Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a tool that allows repetitive, time-consuming, and possibly mundane processes to be automated with the hope of removing the human interaction component altogether. Think of RPA as a super macro. This macro works through processes just as a human would, except with increased speed and accuracy. No bio, lunch, or coffee breaks are needed. These “robots” will continue to work on and execute tasks 24/7 if required. If you have already researched RPA tools, you will find that there is a bit of an upfront investment. However, if you choose the right process(es) to automate, the return on your investment can be limitless. So how do you select the process(es) that will provide you with the largest bang for your buck? With some research and analysis upfront, you can learn how to identify which types of processes are the best candidates for RPA. Before you start clicking away at developing these robots, it is essential to take some time to review and understand the points below and consider these when evaluating which process(es) you should automate. When applied correctly, they should help you make smarter decisions and get the most out of your investment.
Good RPA Candidate Characteristics
Below you will find some of the core characteristics that help identify a good RPA candidate. Please note that these are just a few suggestions and not an exhaustive list of considerations.
- The task is mundane and repetitive – Does someone complete the same task repeatedly, performing the same steps, in the same order? Does the task seem to lack excitement for the average person?
- The task has little complexity and exceptions – What do the steps of the process entail? Does it involve multiple applications? Does it have a few logical exceptions or decision points along the way?
- Automating the task has a high ROI – Does this process happen frequently and at a high volume? After running a cost-benefit analysis, do you see a high, positive ROI? You want to make sure that you are selecting an automation worth spending the time investment in developing.
- The decision-making is objective, instead of subjective – Going along with point #2 above, are the decision points based on actual values rather than opinions? For example, if a value is $100, it should go down Path A, and any other value should go down Path B.
- The image below from Medium highlights a few other considerations that may help determine a process that is a good RPA candidate.
Objective types of decision-making are great RPA candidates and relatively easy to configure, where-as subjective decisions can be extremely challenging to automate with consistency. Subjective decisions are discussed in the next section.
Processes Not Worth Automating
Based on the previous section, one could assume the opposite would help determine bad RPA candidates’ characteristics, and they would be correct. But let us explore those in more detail.
- The task has high complexity and exceptions – Does the process integrate with different applications or antiquated systems? Does the process leverage a website or web-based application that changes frequently or uses an obsolete computer language? Are there a lot of different decision points throughout the process? It is important to determine if the possible benefits are worth the effort to develop an automation or not. Some answers to these questions, while they may be doable, may not be worth the effort to automate.
- The decision-making is subjective instead of objective – When decisions are made based on opinions or points that are not binary, it makes it near impossible to automate. The one exception could be investing in an RPA tool with AI functionality or some other form of machine learning capabilities to use in conjunction with RPA. These processes should fall on the lower end of RPA worthy candidates list.
- The cost-benefit analysis returns a low estimate ROI – When performing a cost-benefit analysis, you will see the estimated ROI after automating a process. There will be some cases where the estimated ROI returned low enough that it does not make sense to invest the time and energy required to automate. While every process is different, some examples of processes that often lead to a low ROI include tasks that:
- A small number of people own
- Require minimal time and effort to complete
- Are performed at low frequency
My Organization has Invested in RPA, Now What?
The statement made earlier that RPA “removes the human interaction component” may give some people the impression that RPA will eliminate jobs. What does this statement mean? Are robots going to take over your company, and humans are no longer needed? No, humans are always needed! This statement means that if you pick processes that fit the good candidate guidelines, your employees should focus their time on more value-add work. Typically speaking, a process that can be automated is likely mundane and not a task a human would be excited to do consistently. Studies have shown that companies that automate most of their mundane and repetitive tasks also help create more exciting jobs for the employees and result in higher-value outcomes. An article from VentureBeat in November 2018 states that “the McKinsey Global Institute this year forecasted that the portion of jobs calling for “low digital skills” may fall to 30 percent in 2030 from the current 40 percent, as jobs that require higher skills increase to 50 percent from 40 percent.” Explaining that automation of repetitive tasks will allow humans to reskill and work on higher-value tasks.
Once you can ease any panic that people will lose their job to a robot, you need to figure out the best way to implement, champion, and spread awareness of RPA throughout your organization. First, most RPA vendors recommend engaging with an implementation partner to get you up and running. These consultants may be a certified partner with the specific RPA vendor or have a lot of experience working with them or RPA itself. Many offer opportunities to do a business case analysis on processes to determine good RPA candidates, as well as building and maintaining any automations that are created. This route avoids having to have an expert in house on the RPA tool, which could have various pros and cons depending on your company.
In the long term, you may want to maintain this in house. Creating an RPA center of excellence is highly recommended. This provides a central place for people to manage automation requests, create business cases, prioritize processes, and be the one-stop shop for all things RPA. Remember that initial process analysis is critical to determine if a process is a good or not so good candidate for RPA.
As discussed, RPA is a great tool to help you eliminate some mundane and repetitive processes while allowing your employees to focus on value-add work. The key is focusing on the processes that will provide you the most value by being automated. This value is both quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative in the sense of saving money, reallocating money elsewhere, or bringing in more money. While qualitatively, you may improve employee satisfaction if you can remove mundane tasks from your employee’s plate.
Beginning your RPA journey by utilizing a consulting company with RPA experience, like UDig, can help get you off the ground running, bringing you expertise and best practices to make your implementation more efficient and worthwhile.
You only have one chance to make a good first impression with RPA at your company, so doing the upfront business case and process analysis to pick the right first use case is critical!
If you are wondering where to start, check out some of the other RPA related blogs UDig has written! Check out what to look for when evaluating RPA tools and the pros and cons of the top RPA tools in the market.