Great Tips for Evaluating Whether a Process is Suitable for Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Which processes can I automate using Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
This—and others similarly centred on RPA feasibility—is one of the most common questions we get from our clients. And it is a great question.
Because RPA is neither a silver bullet nor a panacea for all your corporate headaches. As an independent consultant, we often advise our clients that not all of their processes are suitable for automation—even if this is to the detriment of the business that we are seeking.
RPA Feasibility is Like a Couple's Compatibility
The quick rule of thumb we recommend is to be at least as selective as choosing your spouse so that you can live happily ever after with your bots, instead of going through a messy divorce. (We will discuss prenuptials in a separate post – stay tuned!)
So what are the tools available to guide us?
RPA Feasibility Assessment Checklist
Feasibility Assessment is the structured evaluation we put in place to determine the suitability of the candidate processes for automation. This forms one of the critical functions performed by a RPA Centre of Excellence.
Typically, we will use a scored checklist where we objectively assess each candidate process based on the following dimensions:
For each dimension, there are a list of attributes which are desirous of automation. Our job, then, is to identify the candidate process which ticks the most number of boxes in our checklist.
We have prepared a handy downloadable (and free) RPA feasibility checklist for you. Download it now so you can keep it and use it any time you need it.
(For our more advanced readers, you can also use a weighted checklist in which different attributes might have different weightings. This is especially helpful when you have certain pressing priorities or pain points which need to be addressed urgently.)
Now, let’s go through some of the common factors that you should consider in your RPA feasibility checklist.
Ceteris paribus, the higher the transaction volumes, the stronger the business case is for automation. In addition, there is usually a hurdle rate when it comes to transaction volume. In other words, RPA only makes (commercial) sense when your daily transactions reach a certain threshold.
That is not to say that low volume transactions should not be automated. Your business could have other worthy considerations like achieving compliance or ensuring accuracy of data.
Strictly speaking, if you are only considering RPA, the chosen process must be structured and ruled-based. There should not be a need for a human to make a judgement call. Whether the entire process documentation is available (or minimally, can be documented down) is often a good litmus test of this criteria.
However, with the increasing maturity of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Automation, this is no longer a hard and fast rule. Also, through process re-engineering and workload redistributions, we do have the options for workarounds.
Are your input data already digitized?
If not, you may need to consider technologies like Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to digitize all your hardcopies. The good news is that most RPA tools already have or do support OCR capabilities.
Administratively and logistically, this can be quite a task so planning is paramount.
That the process itself must be stable is self-explanatory. What often gets overlooked though is that the underlying applications must be stable as well.
In a lot of RPA deployments, the process involves disparate IT systems (e.g. ERP, CRM, email, Excel, etc.). Because the bots interface with these systems through the Graphical User Interface, there could be potential compatibility issues if there are frequent application maintenances, upgrades, etc.
While not a show stopper, you do need to be cognizant of the implications—primarily the need to reconfigure the bots due to these application changes.
One of the factors that is not often discussed is people management.
Specifically, can the employees that may be displaced by the bots be retrained and upskilled? Where can you redeploy these employees?
This can be important if your industry is highly regulated, scrutinized or unionized.
What you choose also chooses you
In summary, we have touched on a few attributes we need to consider as part of our RPA Feasibility Assessment. Through this robust methodology, we hope to achieve our desired outcome of selecting the most appropriate process for automation.
Don't forget to download your free RPA feasibility checklist, and please feel free to contact us if you are interested to learn about our Feasibility Assessment methodology, including the other attributes which we have not had the time to discuss here.
Thanks for reading!
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