Deciding Which Processes To Automate

Introduction 

 
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that introduces a software robot to mimic the same actions a human would perform in a digital environment to automate the high volume, repetitive tasks that humans carried out previously. In simple terms, RPA helps to relieve humans from their boring, repetitive actions by introducing a digital workforce to perform the same set of steps without human involvement.
 

What is a Business Process?

 
A Business Process is a series of tasks that are linked together to accomplish a common goal. Each task of a business process should have a clearly defined set of inputs and outputs unique to the task. In an organization, we see different business processes that focus on addressing the management level, operational level, and support functions.
 
All these business processes involve human involvement to carry out the tasks by interacting with documents, multiple software systems, and decisions based on the information processed. 
 
However, can we automate all these processes?
 
The answer is: No! 
 

What factors to consider when selecting a process for automation?

 
Every RPA initiative requires a thorough understanding of the candidate process and an in-depth assessment. An in-depth assessment's main objective is to understand the automation potential and the automation complexity of the process. Usually, business analysts and RPA solution architects conduct the process assessments together during the Process Discovery phase.
 
A process assessment focuses on the below-mentioned questions at a high-level.
  • Is the process highly manual & repetitive?
  • Are the decisions based on pre-defined logic and not user experience? (Rule-based)
  • Is the input readable in electronic format?
  • Is the input standard/non-standard?
  • Percentage of exceptions that cannot be handled by the process (Scenarios where the process is not configured to continue normally to achieve the end result)
  • Processed data volume at a given time
  • Currently planned or ongoing process or system changes.
RPA is not only about automation. It is a concept of improving the process and then applying automation to the improved version of the process. The following diagram illustrates how the questions mentioned above guide the RPA and the business team during the automation journey to improve the process and decide when to apply RPA.
 
 
As you see in the image, some of the answers we get for the specified questions lead to process improvements before applying automation. Further, some of the answers may lead us to introduce different solutions apart from RPA to improve the efficiency and the accuracy of the process. Some of those solutions could be:
  • Introducing more suitable software applications to handle the task
  • Improve the existing software or infrastructure architecture to derive better results
It is crucial to understand that RPA is not the solution for all business process problems.
 
This is why we do an in-depth process assessment to determine what processes to automate and how to automate them. 
 
In a detailed assessment, we categorize the mentioned questions into several categories, as specified below.
 
 
The business analysts use this matrix to perform the assessment and derive the automation potential and the complexity of the process. Further, in addition to the above-mentioned factors, organizations might use several other factors depending on their nature of business and business requirements. Conducting such an assessment also helps to isolate the steps that require optimization for better results.
 
For better understanding, you can also look into the following video that covers the following topics:
  • The importance of Process Discovery in RPA projects
  • The key resources involved in the discovery phase of the RPA project
  • How and why we need to do Process Assessment
  • Prioritizing automation initiatives
 

Conclusion

 
Process Discovery Phase is one of the most crucial stages in any RPA project. It is crucial to get a proper in-depth understanding of the process/(s) that we select for automation. Automating processes that do not really fit into automation may introduce more problems and waste time and money without getting the expected result. Hence, conducting a proper in-depth assessment is always recommended before committing to any automation initiative.
 
Thank you very much for your time, and I hope you found this article interesting with something new to learn. Please feel free to comment, share your thoughts, and share the topics you would like me to cover in future articles/videos.