital. In order to understand the potential barriers, there must be a deep understanding of the current situation. This stage is not just about gathering detail about your current state and processes. It’s about engaging with people early, understanding their role, listening to their individual hopes and fears and learning what they know about ways to make your business better.

Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

Understand your ways of working and identify what’s holding you back.

Crucially, you need to understand what’s preventing it from being better and is holding you back. It might be the technology you use but more often it will be because things are done the way they’ve always been done with little consideration to how they could be done differently.

Work with the vendors to design your future

Armed with the knowledge of what slows things down you can start to design your future state processes to tackle these issues. If possible, do this with the vendor(s) of the platform being implemented. Alternatively, make sure your implementation partner has expertise in the technology and will follow these critical steps.

This is the point where you take what you think will make things better and marry it up with the capabilities of the new system. Without this you’ll simply be automating what you have always done.

Support your team in the new ways of working

When your new system is launched it should be in tandem with your new ways of working. Train your team on the ways of working and then on how the system supports them. Include the ‘why’ in the training so that your team have answers to the questions: 

Why are we doing it this way?

What are the outcomes I am expected to produce? 

Your training should show clearly how the new ways of working and technology achieve these outcomes.

Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

Conclusion

Transformation means just that. Transforming the way you and your business works. If you aren’t investing in the initial discovery and investigations, if you don’t know your own business processes; how can you expect to make successful changes? All too often the investment is in the final technology solution but if you don’t invest in your people and their processes you’ll never achieve it. Its all too easy to blame the term Transformation but change starts with you and your approach. 

The Skore Digital Discovery platform enables you to gather all the information you need during the discovery phase. Simply and quickly create a model of processes, people, systems and data in a single place that can be accessed and understood by everyone.

Skore’s simple approach means anyone can understand how the business works and how the new systems support it. It engages people in live workshops and interviews and allows your company to find the solutions that work for them.  

Why not request a free trial and demo to see how you could deliver transformation right first time with Skore

Where should I start with RPA?

Those of us who have been working in the RPA space for a while are used to spotting good opportunities for applying robots. However this comes through experience and it’s not as easy as it looks.

Working with a couple of organisations recently on Digital Discovery projects, we’ve identified potential opportunities for RPA. The client’s response?… “oh we’ve tried that before but it didn’t really deliver the return we’d hoped for.”

On closer investigation it turned out that the process in question was complicated. It was selected for a number of reasons; a lot of back and forth between multiple systems, numerous copy and paste activities, repetition and high levels of human interaction. Most importantly it was considered low risk in case anything went wrong.

Whilst low risk it was clearly considered of low importance too. Only a vague scope was agreed and the team went to work building a robot.

Initially the team were pleased that the amount of copy and paste they had previously done had been greatly reduced. The volume of items they could handle had increased. However, the number of exceptions increased too, at a higher rate than the volume increase. In addition, there was an increase in rework… items that hadn’t made it successfully to the end of the process and needed to be redone, often manually.

In other words they’d fixed one problem but created new ones. On balance there was only a small return on investment and the whole RPA initiative had run out of steam before it had even begun.

Understanding which processes are right for automation is essential for success. There is much to consider and every organisation will have a different view of what’s important. Time and cost savings are obvious benefits but consider the impact on customer and employee experience. You may be reducing risk through reduction in errors or by securing data.

Therefore the first thing you should do is start to capture and analyse your end-to-end business processes. You need to get people aligned and identify everything that needs to be improved before applying automation. This drives out the requirements and other improvement opportunities.

Remember capturing business processes doesn’t have to be time consuming, using Digital Discovery it can be achieved rapidly, with high levels of engagement and immediately outputs a report of what to automate and when. Skore’s Robotic Assess module sits on top of the Digital Discovery platform and will also produce a robust business case for each process. This helps you prioritise them into a pipeline of work.

If you want to get the most out of RPA you need to pick processes that are easy to automate and return high value benefits in the shortest time. At least until you’ve established your RPA capability and are able to scale it. Using Digital Discovery will help you identify those processes rapidly and prioritise them efficiently.

Craig Willis is one of the founders of Skore, the Digital Discovery Software platform that enables you to align your processes, people and tools with ease. Skore have launched Robotic Assess, a module that allows you to easily assess and understand which of your processes are ready for automation. Click here to find out more.

Is RPA Just A Band Aid?

My early interactions, with the technology now widely known as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), were not totally positive.

When applying RPA to a manual interface, between an old legacy system and a company’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, my instinct was to rip out the legacy system. To replace it with something more modern and efficient with the ability to integrate directly. With RPA it felt we were just postponing the inevitable, storing up problems for the future. We were putting a sticking plaster over a serious wound that was likely to fester.

In fact, we shouldn’t use human analogy where business is concerned. Business issues do not always follow a linear trajectory and the issue is not always a wound that needs to be treated and healed over time.

What is an issue today may be an advantage or opportunity tomorrow and vice versa. In other words, businesses need to be more agile so they can understand the nature of problems they face today and adapt and change for the problems they face tomorrow.

But making businesses agile is where RPA, and tools such as Skore’s Digital Discovery platform, really come into their own. With Digital Discovery tools, an organisation can rapidly understand the current situation, align teams and get everyone onboard. It’s a completely different approach to traditional methods of discovery.

Image taken from Skore’s Robotic Assess Software Platform

Undertaking a major systems implementation may seem like the right solution today, for example, replacing a legacy system. However if it takes 12 – 18 months how can we be sure that it will be the right solution?

This is where Digital Discovery and RPA are so effective. Process capture workshops are fast, engaging and result in an agreed set of processes in a digital and shareable format.

Furthermore, Digital Discovery is more than just processes. While process acts as a framework for understanding how the organisation works, a Digital Discovery tool should allow you to augment the process with other information such as; roles, systems, data, duration and costs etc.

 It allows you to create a more complete picture of how the organisation works. Enabling you to focus on what’s important right now.

This is why Digital Discovery fits so neatly with RPA. Robotic Process Automation allows you to quickly implement changes to, and vastly improve the performance of, how work gets done. There’s no need to run an 18 month implementation programme before you start seeing benefits. Benefits identified during Digital Discovery can be implemented and realised with RPA within weeks or even days.

We recognise that many organisations are still using traditional methods of discovery to feed their RPA initiatives. But don’t be surprised when there’s a collective groan from your colleagues. If you really want to become truly agile you’ll need to abandon the old ways and marry your RPA programme with Digital Discovery.

Skore has developed Robotic Assess, a Saas software solution that enables you and your organisation to rapidly discover and agree business processes, identify RPA opportunities and create a robust business case with clear ROI analysis. Find our more about what our Digital Discovery tool can do for you.

Are You Getting Value For Money From RPA?

Don’t leave your RPA Business Case until its too late.

We’ve all been there…

It’s so easy to get carried away with a new toy, tearing open the box and emptying the contents all over the floor. Start sticking the lego blocks together before you’ve even unwrapped the instructions. Plugging in the new TV without opening the manual.

Disruptive new business technologies like Robotic Process Automation are just as exciting. Unlike the old Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems of the past, with RPA tools you can start implementing from day one.

However unlike the TV in your living room, RPA could have a profound effect on your business….. Or, it could not…… 

If it’s not positioned correctly, if it doesn’t align with the organisation’s objectives, if it disrupts in a negative way or if it simply doesn’t deliver the expected benefits… It will be packed away in the cupboard to collect dust like all the broken toys and missing parts.

With RPA it’s essential you start thinking about the wider business case right from the get go. With the hype around the technology it won’t be long before you’re having to answer board level questions about that business case. You must be ready with the right answers as early as possible.

Starting to build the business case isn’t difficult

You don’t need to get hung up on a detailed business case at this point but putting a simple framework together now will provide a solid foundation. Skore recommends starting to build the foundation with the 4 Ps of Robotic Process Automation.

P is for Process

Which processes are most likely to benefit from RPA? There’s a lot to choose from and the challenge will be selecting those that make a significant difference.

Are you simply pushing process inefficiencies downstream? Processes need to be considered end-to-end. If you apply RPA at one point in a process, what’s the impact on other areas?

Are there areas of the process that need to be improved before applying the technology? Automating a bad process means you’re just speeding up a bad process.

Take the time to make an inventory of possible candidate processes. Performing a high level review of those processes will quickly identify what can and should be automated. Document the volumes and costs of those processes today so you can start thinking about the benefits of automation immediately. With Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform you can rapidly capture and analyse key business processes and start building a business case straight away.

P is for Performance

What sort of performance improvement can you expect from implementing RPA? If you’ve followed the previous step you’ll already have a list of candidates and their current performance. Start to evaluate them to understand the scale of the improvement.

What improvements are you measuring? Improvements are not just about time savings you should also be considering speed, quality, volume, cost and customer or employee experience.

It needn’t be detailed but understanding the magnitude of the improvement will help when discussing the potential benefits of the technology.

P is for Prioritisation

Where do you start when you get the go ahead for the investment? Once you have catalogued the processes most suitable for RPA and understood the potential performance improvements this should be fairly straight forward.

Which strategic priorities will give you the largest gain for the smallest investment of time and money? Consider the organisation today and which performance improvements best align with those priorities. Priorities can change but having a good argument for why you have selected them with supporting evidence is essential.

P is for Plan

What is the impact on the existing human workforce? Applying RPA isn’t just about implementing robots and moving on to the next thing. Robotic Process Automation can have a significant impact on the way work happens in the organisation. RPA is an extension of your workforce so must be considered as such.

Are they ready for the change? How is work going to be reassigned? What new opportunities does this generate and how is that going to be exploited?

A lot of these questions can lead to unexpected benefits above and beyond simple cost and time saving. These will help strengthen the investment case and help with communications.

Finally, consider what happens 6 or 12 months from now? How do the robots you implement today stay relevant tomorrow? How are the processes maintained and improved over time?

Conclusion

RPA is an exciting technology with the potential to have a huge impact on modern organisations. However, it’s easy to get caught up in the technology and not consider the bigger picture. RPA is a strategic investment and needs to be considered as such as early as possible.

The Skore Robotic Assess module on the Skore Digital Discovery platform quickly identifies and documents end-to-end processes, assesses them for RPA suitability, calculates potential benefits and prioritise candidates. The platform has a user friendly interface with simple dashboards and clear analysis that can be presented as part of your business case.

Craig Willis is the Customer Success Director and one of the founders at Skore.

The Number 1 Reason RPA Projects Fail

Up to 50% of RPA projects fail during or after the initial implementation according to a recent Ernst and Young’s report. Unsurprisingly for many,  the main reason is that projects are IT led rather than by the business.

However this is not an IT problem, it’s a business problem. It is the business who has failed to engage with, or properly understand, the project and it is the business who has misaligned their strategy and processes.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology with strategic implications. Absolutely IT must play a significant part in any implementation but to achieve a truly transformational change to your bottom line, profits and customer experience the business must be in the driving seat.

So, how does the business become, and stay, engaged in such an important initiative?

Business benefits

RPA, in its simplest form, takes on many manual and repetitive tasks currently performed by humans.

More sophisticated RPA implementations can start to pick up more value adding work, often between multiple systems, where humans are performing manual interface activities such as moving data from one system to another. This is especially true when augmented with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Typically RPA should only be applied to parts of the process, significantly speeding it up and reducing errors. Very few full end-to-end processes are suitable for implementation of RPA.

Not investigating and entirely understanding your processes means potentially you are pushing the problem further along. The bottom line is that while RPA may have improved one part of the process, the rest continues to consume as much time and resources leading to little or no business benefit.

It is essential that the business leads the effort to understand the end-to-end business process. They must identify the parts most suitable for RPA and understand the impact on the rest of the process. Only this will ensure that a real and measurable improvement can be produced.

Business priorities

The old adage “when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” is common when any new and disruptive technology comes along and RPA is no exception. Once you start to look at your business through the RPA lense you’ll quickly identify many potential opportunities.

The key is, as above, to try and identify the true business benefits. It doesn’t have to be time consuming. The days of long discovery and analysis phases are coming to an end with the advent of new tools such as Skore’s Digital Discovery platform. This capture and analysis of end-to-end processes takes a fraction of the time compared to traditional methodologies.

This means the business can quickly understand the potential business benefits across multiple processes allowing a comparison and prioritisation of opportunities.

Once benefits are understood in terms of time and cost savings they can be compared to strategic business priorities to ensure that your RPA initiatives are clearly aligned to your business strategy.

Support for IT

IT will play a critical role in the success of any project.

To support IT ensure they have the necessary budget to deliver the expected benefits. Essentially however, they must also have access to the business expertise to ensure they can build the right solution.

Any work carried out to understand the processes and quantify the benefits should include representatives from IT. This means they are engaged early and fully understand the context of what you are asking them to provide. It will go a long way to preventing unexpected problems cropping up later in the project or after going live.

Conclusion

RPA promises to transform many businesses with rapid deployment, speed of operation and quality of output. However applied in the wrong place with the wrong motives it can quickly turn into an expensive project with no tangible benefits.

To ensure you get RPA right first time:

  • RPA projects should be led by the business to deliver tangible business benefits aligned with strategic priorities
  • Processes need to be understood holistically and the impact on non-automated parts properly understood – investment in this stage is vital
  • Keep IT engaged throughout to ensure everyone is fully aligned

Find out more about how Skore’s Digital Discovery platform and the Skore Robotic Assess module could help your business identify the right processes for automation. Skore’s software platform builds a prioritised portfolio of RPA opportunities based on robust ROI analysis.

Find Out More About Robotic Assess

Statistics taken from Ernst and Young’s recent report ‘Get Ready for Robots’ available here  https://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Get_ready_for_robots/$FILE/ey-get-ready-for-robots.pdf