Getting Started With RPA
We’ve seen it in the cinema and heard it in the news – the robots are coming! Terminator is an old favourite of mine and in today's world where robot vacuum cleaners are found in the home and robot dogs are patrolling warehouses, are we sleepwalking into a robo apocalypse in a drive for efficiency?
One thing is for sure, the robots are coming, but mainly to make life a little less mundane and a bit more efficient. To start with Robotic Process Automation doesn’t involve a physical robot at all (sorry Arnie!) Instead, we have software bots (often just executable files on your desktop) that do the hard work.
RPA is a form of process automation where repetitive, rules-based tasks are completed by a bot as and when required. These are manual tasks are often slow and error prone. Add some AI and machine learning into the mix and you can go from the structured data world of RPA into the unstructured world of Intelligent Process Automation.
With the robots taking care of the mundane work, teams are freed to concentrate on the value-added activities they simple didn’t have time for before.
Keep it Simple
The possibility of making massive efficiency gains is great in theory but getting started might be a little harder. Which processes should you target at the outset and why?
At RPA Labs we always suggest the first automation should be a relatively simple one. This is to allow the team to understand the direct benefits of automation to them and to allow a culture of process improvement to start bedding in. This is critical as changing the mindset of your people will lead to greater gains later as individuals start volunteering processes that should be automated.
Below are 3 examples of where you could start:
Using RPA to bridge the gap between 2 separate IT systems. For example, new client onboarding might involve adding client details to the CRM system and the finance system. If these tools don’t talk to one-another, let a bot do the copy and pasting.
RPA can be used to export data from a system, analyse it in a spreadsheet and paste graphs etc into a presentation. For example, monthly sales performance reports can be extracted from your CRM system, analysed against sales targets and the information reformatted and pasted in a presentation that is then automatically emailed for review.
a bot can be used to audit and validate data where It checks data across multiple systems for compliance purposes. A report is then emailed by the bot to all stakeholders.
What are the problems with RPA?
RPA is not a panacea and, because it emulates human behaviour, it is limited by the speed of the systems it works with. We deal with this by running unattended bots overnight. Where some human interaction is required in a process, bot’s can be initiated and will wait for human input at set points during the process.
Another problem is that a bot is only designed to work on the process you have now. If you change your process, you’ll need to change your bot. The platforms we have partnered are designed around the low-code paradigm. Yes, complicated tasks require some programming, but most simple tasks can be developed very quickly so bots can be updated fast.
The final problem is that RPA is expensive. If you look at the big 3 providers, you’d be right. This is precisely why we have selected enterprise-grade challenger platforms. They have been used by Fortune 500 companies across the world but their business models differ from the traditional vendors which makes RPA accessible to SMEs.
My advice is that you select a process and get started. You’ll benefit by seeing for yourself the time savings and that will lead to more ideas. Our “Automate in 28” service is an excellent starting point for your automation journey, providing a fully tested bot in a month. Where organisations are ready to shift to a process improvement culture across the company, an inter-departmental RPA workshop will highlight the processes that are the simplest to automate and build cross-functional momentum for improvement.
Whichever option you take, start now, otherwise the robots won’t just be coming, they’ll have helped someone else take the lead.