Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a game-changer for businesses, is one of the most exciting technologies currently on the market in the IT sector, promising major benefits to companies that employ it.
RPA software robots are capable of automating the mundane, repetitive — and, importantly, time-consuming — tasks that every business has to deal with. In doing so, they can greatly improve workflow efficiencies, save on costs, improve outcomes, reduce error rates, and, where necessary, increase compliance.
In short: there are plenty of reasons to be excited about RPA, and what it can bring to all manners of business. But to reap the rewards, organizations must deploy RPA tools intelligently. Preparation is key, and there are multiple factors you’ll want to consider before setting about automating existing business processes.
Here are four of the top ones to consider:
1. Examine your processes
RPA bots carry out processes in a step-by-step manner, the same way each time. While simply automating a process may result in time- and cost-saving right away, deploying RPA tools is a good opportunity to consider the processes you’ve got in place. Redesigning and standardizing these processes for maximum efficiency means a bit more work — and, potentially, initial costs — prior to RPA deployment.
With this comes the importance of good documentation. Poorly documented processes can expose automation to instability, failing to reflect every element of the task. Failing to give bots proper documentation is like having a human employee without a job description: even when they are in a position to help make a positive impact, they are unlikely to be able to do so quite as efficiently. Strong, accessible documentation is vital — for everything from efficiency to compliance to security reasons.
2. Be prepared to deal with fears around automation
Businesses and business owners will look at cost-saving automation very differently than members of the workforce, who may well worry about the employment implications of a bot that can work 24/7, 365 days a year without ever asking for time off or a raise.
Ignoring this issue isn’t going to make it go away. If the introduction of bots into the workplace sparks concern and skepticism, this could have a detrimental impact on the morale and productivity of human workers. That, in turn, could offset some of the gains that may be made from introducing RPA tools. You need to prepare to have this conversation, and to do so in a way that doesn’t just quell fears about automation, but can actually make employees excited at the role that these tools could have on their work experience.
The most important point to note is that RPA is not about replacing humans with robots. Instead, it is about using bots to carry out the tedious recurring tasks that currently have to be carried out by human workers, thereby freeing up people to focus on more rewarding, complex, and productive tasks. Don’t simply start introducing RPA bots and automating tasks without explaining what you’re doing — and why you’re doing it. Communication is critical.
3. Think about security issues such as encryption and privilege
Use of RPA tools can reduce the human error element when it comes to security risks. But it nonetheless comes with its own potential challenges — especially in instances in which bots are being used to interact with critical systems.
Bots can work extremely rapidly and may be used across a range of systems and applications. This means that organizations must remain on their toes when it comes to vigilance about the security of RPA deployments. RPA software will, in many cases, interact directly with sensitive data and critical business systems. Even when the tasks it is doing are mundane, it may have privileged access in order to, for instance, move around data between systems.
You should implement formal policies that can identify and authenticate bots as users, and monitor whatever access rights they have been given. Risks can be mitigated by building security into your RPA roadmap from the start. Employ measures such as data encryption, Zero Trust principles, and minimize the number of applications that credentials allow access to. Wherever possible, give bots the lowest access privilege that you can while still allowing them the ability to continuously run automation processes. Consider connecting access logs to analytic platforms in order to seek out potential anomalies. Also make sure that you carry out penetration testing for bots before they go into production.
4. Implement a Center of Excellence
A Center of Excellence (CoE) is a means by which to embed RPA effectively into an organization. The dedicated CoE team will focus on ensuring that strategic expectations are achieved, and that there is a clearly defined growth plan for sustaining and developing RPA usage and expertise through the enterprise. They can take the lead when it comes to assessing opportunities for RPA deployment and prioritizing automation efforts — from the initial assessment and design of the bots through their deployment and, crucially, measurement in terms of performance and productivity.
Put simply: Deploying a bot in the workplace is fairly straightforward. However, achieving sustained, measurable results is tougher. Get this right and you’ll have a far more optimal RPA experience.