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Conducting a successful proof of concept (POC) is the technological equivalent of a 15-year-old with a fresh permit climbing into the driver’s seat for the first time and maneuvering the car around an empty lot. It’s quite a feat, but it’s only the beginning.
As seasoned commuters know, there’s a lot more to driving than navigating three loops of a parking lot. And as seasoned IT and business professionals know, there’s a lot more to digital transformation than conducting a pilot or even a successful starter project.
Of course, that POC or starter project within a line of business is often the way to begin the process automation journey. Agile and free from excess governance and bloat, a decentralized approach to robotic process automation (RPA) doesn’t put the Center of Excellence cart before the Proof of Concept horse.
With more than 500 global customers running Kapow robots in every use case you can imagine, we’ve seen customers start both big and small. Each has pros and cons for standardization, adoption and agility. Often, whether an organization begins their robotic process automation journey with a single POC or from a center of excellence, a hybrid model develops over time, in which governance is standardized, but deployment is individualized within business units and processes.
If 2018 is your #YearoftheRobot and your organization is starting a brand new RPA initiative, what’s the best way to begin? Here’s a simple list we often use during process assessment consultations that also serves as a framework for starting, scaling, expanding and excelling with your robotic process automation solution.
Getting Started with Robotic Process Automation
- Assess your current processes, workflows and tools. What’s working really well? What processes need to be tweaked before introducing automation?
- Benchmark your current processes. What is your average invoice processing cost or days outstanding? How long does it take to onboard a customer or perform identity verifications? Compare your processes with industry standards. Your numbers may look bleak, but the goal is to blow those standard numbers away with automation.
- Identify use cases for RPA: Which processes are ideal for robotic process automation, as well as complementary solutions like document capture and transformation or process insight and improvement?
- Prioritize use cases for highest impact: The goal with an initial deployment is to realize high productivity gains and swift ROI. You want to prove the success of RPA within the line of business and to your executive sponsors.
- Launch a proof of concept project: Often this is a simple but high-impact use case such as customer due diligence or invoice portal integrations.
Hear how Duke Energy, one of the largest utilities companies in the U.S., powers their processes with robotic process automation in a recorded webinar. Get the details here.
Scaling Your RPA Solution
- Establish the business case for RPA: RPA brings many ROI benefits, from saving time and costs to improved customer and employee experiences. Building your business case is an art and a science, a combination of quantitative ROI such as payback in 3-6 months and qualitative factors such as increasing profit margins and improving customer retention.
- Create a roadmap for scaling: Scaling means increasing the number of robots deployed within a business unit or specific process. Look back at those processes you assessed in the “Getting Started” stage as the guideposts for your scaling roadmap.
Expanding RPA Across the Business
- Assemble a cross-functional RPA team: This may be as simple as a gathering of business and IT leaders and users who are invested in leveraging RPA for specific use cases. It may also take the form of establishing a Center of Excellence, also known as a Competency Center, Capability Center, or Robotics Factory.
- Deploy RPA across prioritized use cases: Your goal is still to focus on high productivity gains and swift ROI for each new use case in order to prove its success across multiple lines of business with new stakeholders. Lower priority use cases can be automated as your RPA expansion continues.
Excelling with RPA
- Establish governance and determine responsibilities: Starting with a POC or a small team to prove out the technology is a smart way to begin your automation journey, but in order to realize the full potential of RPA across the enterprise, some measure of centralized control is necessary, as well as freedom to innovate within business units.
- Use RPA to innovate: The benefits of automation are clear. Once your organization has a baseline for RPA, you can start thinking outside of the process box: How can automation enable your company to reinvent processes, the customer experience or products and services? How can you shift from trying to keep up with the competition to moving into untapped markets (aka the “blue ocean”), as Spotcap did in financial services and Farner did in political consulting?
The good news about standing up an RPA project: It’s an easy win as far as technology implementations go. You’re not committing to a complete systems overhaul, retraining hundreds or thousands of people, or having major systems out of commission or doubled up for months.
RPA works with your current systems—no rip and replace needed—and can be up and running within a few weeks. The ROI is fast and undisputable, and while we worry about robots taking our jobs, the simple truth is that they free us from boring manual tasks so we can focus on higher-value work.
It’s kind of like getting into that driver’s seat for the first time: All those dials and gears and pedals seem overwhelming, but all you really have to do is start out in an empty parking lot and put the car into drive.
This article was originally published on Kofax Advisor