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

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

Historian or Visionary… Which are you?

This blog article was updated on 8th August 2019

Buying a house may be an emotional rollercoaster but for the Construction industry itself there are just as many highs and lows.

Customer expectations mean organisations must look at improving customer experience and sales management if they want to survive. It’s not just sales data that will make the difference but the way the organisation harmonises and coordinates its processes.

The construction industry is changing.

If you’re in the business of selling new homes, you will be acutely aware of how changes in consumer expectations within the retail sector, are now reflected in the expectations of home buyers. Consumers are no longer willing to ‘hope’ for a good experience, it is expected and public interest means complaints are well documented and publicised.

Yet despite this sales teams are still often relying on backward looking metrics to measure success and manage customer experience: 

Number of completions, revenue and profit are all important measures, but they can only be measured AFTER the event.

At the other end of the sales process is the opportunity pipeline containing potential buyers who have shown a real interest and ‘qualify’ as an opportunity. Sales targets may often be calculated on this and the historical sales data.

Reflect on the past but FIX the future

What neither of these actually do, is measure anything which might predict if something is about to go wrong during the sales cycle. For most organisations the first indication is typically when the buyer raises an objection, or it becomes clear the build won’t be delivered on time. By now the damage is done, it’s too late to mitigate the issue and your only option is to try and appease your buyer. How much better would the experience be for all if this could be predicted?

Revolutionise your processes to transform your customer experience

So how can you move from Historian to Visionary and identify measures that will tell you when something might go wrong before it does? 

The build process is complex and, typically, out of control of the sales team. However, having an integrated, end-to-end view of the whole process allows everyone, including your sales team, to see the key stages along the way.

How can your organisation sense and respond to potential issues, address them early and provide a better customer experience throughout the process?

Organisations should be building an integrated model in a way that is easy for everyone to follow and understand. By bringing different but related teams together organisations can clarify who does what and when key handovers of responsibility occur. Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform ensures the whole process is transparent and can identify points of critical, mutual communication. This is when the change will happen. The points where potential issues in the build process should be communicated to the sales team early enough for them to do something about it, before the customer experience fails. 

Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

Measure what matters

In addition it is important to focus on the value added by each step of a process. These are the steps which often make great performance measurement points as they occur throughout the process and not just at the end. 

Identifying and measuring indicators of success throughout the process means that you look to the future outcomes much sooner.

Using this approach, when certain parts of the process aren’t delivering as expected, means these measures will act as an early warning of a potential problems. These can be investigated and resolved and gives the sales team a heads up to communicate with the customer and manage their expectations.

The Skore Digital Discovery Platform enables you to map processes, deliver instant insights and identify process improvements. A live workshop tool it encourages collaboration and sharing within teams. It’s easy to use interface and reporting functions produce eye catching and informative dashboards and reports to easily measure, distribute and value your business processes. 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can use Skore to build a sense and respond organisation and deliver a better customer experience, get in touch.

Do you understand the root cause of your communication failures?

This blog article was updated on 7th August 2019

If your relationship between head office and the business is causing problems then perhaps it is time to go back to basics and rediscover your processes..

Communication Issues

Often we hear it in a shop where the stock levels are inconsistent. Or by a service provider where the member of staff isn’t empowered to make the changes that would improve customer experiences?

“WE KNOW THIS DOESN’T WORK WELL BUT HEAD OFFICE MAKE THE RULES AND DON’T LISTEN TO US”

In fact, communication breakdowns aren’t just restricted to multi-site businesses. The problem can easily happen between teams on the same site. Or between the business and its suppliers and/or customers.

At Skore we hear this problem cited all too often.  It’s a frequent factor in companies that are growing rapidly, where each team is focused on a specific objective or companies that haven’t changed in a long time even though the environment around them has.

When communication breaks down, or is perceived to have broken down, the result is a duplication of effort, rework, mistakes and a general lack of trust. All in all, not a recipe for a high performing business.However before you jump ahead and start looking at which of the many available solutions you are going to use to improve collaboration, and therefore communication, STOP!

It is critical that you understand the root cause of the problem first. Once you have done this, the solution may be far simpler, and therefore less expensive to implement, than it initially appears.

Finding a solution

A recent Skore client had two teams doing the work that really belonged to one. Team A was the rightful owner of the work yet nearly 50% of it was done by Team B.

Team B weren’t properly trained in the task and lacked time. When things went wrong, Team A often got the blame. In addition there was duplication.

When Skore was engaged trust was at dangerously low levels and adversely impacting their effectiveness. The first step was to map out the end to end work that both teams were doing.

Using a simple approach, the teams described the key activities, who owned them and the value each activity brought to the process.

These sessions were immensely powerful in stripping out any emotion attached to the inter-team relationships and allowed everyone to describe the work as it should be done. As the steps and interactions were captured, ownership was clarified as was, more importantly, the key interfaces and what was expected of each team.

Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

Communication is key

The client had initially engaged Skore to help them capture requirements for an upgrade to one of their systems. A change that would alter the way aspects of their business processes worked. Using Skore enabled them to capture the necessary requirements, realign the teams’ processes, roles and responsibilities

More importantly it demonstrated to them the value of allowing employees the time to go back to basics, to understand their roles/responsibilities and others and then collectively to start the healing process. Positive and effective communication grows from understanding and trust, when that is lacking no manner of communication tools will solve the situation. 

Using the Skore approach it is common to identify hidden problems in a business. Once a problem is identified you’re halfway to a solution. However, when people are unable to articulate the problem, can’t see the root cause clearly, or aren’t empowered to challenge, problems will often be put down to communication and trust issues. In turn this can lead to accusations of poor workmanship when in fact it’s simply a broken process

Skore Digital Discovery is a process mapping, improvements and insights software platform. With live workshop functionality it enables you to engage with your employees instantly and provides a lasting interactive record of your people, processes and tools. Simplify the complexity and sign up for a demo with one of our experts. 

10 Steps to the Perfect Process Map

This blog article was updated on 7th August 2019

Skore’s success as a software platform undoubtedly demonstrates it’s importance as part of the process capture solution. However our own experiences within the Skore team have also enabled us to master the ability to map out and analyse processes effectively.  We’d like to share with you our best way to create a process map that will engage and inform your organisation. 

A simple structure and approach is the most effective. It will get you started, guide you, enable you to learn and build experience. That’s why Skore is based on a simple, yet powerfully flexible, framework for describing and aligning processes, people, systems and data.

Indeed Skore has the framework built in to it and it makes it quick and easy to apply. However underneath there is still a basic approach that underpins the application of the framework. After the numerous training and discovery sessions Skore have been involved in we’ve put together the following 10 simple steps to creating the perfect process map.

So if you want to create good quality and insightful process maps for your organisation in 10 simple steps read our recommendations:.

10 STEPS TO THE PERFECT PROCESS MAP

1. SCOPE

Ask yourself – what is the scope for this process? Make sure you capture the title, initial input and final output

2. ACTIVITIES

What is the work to be done? You only need to record the verb and noun for each activities, don’t worry about sequence at this stage or trying to write full sentences. Just get them all down.

3. OUTPUTS

For each activity, add the output – our tip is to try to avoid just putting the past tense of the activity, think about the now. 

4. FLOW

Only once all the activities have an output should you hook them up. What does this output trigger next? This checks you’ve got the right activities at the right stage of the process. You may be surprised at this stage how many people may disagree with you.

5. WHO

A process is never complete until the ‘Who does it?’ is filled in for EVERY activity. For higher levels, who is responsible? For lower levels, who does it? Again this is a very enlightening exercise for the whole team. 

6. ENRICH

Add in things like systems, data, document links, requirements, etc… depending on the reason you’re process mapping. Make sure these are captured in the software to show reach and priorities.

7. TIDY

Remember this process is for all and you want it to be visually pleasing. Align the tops, space apart… a neat process is a happy process, and it’s pretty satisfying too. 

8. SHARE

Don’t keep the process to yourself, make sure the access rights are set up correctly and share the link to a wider audience. Switch on Comments if you want feedback directly. Allow your process map to become a community builder within your organisation. 

9. REFINE

Take the feedback and improve the process, update it. Look at the insights generated and use that information to clarify and hone your map. 

10. PUBLISH

Decide who should approve the process (usually the Process Owner!) and Publish. Remember, this is just a line in the sand, it will change and need to be re-published. You can always roll back to an earlier version if needs be so don’t be reluctant. A process map is only a useful tool if seen and shared by those who need to. 

The Skore Digital Discovery Platform is a process mapping, improvement and insights platform. Live workshop functionality, instant updating and shareable, it enables you to align your people, processes and tools. Find out more here