Once the initial process(es) has been identified, the ‘heavy lifting’ begins.
Business analysts need to work closely with stakeholders to pull together details on how the process(es) works, the specific activities, steps and systems involved, known variances, alternate paths/escalations and known exceptions.
In many instances, it may require multiple iterations of forensic examination, documentation and review to land on consensus view of how (and why) a process works. In most organizations, the originators of processes are long gone, and staff often only understand their allocated step in any detail (and many cannot explain why those steps are required).
Tip: Anywhere from 50%-70% of project time and budget can be spent developing pre-automation documentation.
Once the candidate process(es) have been documented satisfactorily, it is worth investing the time to challenge every step and logic rule, using ‘zero-based thinking’ (ZBT) principles.
Tip: ZBT involves pushing back on ingrained thinking (‘we’ve always done it this way’) and adopting a clean sheet approach: If we were to design this process today, making the most of the technology-enabled and digital solutions available to us, how would we do it?
Reimagining and redesigning process using current know-how and tools ensures that existing inefficient processes are not ‘codified’ via RPA. Automating inefficient processes magnifies the inefficiencies – it doesn’t correct them.
Use a test-and-learn approach to rolling out the first RPA pilot, as this will help to identify potential defects in documentation, gaps in knowledge and other bottlenecks that may become much larger as you scale.
Pilots should have clearly defined measures of success, defined and agreed prior to launch, to keep the project team honest.
5. Outcome measurement.
Outcome data should be captured while the pilot is in-flight, with the results fully documented, including lessons learned. The final report should present a clear-eyed view of costs as well as analyse the gaps between the predicted performance and the actual performance.
It may be necessary to iterate the pilot design until positive outcomes are achieved, and the pilot is ready for wide-scale deployment.
Before the pilot is cleared for further deployment, a change management plan should be prepared, outlining the steps required to implement, manage and sustain the positive change the automation will create.
The expansion stage sees the next priority process enter the ‘Pre-automation’ step and the ‘Pilot’ step repeated, while the just completed pilot program is rolled out across the business.
RPA projects are never ‘one and done.’ Both back-office and front-of-store technologies—and all the applications in-between—are changing constantly, which means robotic process automation should be added to every organization’s continuous improvement plan, as well as their arsenal of productivity improvement tools.