With widespread Robotic Process Automation adoption across organisations, it’s essential that the IT department is effectively engaged. Paul Taplin, MD at Voyager Solutions addresses some of IT’s key concerns and provides some answers
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software is being increasingly requested and driven from within business operations teams to replicate process work that was previously done by humans. RPA is popular because it’s quick to implement, and minimises the need for costly systems integration. Although this all sounds great, the benefits of using a RPA approach may not be fully appreciated by the IT department. I have discussed areas of concern with IT professionals and provide explanations to help them make more informed RPA choices.
It can work for IT
Although RPA is not always driven by IT department, there’s a rapidly growing list of scenarios that benefit its own internal operations. These can range from initial projects in service management and transaction processing – to resource-intensive, administrative and transactional work. As well as the obvious cost savings and efficiency improvements, in the short term, RPA has the potential to challenge the way that processes are fulfilled in the IT department. RPA will also provide future benefits too – allowing IT teams to digitise things that currently aren’t possible and provide valuable insights into forthcoming challenges.
Moving at pace
A real issue for the IT department is speed to implement – so costs are kept down and benefits are quickly realised. RPA addresses these goals as it’s much faster to implement than using a traditional IT approach – from a standing start – into live production.
This RPA approach is also non-invasive to existing systems – as it reads from and writes to them as a user would – so no costly alteration is required. This means no lengthy design, build, test and rollout projects. The IT department needs to govern the lifecycle activities that are required to implement a process – but doesn’t need to follow an “industrialised” process. This is because some elements, such as; “testing” and releasing are required on a much lighter basis – as the target environments don’t need changing.
Moving fast also keeps costs down which provides many opportunities to deploy an RPA solution. Numerous benefits can accrue by putting automation in place quickly, such as achieving resource savings – instead of employing staff full time, process quality enhancements and the elimination of backlogs. This is especially attractive if there is a fine imposed for missing service commitments to customers.
Wider scope of automation
RPA can be used more broadly, for example where traditional IT approaches are not cost effective, where access to 3rd party systems is required, and where RPA is used to process information that only humans can do currently. There are significant areas of scope that traditional IT won’t reach for a very long time – if ever. These include:
- Processes that may be required in the short term, while waiting for a longer term ERP solution to deliver, or during gaps in releases that lead to the need to have temporary/interim processes
- Processes “under the IT radar” that operations would benefit by automating – but aren’t significant enough to make it onto the IT development agenda, or are too expensive to justify
- Processes relating to 3rdparty systems – often no IT interface exists between systems owned by different parties who need to work together, or the interface is sub-optimal, resulting in re-keying of information
When considering RPA, and for the reasons above, it should be seen as complementary – rather than competing with existing automation plans and approaches.
Developing an operational automation capability
By giving business operations the capability to automate – they can swiftly respond to changes in the operating environment – without reliance on the IT function and lengthy capital programmes. RPA should be applied with a mindset to continuously improve, rather than implement a single project. This means approaches to automation should be seen as a capability, to address specific organisational needs. Once the capability is established, this gives business operations the control and ability to quickly and effectively automate work.
There are a number of largely positive implications of progressing down this path, as business operations’ ability to implement automation becomes less dependent on IT development priorities and budget constraints. Automation becomes a tool available to everyone in operations and the discipline of RPA can improve quality and efficiency of operations.
For example, business operations and IT will gain insight derived from process automation. This is because automation provides substantial data, which gives a precise audit of activity and detailed feedback on case exceptions and their causes – big data, automation, analytics then becomes an action list. If a process is automated using robotic automation, it becomes easier to include into a more traditional IT project, as the requirements are already determined, standardised and documented.
Implementing RPA is an inexpensive way to achieve results quickly – and requires minimal up-front investment to automate processes and activities. When IT teams opt for developing an RPA capability to help business operations achieve its objectives, there are many compelling efficiency benefits that can be achieved.
Service delivery risks and performance can be improved by RPA, with its ability to minimise the cost of quality by reducing or removing quality check and errors. This then leads to a reduction in the compensation paid to customers through processing delays. By providing a better service to customers, RPA can significantly reduce resource-intensive; queries, chase ups and complaints.
Ultimately, RPA puts the focus back into the hands of the process experts to drive automation projects – without the need for IT enablement projects that may be costly and run the risk of delays and overruns. With value swiftly delivered – this allows the IT team to focus on areas of core competency.