In a recent blog post, I discussed the “hype and noise” around RPA, and shared my thoughts that, while RPA is clearly something that is coming to your back office operations, it is still somewhat of a work in progress, and that many organizations are trying to figure out how to get started on their RPA journeys.
Defining the RPA opportunity and creating the “roadmap” is a key first step that many companies are struggling with.
Part of the issue is a general lack of knowledge of RPA systems, as most organizations do not have well developed internal knowledge of the platforms and their capabilities. They often rely on vendors and advisors, who frankly often overestimate the benefits and underestimate the investment and effort needed to get started.
Getting a “real world” perspective on RPA benefits, cost and effort is a critical first step.
At Auxis, we have developed a rigorous RPA assessment methodology that evaluates, not only the characteristics of a process, but its automation potential and complexity to implement.
Identify the processes. It starts with identifying those processes that are best suited for RPA, focusing on these 7 characteristics:
- High volume of transactions
- Highly manual and repetitive
- Well defined business rules, with low number of exceptions
- Stability of processes and systems
- Requires access to multiple systems
- Data quality (structured, digital data)
- Strong business case from RPA
Determine the potential and complexity.
- Automation potential is based on the evaluation of these factors, combined with any cultural or organizational inhibitors. For processes that are non-standard or unstable, consider process improvement initiatives to first standardize and streamline the process, before implementing RPA.
- Automation complexity is based on a combination of the underlying systems and infrastructure, and the intricacies of the process itself (and the expertise of the coding required to perform them). Categorizing processes based on its complexity, ranging from low to medium to high, allows you to better understand the challenges, effort, timing and cost associated with implementing RPA for these processes.
Build a “short list”. Using these factors, you can build a “short list” of key processes that are the best candidates for RPA, and then do a deeper analysis to determine what the benefits could be in terms of efficiency, productivity and cost savings.
Calculate the effort. This deeper analysis is ultimately a “math exercise”, calculating the current effort and cycle times to perform a transaction, compared to how the process would be performed under an RPA operating model.
Key First Steps for RPA Success
Some of the key activities performed in the analysis include:
1. Break it down
Break down the process into its activities and measure the transaction volumes and cycle times for each.
- Transaction volumes x cycle times give you the current effort required (cycle times are normally captured through observation of the process and the tasks being performed).
- Don’t be surprised if the calculation demonstrates that you have more people performing the activities than the math shows; we have seen this repeatedly, as staffing levels and actual effort required often do not match.
2. Calculate time consumption
Once this information is captured, identify those processes that are the most time consuming within a process.
- Often, an entire process is not going to be automated, as exception handling and judgement may be required at certain points in a process.
- The key is to automate those activities that require the most time and effort, as this will free up staff to focus on higher value work and/or reduce the headcount required to perform the process, or enable you to scale to support growth without adding headcount.
3. Determine efficiency gain
Focusing on these key tasks, the next step is to determine how much of an impact automation will have on the activity itself.
- For example, if it takes a human worker 2 minutes to complete a task and a robot can perform the same activity in 15 seconds, you will have identified an efficiency gain of 1 minute and 45 seconds (almost 90%).
- Understanding how and when the bot can impact a task is key to this step, as it takes the knowledge of and expertise in the robotic platform to understand its impact.
4. Evaluate impact
A qualitative analysis is also performed, measuring the impact of the process’ complexity and automation potential.
This entails evaluating the impact of such factors as number of systems, screens and fields, underlying systems infrastructure, data format, security requirements, etc.
5. Calculate cost-savings
The Business Case is then developed based on the number of currently assigned FTE’s to the process multiplied by their fully loaded cost, compared to the cost after RPA is implemented.
The Business Case measures the efficiency and productivity gains to calculate cycle time reduction, FTE Reduction and cost savings, as well as RPA investment required and payback period.
The RPA Opportunities
While it seems relatively simple, the process of calculating the RPA opportunity and business case requires a detailed understanding of business operations to identify where and how RPA can impact the process, as well as expertise in the RPA solutions to determine exactly what it will take to implement it.
Most organizations bring good knowledge of their internal processes and operations, but do not necessarily have the objectivity and perspective to analyze how to change them.
Adding a relatively new technology such as RPA into the equation adds to the complexity of the solutions design process.
Most organizations will lack the RPA expertise to effectively analyze the process from that perspective as well.
This is why it makes sense at this stage of the RPA journey to engage with an advisor to help define the RPA opportunity and roadmap.
You will want to have a good RPA implementation plan that helps you not only identify where the opportunities are within your organization, but also set expectations on what you hope to achieve in terms of efficiency, productivity and cost savings.
It’s only by following this RPA roadmap that you will get to where you want to go.