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Five critical questions before considering RPA

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can make a significant impact on the bottom line of your organization. It hardly ever is a quick win, though. Here are five critical questions before you start an RPA program.

1. Do we have a method to identify candidate processes?

Any business process that contains manual interaction with software is an RPA candidate. Not all are well suited for this specific kind of automation. The process should have high volume, low complexity cases running through it. The process as is might not be a suitable candidate, but it might become one after some rework.

2. Can we harmonize process variants before we go digital?

A first type of rework that is necessary in view of an RPA project is process harmonization. If there are many teams involved, never assume that the process works the same way everywhere. At some point, you will need to feed each software interaction into the RPA program. The many subtle differences will surprise you. Get all experts around the table first.

3. Have we exhausted our API options?

Do not forget that RPA only makes sense for those programs we cannot access through APIs. Unless it is too complex or too costly, always use the APIs. RPA solutions depend on the user interface of the software they manipulate. User interfaces evolve for good reasons, and might break your RPA solution.

4. Can we improve data capture and business rules first?

RPA technology does not have a user interface of its own. Unless it is an assistive robot, it only takes information from systems and input files. If someone needs to complete a Microsoft Word or Excel template, do not automate that. Improve data capture. Use an online form provided by a BPMS or ticketing system. An extra benefit: you have a place to store your business rules. Do not code “if then” rules into your RPA solution, as it is not meant to hold your business logic. The same goes for data validation.

5. Does it fit with our technology strategy?

RPA technology attracts business leaders, because of its obvious bottom line effects. Even more, 24/7 back-office bots will be invisible to the business audience. The real complexity is on the IT side. The unassisted robots might fail and user interfaces will change. Think of the effect on release planning. Securing elevated access accounts used by bots is yet another challenge. Include the necessary measures on IT side in your business case.

It should be your joint ambition to eradicate RPA at some point and let APIs do the work. And as for the overall design of your digital architecture, the following. A BPMS should orchestrate your business processes, show forms and hold business logic. It will connect to APIs and trigger RPA flows where needed. If you need complex decision logic, plug in some AI capabilities.

Make sure you do not skip any steps when designing your digital platform. Now you are ready to reap the benefits.


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