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5 Key Takeaways From The RPA Implementation Experience

5 Key takeaways from the robotic process automation (RPA) execution to improve speed, productivity & quality.

intelligent process automation

RPA has been a trending technology in recent years, our intelligence found that most corporates are still struggling with the deployment of RPA to their operation process. Majority of the failure are due to the insufficient study during the process discovery phase & improper governance during the implementation journey.

1. Holistic review of the operation to select high potential automation candidates

Repetitive, followed set business rules & labor intensive processes are the rule of thumbs process selection criteria, but project sponsor often missed to evaluate ultimate process impact to the whole enterprise.

Most of the process workshops that we've seen consist of individual process owners showing their numbers of full time equivalence followed by their proprietary process maps. The operation director will evaluate the automation potential and hence the result of the evaluation will finally be projected to the boardroom for million dollars investment on RPA implementation. Usually, less complicated & labor intensive process (low hanging fruit) will be the automation pilot. Corporate applying this traditional process discovery may lack the long term view of the process and fail to consider the side effect of this deployment. For instance, a global trading company applying RPA to their shipping documentation process induce 30% more communication overheads between the customers and the service team. A process architect, taking care of their end to end process map, was lately introduced to use value stream mapping to generate a more precise benefit to cost analysis, let management gain more transparency on the overall process impact and tell what process need to be invested first with standardization & automation.

2. Standardize processes to find a right balance between RPA maintenance/ development effort & customer impact

Standardization isn't as easy as you may think since most corporate bear proprietary process mindset and could not forgone the highly differentiated customer driven handling. The non-standardized process creates much higher development and future maintenance effort. Corporate trying to reap the advantages of standardization outperform their competitor in terms of speed and efficiency. We’ve seen two extreme cases that in one aggressive case the supply chain software house standardize their processes via optimizing the product portfolio with minimum viable product deliver a similar scale digital solution from 15 to 12 weeks; in another case the ocean carrier align the document submission requirement down to field level free up 14% full time equivalence. Both received sustainable business impact. 

3. Identify the goals not just for the scoped process but the end to end business impact

To make the business case sound, project sponsor often highlight the immediate benefit, for example FTE saving in RPA projects in the last slide of their presentation to the senior management. Management often overlook end to end process impact including customer experience, productivity, and speed, etc. A highly reliable electricity provider focus exclusively on the headcount saving in the procurement and inventory reporting process created 20% more back and forth clarification between the operation & procurement planning departments resulting in 12% longer end to end process lead time and deteriorated internal customer satisfaction.

4. Formulate roll-out strategy to shorten cash pay back period while to reducing implementation risk

Implementation of RPA can be as fast as two months from process review to production deployment. Risk taking corporate attempt to roll out critical customers/ regions/ processes in their trial stage under the "reasonable" time frame. Operation team usually creates workaround & enforces changes to the external parties to make a successful automation case. Implementation risk arisen from multiple material changes at the same time, is mostly often be ignored. For instance, a business process outsourcing company managing the document checking process selects the most complicated and highest penalty customer in their priority roll out strategy to generate an attractive business case involves both Document submission format & layout changes from Customer, which result in steep learning curve to internal operation, hence incurred more penalty and complaints from customers. The qualified change agent shall consider different roll out approach, either big bang/ batch roll out, parallel run with quality assurance process being put into their daily operation, trial run, etc to shorten the cash pay back period at the same time rationalizing the implementation risk.

5. Define the change management and development procedures to the process owners, development team & project team.

One of the key project success factor is a proper project governance.

Different RPA tools require different implementation skillsets. Some demand programming experience and make use of a worksheet for end user to configure the business rules and the business processes. Some only require "record and play" effort in the proprietary software. Anyhow, Most RPA tools in the market enable corporate to improve the implementation speed under an agile development model. A robotic team consists of both business unit, technical experts and scrum master shall be considered for sizeable projects/ portfolio. A proper change request followed by the development and testing will ensure the product meet the quality requirement and project timeline.

For more information on RPA, please contact our Digitalization practice and schedule a Process Workshop with our consultants.

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