Numerous companies are currently working on the introduction of Robotic Process Automation as a strategic technology for the automation of their processes. The complexity of introducing Robotic Process Automation is low from a technical point of view due to the non-invasive technology and the simple application architecture. Nevertheless, many things have to be taken into account when introducing Robotic Process Automation in order to place the technology successfully in the company.
Numerous companies are currently working on the introduction of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a strategic technology for automating their processes. From a technical point of view, the complexity of introducing Robotic Process Automation is low due to the non-invasive technology and the simple application architecture. Nevertheless, many things have to be taken into account when introducing Robotic Process Automation in order to place the technology successfully in the company.
This article describes the introduction of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in a duration of about one year in three phases.
After a successful Robotic Process Automation Proof of Concept, new processes should be automated in a pilot project with a longer duration than the Proof of Concept, but also measures should be taken to increase the Robotic Process Automation maturity level of a company and the roll-out of Robotic Process Automation in the company should be planned. Following the pilot, Robotic Process Automation should be used in a third roll-out phase for all relevant business processes and be finally established as the technology for automation. In the following I will describe the individual phases in more detail.
1. Proof of Concept
The first step in the introduction of Robotic Process Automation is to carry out a proof of concept. The goal of the Proof of Concept is to determine whether Robotic Process Automation and the selected vendor are suitable for the company and its challenges (choosing the right vendor for Robotic Process Automation will be described in a future article and is a process upstream of these three phases).
To provide a proof of concept, a selected process should be automated by the selected tool. The duration of the PoC should be between 3-6 weeks with a clear focus on evaluating the technology and the vendor. At the end of the project the automated process should be used in the daily business.
An evaluation in a test environment will only provide limited insight into the results that can be achieved if the automated process is also used in practice. Especially relevant factors such as the manageability of the robots are usually neglected in a test environment.
The pure development time for the proof of concept should be limited to about 5-10 days. This short development time is realistic because Robotic Process Automation is a non-invasive technology – no interfaces or the like have to be developed and the other systems are normally not affected by the use of Robotic Process Automation. It is recommended to work with an experienced partner for the proof of concept to compensate for lack of knowledge in the tools.
Before development, the process to be automated must be analyzed and, after development, tested accordingly and transferred to production. The analysis in particular should be very thorough and great care should be taken to ensure that every small activity performed by an employee and every decision that may be made unconsciously is documented. (More on this in a later article on how to analyze a process perfectly)
Time should also be allowed for a detailed evaluation in the proof of concept, in which the systems to be automated in the future are evaluated in terms of their automation capability with the selected technology.
2. Pilot Project
Following a successful proof of concept, a pilot project with an approximate duration of 12 weeks is conducted according to this model. On the one hand, additional processes were to be automated so that the savings potential of Robotic Process Automation could be achieved quickly, but also appropriate governance structures were to be created. The danger of “shadow” robotic process automation is very high, since the technology can be used very well by business departments without the knowledge of the central IT department. Of course, unstructured use by the business departments is not advisable, since security gaps can easily arise within developed robots, which are usually not recognized by a business department. The pilot should continue to focus on the smallest possible company unit in order not to be slowed down by organizational blockades.
The third phase is the roll-out phase to other areas of the company. Unfortunately I cannot give an approximate duration here, as this depends too much on the size and type of company. The goal should still be to automate all processes that are more economical to automate (see Selecting a suitable process for automation with Robotic Process Automation). The goal of the roll-out phase is to establish Robotic Process Automation as a strategic tool for process automation in the company, thereby increasing the scalability of the business and reducing process costs.
The three phases presented represent a proven approach to the introduction of robotic process automation in a company. Nevertheless, it is important to always draw up an individual plan and, above all, to identify the processes with the greatest potential and automate them first.