Like all software development projects, the success of your robotic process automation (RPA) implementation depends on the RPA consultant you choose to work with. This post provides 9 key questions to ask RPA consultants, as well as UDig’s answers for each.
The Value of an RPA Implementation Consultant
As each of the RPA platforms on the market evolves, we’re swiftly reaching the point where it’s difficult to understand the nuances available from each.
Moreover, you’ve probably had development projects fail for reasons that don’t have anything to do with the code. Rather, deadlines were missed and users were frustrated by many of the “softer” skills of success: budget adherence, project management, etc.
This report is intended to make sure your next project is a success.
We’ve included nine of the most important questions to ask your vendors. In addition, we’ve included our answers ahead of time because – as is likely no surprise to you – we’d love the opportunity to earn your business! But more importantly, we want to share what it’s like to work with us so that you can make the best decisions for your organization. Let’s get started!
- What does an ideal partnership look like?
- What’s your experience in our industry?
- What RPA software would you recommend?
- How does your team put together a scope of work for Robotic Process Automation?
- How do your consultants help with RPA candidate prioritization?
- How does your team of RPA implementation consultants approach Quality Assurance (QA) for RPA?
- How do you help prepare our team for changes related to RPA implementation?
- How quickly will we reach positive ROI with RPA?
- What are the three most important questions we haven’t asked yet when considering working with a RPA implementation consultant?
Question 1: What does an ideal partnership look like?
Likely, you’ve learned the types of vendors that work well for your organization. Perhaps they’re the ones that push back when they think there’s a better way to execute. Maybe they provide more (or less) written project updates. There’s probably no right or wrong answer to this question, but there’s likely one that’s more appropriate for your organization.
“Every client is unique, so every partnership is, as well.
If RPA is new to an organization, they might prioritize process discovery, working with our team to identify, discover, and prioritize potential automation candidates.
Meanwhile, those with an existing automation program might require training and code reviews to ensure automations follow best practices and proper governance.
Finally, some don’t even consider us a software vendor: they’re simply interested in efficiently automating processes. For them, we set up and monitor the bots, handling any errors that arise.
In all cases, it’s about defining value to your organization and then stepping up to meet the challenge.”
Question 2: What’s your experience in our industry?
Regardless of your industry, the goals of any RPA implementation project are the same; automate processes that prevent employees from doing higher-value work, saving time and reducing errors along the way.
But let’s face it: each industry has its unique challenges.
In some organizations, compliance is an afterthought. In others, it has a vocal seat at the leadership table. Likewise, a process failure rate of 1 or 2% might be acceptable in some places but would trigger fines, firings, or worse in others.
Yes, you could take the time to teach a vendor the nuances of your work, but you’d be giving up the valuable expertise a company experienced in your industry can provide.
“Like most technology companies, we work in many industries. Still, when it comes to RPA, we’re proud of our depth in both healthcare and transportation. Each has strict requirements regarding compliance and privacy, and of course, each sub-vertical within them will have its own unique qualities as well. Our clients are the experts on both, but through a deep commitment to learning and understanding, we’re proud of the knowledge that our team brings to the table.”
Question 3: What RPA software would you recommend?
Chances are, this question is already on your list. Most companies exploring RPA will have done more than a few Google searches and will have turned up the names of the usual suspects. You might even have already decided what might be best for you.
But when you ask this question, what you’re really hoping to hear is no immediate answer. Why? Because the toolset recommended for you should be based on your needs and can’t be decided until the vendor has had the opportunity to ask you many questions.
RPA consultants often respond with a quick answer, but in our experience, that’s often a tip-off that they prefer to work with a specific provider. But what’s best for them might not be best for you.
“It probably won’t surprise people that we do a lot of work with UiPath and Automation Anywhere, the two biggest names in RPA. But we’ve worked with many other providers based on the unique requirements of our customers.
We recommend approaching all software development projects through the lens of people, process and tools – always in that order!
So before we pick a platform, we’re going to learn a lot more about your team and approach, first, as those answers will inform the tool selection.”
Question 4: How does your team put together a scope of work for Robotic Process Automation?
Though everyone focuses on technology, what software companies really sell is their time. That time is correlated to the scope of work – what needs to be accomplished within that time period. Because scope determines cost, you’ll want to understand how scope is established and managed throughout the project.
“Putting together the scope of work for an RPA project can start two ways – (1) do you want to automate one process, or (2) do you want to cover a broader spectrum of automation work, including automating multiple processes, on-going support, enhancements, etc.? If you just want to automate one process, we will ask to spend time with the process owner to see the process firsthand. This will allow us to see the applications involved in the process, how many steps it takes to complete, possible exceptions to the process, potential limitations to the applications, etc. From there, we will scope a level of effort estimate for more in-depth discovery, solution architecting, development, and testing. This will give you a statement of work (SOW) to automate one process. If you want to broaden the scope to include the other activities mentioned above, we will still scope the process, but add more hours to account for the additional work that will be needed.”
Question 5: How do your consultants help with RPA candidate prioritization?
Candidate prioritization is a critical, lesser-understood facet of robotic process automation. Choosing the right candidates is directly correlated to RPA adoption and satisfaction. A vendor who helps determine which projects to tackle first sets the stage for more meaningful impact.
“We look at candidate prioritization differently depending on the client. If you’re newer to RPA, we suggest starting with simpler bots. Why? Because once your first few bots are launched, enthusiasm and interest grow and then you’re off to the races.
Beyond that, however, we use a matrix scorecard (see below) that considers the complexity and impact of each potential bot. This provides an objective framework to determine how to make the greatest impact in the least amount of time.”
- Process Evaluation Scorecard
Question 6: How does your team of RPA implementation consultants approach Quality Assurance (QA) for RPA?
The simplest way to kill enthusiasm for RPA is to launch a bot before it’s ready. You likely will have some employees concerned about bugs (and maybe even a few rooting for them!). Understanding how your vendor will handle QA and mitigate a clunky release is critical.
“At UDig, QA starts with a clear definition of what the ideal outcome looks like. Documenting the required test cases from the start ensures everyone knows what success looks like. But that’s just the beginning.
It’s important to us to take a collaborative approach with our clients when testing our automations. This requires getting the person at the organization currently doing the process involved to validate the output provided by the automation. The process experts are obviously the ones that know the process best, so we want them as involved as possible. We also ensure that we test exceptions for the automation – what happens in situations that are not a part of the “happy path”?
Not only do we perform QA after the development is done, but we also make sure that all interested parties and stakeholders see how the automation development is progressing over time. After each iteration of development, we hold a sprint validation session to explain what was worked on and show a demo of what was developed. This ensures we are keeping our clients in the loop, and if any issues arise, they are addressed sooner than later.”
Question 7: How do you help prepare our team for changes related to RPA implementation?
Employees can get intimidated by RPA and other forms of automation. There’s no shortage of articles foretelling the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how jobs will be replaced. And let’s face it: RPA is intended to take work from someone, and those people are likely to have questions and concerns.
“Companies often don’t realize the profound emotional impact RPA projects can have on stakeholders’ worries about being replaced by AI. In the end, RPA projects are a form of change management. Change management theorists will tell you that overcommunication is required. We pride ourselves on an empathetic approach that ensures employees are informed and involved throughout the project.”
Question 8: How quickly will we reach positive ROI with RPA?
One of the reasons customers love robotic process automation is that positive ROI can be measured in months rather than years. But the reason you want to ask the question isn’t to find the vendor who promises you’ll be in the black faster. Instead, the vendor that gives the most thoughtful answer is the one who likely has the most well-thought-out process to succeed.
“RPA exists to either reduce the amount of time spent on non-value work or to eliminate the errors that can increase costs. Once you juxtapose the potential savings with the costs, you’ll know how quickly the project will pay for itself. At UDig, we’ve built our RPA ROI Calculator, and when meeting with customers, we ask the same questions we do with our tool. These projects need positive ROI, and we want to confidently let you know when you’ll get there.”
- Sample RPA ROI Analysis from our Calculator
Question 9: What are the most important questions we haven’t asked yet when considering working with an RPA implementation consultant?
We saved this question for last for a good reason: it turns the spotlight on the vendor and allows you to see how they think and operate as an organization. These are the types of questions that will reveal a lot about a vendor, for better or for worse. When we engage with customers, expect us to ask the following (and many more!).
- Why are you interested in pursuing RPA?
Some companies are seeking to reduce costs. Others have decided that RPA is better than re-platforming. Asking why now provides us with better context. Moreover, it teaches us about how your team is thinking about robotic process automation.
- Who knows this process better than anyone else?
Technology is always purchased by someone different than where the work is done. We want to know the people that know the process best so that we can work together to build a solution. Also, as we’ve previously discussed, the people closest to the process are often the ones with the most concerns. We want to work with them to alleviate those concerns.
- What does success look like to you?
In some cases, vendors might think they’ve only been hired to provide technology, and to be fair – that’s a big part of it! Still, each organization is different. Yours might have rigid budget or timeline requirements. Perhaps you’re concerned RPA might cause an increase in resignations from employees concerned about their jobs. In short, RPA success is about a lot more than the tech stack, and it’s highly individual to each company. We want to know what matters to you!
Choosing an RPA Implementation Consultant: The Last Word
Choosing technology partners can often seem daunting. You’re selecting a partner to help you move from an existing reality to a new one. In the case of robotic process automation, it can seem more intimidating, given the newness of the technology and the impact. We hope this guide will help you evaluate potential RPA implementation consultants to find the right one for your company.