Benefits and challenges of RPA

By now, the benefits of robotic process automation (RPA) are well understood. By automating business processes, organizations can save time and money, reduce re-work, improve accuracy, and free up employees to focus on growing the business.

Many organizations embark on RPA programs with the promise of reaping these significant benefits quickly, with minimal effort, and little or no disruption to current processes or applications. However, they soon realize that implementing RPA is more challenging than anticipated.

A consultant’s-eye view

This realization is a common issue facing Jayesh Samant, a Principal Consultant at Signavio, when he works with organizations seeking to take advantage of the benefits of RPA. “Organizations consistently underestimate the requirements of implementing RPA, with the completion of Proof of Concept projects taking longer than expected. This was confirmed in a recent survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers,” Jayesh says.

Jayesh proposes an alternative to this rush to implementation: Focus on the process! “In the hype around Robotics and Automation, there is a tendency to forget the P in RPA. Even with RPA, the process remains paramount. While RPA tools provide exciting new possibilities for improving process performance, to effectively realize these possibilities, RPA tools should be used in the context of existing process improvement methodologies.”

“Too often, with the goal of rapid implementation, sub-optimal processes are automated without any changes. Decision logic within the processes, that has been built organically over the years, is automated without challenging whether it continues to apply in the current reality. With this approach organizations end up automating bad processes and decisions, with suboptimal results,” says Jayesh.

Five steps to enterprise-level RPA

To support this solid advice, Jayesh agreed to talk through what a successful RPA implementation looks like in practice. “In my experience, organizations that successfully implement an RPA solution work through five key steps,” he says.

“First, a very high-level assessment is conducted, based on easily available volumetric and process characteristics data, like the number of times the process was executed in a year, or the number of FTEs working on the process, to prioritize processes for discovery and detailed assessment. At this stage, it is essential to know that your organization has correctly named your processes, and avoided the common mistakes that can occur.”

“In the second step, the prioritized business processes are assessed more rigorously. The process flow and different variants of the process can be discovered either manually or using process mining solutions, then any decision points within the process are identified and the decision logic is modeled. Using volumetrics, cost, time and resource utilization data, you can determine which processes are most suitable for robotic automation.”

“Then comes process redesign. During this step, processes are redesigned to optimize their performance—as the name suggests! Different process variants are evaluated to identify opportunities for standardization, and existing decision logic is reviewed and challenged to determine if any changes are required,” says Jayesh.

It’s important to note that seldom can a complete process be “RPAed.” Parts of the process that can be automated using RPA are of course identified, but for the remaining parts of the process an assessment needs to be made if implementing an overarching workflow for the process would be beneficial. Redesigned processes can then be simulated using the volumetrics data to determine the total return on investment of automating the process. Processes that meet a specified internal rate of return can then be chosen for the actual automation.

Jayesh continues: “During the fourth step, process automation, the redesigned process is implemented by building and testing the workflow and robots. The tested process is then rolled out to the organization.”

“Finally, we come to the post-implementation review, the fifth and arguably most important step, where the actual execution of the redesigned process is monitored to identify and resolve any issues and to track the realization of benefits. Depending on process volumes, I usually recommend a two- to four-week post-implementation review.”

The final word

Jayesh’s last comment is, “If an organization follows these steps, RPA implementation provides an excellent opportunity to discover, analyze and redesign a process, before robots are implemented to automate appropriate parts. I always say, ‘Optimize first, automate later’.”

The Signavio Process Transformation Suite is the only fully integrated platform that supports the full cycle required for RPA at scale. For more information on how the SAP Signavio Process Transformation Suite can help your organization get the most out of your RPA investment, visit our dedicated RPA page.