Are You Thinking About Automating your Business Processes?
Many companies are looking at one of the most recent automation technologies, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate a wide range of business activities. RPA is frequently used to automate financial processes, such as comparing invoices with shipment notices, or transferring data from email into transactional systems of records. Many companies have adopted RPA to automate back-office processes and have received rapid returns on their investments.
Alas, the match between RPA and business processes is far from perfect if the goal is to redesign or improve the process rather than automate its current state. RPA doesn’t ask whether we need to do this activity at all. It operates at the task level and not at the end-to-end process level.
If your goal is to go beyond labor savings and improve the current process, then you need a good understanding of both your existing processes and the new processes you want to layer RPA over before implementing the technology.
Why you need process analysis before RPA implementation
There are several reasons why process mapping, analysis, and redesign are essential to effective RPA implementation.
- The existing process is often overly complex and replete with unnecessary steps (waste)
- RPA involves systematizing business rules, but in many cases, business rules haven’t been examined for many years and don’t make sense in the current environment.
- In many organizations the level of process knowledge is quite low
- The company has a collection of standard operating procedures that are poorly documented and out of date
- Each employee typically follows their understanding of best practices
Taking the time to redesign the “as is” process by eliminating waste, a process enabled by RPA can become more efficient and effective than a process that is automated but otherwise unchanged. Sure, redesigning processes while implementing RPA can increase the time and cost of the overall initiative, but the return on investment can be great or greater than RPA implementations with no process changes.
It is certainly true that RPA can yield substantial savings without detailed analysis of your processes. However, RPA-enabled process transformation can bring a much higher level of performance and value. Keep in mind process improvement or innovation is a much more valuable tool than simple task automation.
Call us before you automate. Let us help you get a bigger bang for your process automation buck.
Willie Carter is president of Quantum Associates, Inc., an independent process improvement consulting firm that helps organizations produce defect-free products and services with less human effort, less time, less space, less capital and at far less cost.