How to start your RPA Journey in 5 easy steps

Published on in Robotic Process Automation by Andrei Ghiorghiu

RPA is growing fast, and 2020 is the year when most of the market is moving from the Proof of Concept (POC) phase to building a solid strategy.

There are a few challenges associated with moving to the strategy building phase, and those mainly derive from how you start the RPA Journey. The steps detailed below are usually neglected when building a POC and that is perfectly natural since the POC phase and the strategy building phase serve different purposes.

Once the hype felt by the development team permeates the entire company and colleagues start to promote the bot internally, a smart move is to plan for the future with a coherent strategy for implementation that will define the success story. Consider that there is a completely different approach to be taken and that it should happen more on the business side of the house than on the IT side. Selecting the right people to advocate for RPA in your company is also important, but it will be discussed in a future article.

Here are, in a nutshell, the correct steps that need to be performed in order to get off to a great start:

1.     Inventory of processes

This first step works similarly to how things unfold in the emergency room of a hospital. All processes raised as possible RPA projects are usually real business issues and, when improved, have the potential to greatly increase efficiency. However, those are just a bunch of unrefined, not well understood and not connected pain points that people deal with every day.

Even though you want to pay close attention to all the patients at this point clear that some cases are more urgent than others, and some have needs that require a different type of specialist.

A correct inventory of the processes starts with an RPA awareness session. You need to be sure that everybody is on the same page. ey people who are leading your departments need to have the same understanding of what bots are, how they are able to help, and what limitations RPA has. Those sessions are usually 1 – 2 hours long with a broad audience, opening perspectives for Directors, Managers and Team Leaders, just clarifying the above-mentioned points.

Once expectations are managed, you need to gather initial thoughts and collect a pool of possible projects in the ER room.

2.     Opportunity assessment

Keeping in mind how a hospital works, now we need triage of patients. You need to be able to separate patients into 4 major categories:

1.     Urgent patients – RPA projects with the biggest potential;

2.     Patients that can wait – RPA projects that will bring benefits in the long run, but can wait;

3.     Different specialization opinion required – Projects that have a business impact but may be implemented by using a different technology (ex. Process needs improvement, IT can update an app, OCR, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence);

4.     Patients that are faking the symptoms – There are some processes that do not require attention.

You should do this exercise as often as required by the pipeline.

3.     Internal Process Walkthrough

Now’s the fun part! Here the Business Analyst and the SME (Subject Matter Expert – people performing the process) look at how the process is performed. You should understand the steps, the flow, stakeholders, applications, SLA`s, handovers and all the specificities of the process.

Any descriptive documentation is welcomed, SOPs, and procedures with details, all should be saved for later review.

At the end of this point, an experienced Business Analyst should be able to estimate the effort required to automate the task.

As a best practice, this walkthrough should end with a process map designed down to the click level. It’s useful to have a document that can be eventually discussed with a Developer / Solution Architect. If you have the means, a screen recording is helpful (the easiest way to record the screen I found is to use the built-in function in Microsoft PowePoint – Google it 😉 )

During the process walkthrough, details may arise that will turn the process to step 2.

4.     Business Case

Great! Now that we have enough data to produce a business case, we should understand the benefits that the bot can bring to the organizations, and we can make an educated guess regarding the resources needed for the project.

Put everything in a very beautiful package and go to obtain approval! Considering the minimal costs associated with an RPA project this should be a piece of cake.

5.     Planning

Congratulations! You are ready to start your process. Please avoid the huge mistake of skipping the planning!

Let everyone involved know when they will be needed during the process, and be sure they have provisioned the time needed. Manage resources in the development team correctly and consider change management.

At the end of planning, everybody should understand what and when they need to do for all the steps.

Now, it’s your turn! Let me know how this worked for you!