Automation is not new and in today’s business world automation is everywhere. But the proliferation of automation artificial intelligence tools continues to grow leaps and bounds. While Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a viable option when organizations have to replace or assist manual workers, it doesn’t mean that RPA is the solution to all of the business problems. It might be tempting to dive headlong into automation just because others are into it only to realise that you have burnt your finger in the process. Before you plunge right in, there are a few things you have to keep in mind.

(1) Understand the process you are automating

The most important step is figuring out which processes you want to automate and which could be best solved by RPA. You can evaluate automation process either by yourself or with the support of consultants, system integrators, and business process outsourcing companies. Take time to evaluate the process, and where necessary, change it.

(2) Charter a clear roadmap

Start with a clear list of benefits and limitations of robotic process automation to business stakeholders. Much disappointment starts when you apply tools in less than optimal ways or apply it to wrong processes. Start by asking which processes are suitable for RPA? Is there a software/tool that is already available for the activity you are trying to automate? How will you monitor the Robots activities? What would you do if the RPA tool malfunctions or stops?

(3) Choose the right tool

There are a number of robotic process automation software available on the market today. Some robotic process automation tools support unattended automation while others run as a robotic desktop application, some come with their own metalanguage, while some have a record button to make a pass at the typical path of a process, some come with configurable dedicated process automation tools while some have no pre-programmed processes. Enterprise architecture and technology leaders must understand the differences in technical functionality of the robotic process automation tools to select the right software platform. Remember there may not be a single tool available that may meet all your requirements.

(4) Get your teams ready

First and foremost formalize your IT teams’ involvement as early as possible. This is necessary to get maximum business value. They need to understand why robotic process automation is different from the other tools and what security measures have to be taken care in deployment. Identify any potential gaps in skills and prioritize them by impact and need and hire necessary skill sets and expertise in automation to fit your purpose. Help your technical teams adopt the new technology. It is not just enough if you automate and leave, it has to be adopted by the team. People do not embrace change easily. Identify and build necessary skills and provide enough training to any workflow automation you introduce.

Factors for effective automation process

(5) Standardize your environment

Automating a diverse environment is complex. This is because to ensure that each step is executed and completed successfully you need workflow checks and balances in place which results in longer, highly risky and more complex processes. But in a standardized environment, the processes are simpler because automation is done in a known state and the time and effort required are less. The standardized environment also reduces risks of errors, requires fewer support requirements and skills, and improves logging, tracking and performance analysis.

(6) Ensure proper review

Estimate the amount of work a robot needs to perform. This has to be carefully defined and tested. Testing is critical to success. Activities that advent frequent changes may not be suitable for robotic process automation. During production, continuously monitor. Dashboards might come in handy.

(7) Curtail costs

Automation investments go beyond just investing in the tool. More often the process of automation may cost twice as much as the tool itself. Manage carefully cost for implementation, setup and customization. Depending on the project scale, diversity and complexity the cost will vary. Be careful not to allow for scope creep. For this, you have to ensure that your objectives are clear and well-defined.

(8) Calculate ROI of automation

Automation isn’t easy. Estimate the time and cost savings that automating a process will give and compare it with the actual time and cost it has taken to automate. This will give you the Return on your Investment (ROI). Prioritize automating processes that will save you the most time and at the same time provide the biggest ROI.

(9) Quality matters

Define high quality control standards. Like any other computer systems, automation software will also have its own bugs. A poorly defined automation procedure can introduce issues much faster than any human process and its implications could be widespread and damaging. To realise the value of automation, it must be treated like any other software development process and include requirements, scoping, acceptance testing, validation, support and revision tracking.

(10) Think futuristic

Don’t plan for short-term automations, have a long time goal in mind. Always make sure that the solution you employ has the flexibility to adapt to future changes.

Service providers have been investing in automation for a long time but only recently automation has gained priority. According to Gartner, ‘Through 2021, cost savings from automation will range from 2% and 5% which will further the ongoing deployment of automation”. However, don’t just focus on reducing labor costs while going in for automation. There are many more factors to consider before you automate. It is wise to consider all the factors before you automate!

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