Robotic process automation (RPA) is rapidly emerging as a natural extension of digital transformation efforts as more and more organizations seek to optimize their business processes. Today, RPA is one of the fastest-growing areas of investment for organizations.
With numerous vertical and horizontal applications, RPA tools are used to automate manual, high-volume, repetitive data tasks — especially those where human touch does not add incremental business value. As part of a larger content services strategy – combined with other intelligent automation and information management capabilities –RPA can be invaluable in solving business challenges by effectively managing digital workflows, improving process efficiency and accuracy, reducing operational costs and meeting growing IT needs.
RPA has been tried and tested, and it promises large returns with relatively little effort. But there is really no such thing as a one-size-fits-all RPA solution. How can you define the right strategy and find the most compatible RPA provider for your organization? What do you need to take into account? We have 10 tips to get you started – here are the first five.
- Define your needs: Piecemeal or end-to-end RPA software provider?
Before you can start evaluating a solution and vendor, you need to understand the extent to which your business processes can be automated. Are there currently just a few high-priority tasks, or are you planning to automate more processes across business units in the future? Will a standard solution suffice, or do you need a tailor-made solution?
If your organization has relatively straight-forward automation needs, implementing an off-the-shelf RPA tool can be the right choice. The same is valid for upscaling simple processes.
When it comes to addressing larger and more complex processes, however, your organization needs not only a more robust RPA tool, you also need a partner with a holistic automation approach and a long history in helping organizations in your industry transform processes. In these cases, it is recommended to choose a provider that can offer not only a comprehensive suite of end-to-end RPA tools— from process analysis to bot management — but can also provide expert advice.
If your organization is looking to implement in-house automation in the future, it is important that your RPA provider can equip you with intuitive software so that you can automate processes independently, preferably with a simplified deployment structure without extensive coding and customization to reduce reliance on IT.
→ To get your automation journey off the ground smoothly, decide whether you need an RPA software-only vendor or an end-to-end RPA provider to make your processes more efficient and cost-effective.
- Extending RPA: Check integration options and complementary capabilities
RPA technologies don’t work in a vacuum. Most RPA deployments involve other systems from the start and expand to other departments and processes over time. Therefore, when selecting an RPA platform, it is important to consider its capabilities for integrating with your other systems, both those in the initial scope and those likely to be in scope in the near future.
Additionally, the value of RPA can often be further enhanced with complementary capabilities. Intelligent automation technologies like advanced data capture or customer communications management (CCM) can not only take your process automation to the next level but can also dramatically improve user and customer experience. However, not all RPA tools support extensions for such capabilities, so this is another important factor to consider when developing your functional requirements.
→ To increase your chance of automation success, check the capabilities of available RPA software extensions and align them with your requirements and objectives.
- Prioritize user experience
Because RPA is usually thought of as an autonomous technology, organizations can easily overlook the importance of the user experience. However, since RPA tools often see less human interaction than many other applications, making those interactions optimal and intuitive is critically important. A complex or poorly designed user interface can delay the implementation of new software robots, and can contribute to individual resistance and impact the adoption of RPA within an organization.
When it comes to RPA, don’t think of user experience as limited to monitoring bots and processes. A capable RPA platform will also provide intuitive and optimized interfaces for process documentation, automation design and advanced reporting and analytics. The right interface will help your users and admins work faster and better, whether they work with a handful or hundreds of bots.
→ Pay attention to the user interface and admin features to increase adoption
- Be aware of costs and different pricing models
When investing in new technology, it is important to have a clear overview of the total cost of ownership (TCO), including direct and indirect costs associated with the purchase. This not only involves calculating the cost of the technology based on the provider’s pricing, but also any additional fees for integrations, consulting, maintenance, training and other costs. Evaluate this holistic view as you decide which pricing model best suits your needs.
RPA platforms can be priced in dramatically different ways. Some vendors may offer traditional per-bot licensing, while others may offer pay-per-use models in which costs only accrue when an automated process is successfully completed. In other words, costs are only calculated if the software robots are actually active.
→ Search for the most suitable pricing model in relation to your own processes, taking long-term effectiveness and scalability into account.
- Start small, think big: Interpret scalability for the use of bots
Starting your automation journey can be a relatively small and inexpensive endeavor, but to truly gain a competitive edge, you need to think about scaling options well in advance. This is where a feasibility check would be wise. Ask potential RPA providers: What are the success stories when it comes to scalability (i.e. is it feasible to substantially increase the number of bots)?
Expanding RPA to more processes across your organization can help you leverage the economies of scale and reap the holistic potential of RPA. However, not all RPA tools make this easy to do. It is essential for your organization to have the ability to easily scale and centrally manage your RPA solution in-house. If you are forced to deploy disparate RPA solutions across your enterprise, you will end up with an RPA implementation that is disjointed, difficult to manage and counteracting the economies of scale.
→ Ensure that your RPA provider’s deployment model can scale with your needs.
We’ll cover the final five tips in Part 2.