RPA: Driving mainstream innovation

29 January 2019 | 4359 Shares

Whatever the positive effects of digital transformation might be, obtaining buy-in from both staff and management layers is an integral part of any successful deployment of technology.

With RPA (robotic process automation), it’s usually not too challenging to sell the concept to staff. The possibility that a software solution could reduce resources assigned to repetitive tasks through automation is usually enough to convince most of RPA’s advantages.

Selling the concept higher up the organization is more problematic. The nebulous concept that staff can be redeployed to more constructive activities than repetitious data entry, for instance, is usually welcomed, but it’s a situation that’s difficult to quantify.

So, aside from employee satisfaction, what are the benefits of RPA and, more pointedly, how do these manifest across the organization as a whole?

Signs of RPA success

Operational excellence is a direct consequence of employee satisfaction. Bored staff engaged in mundane tasks make more mistakes. Each error has the potential to throw a virtual spanner in the works, and so, delivery cycles slow down.

In addition, one of technology’s assets is its speed. Humans can only work so quickly, and so are only able to cope with finite work. Peaks in demand, exacerbated by errors, are best dealt with by robots, if at all possible.

A motivated workforce, for whom much of the heavy lifting is done, can contribute more to individualizing and personalizing customer care. Customers or service-users who enjoy their interactions with the enterprise come back for more. This demonstrates how RPA can become part of a top-line discussion about growing the organization. It’s more than just back-office efficiencies and savings; it’s increasing sales or service use.

Innovation comes from the ability to use the main asset possessed by today’s enterprises: data. With legacy systems deployed as the organization grew organically, the tendency is for data to exist in silos.

By drawing information from disparate systems, companies can develop new products more quickly – without having to dismantle & replace legacy systems (which, in most cases, represent a significant investment).

Processes for RPA success

The journey to automating your organization begins early and continues well after implementation. Change management is an integral part of modern business practice, and RPA solutions need to be able to alter to shifts in direction, as well as scale as necessary.

From the developer’s point of view, the automation solution must be able to cope with software updates to individual systems and adapt to changes in overall topology– moving an ERP solution from bare-metal, in-house, out into the public cloud, for example.

But the initial steps of a successful RPA journey comprise a definition of objectives– which as discussed, should aid buy-in from stakeholders and budget controllers.

The next step is selecting a suitable supplier (we feature some options below) whose methods are in line with your organization’s ethos. Overall, reliability and managed scalability of the solution should be paramount, the latter required as the move from proof-of-concept to widescale deployment needs careful handling.

Like any IT deployment, internal auditing must come first, and this is true for RPA installation. Mapping existing operations and analyzing processes are essential and should be recorded at a granular level. Some organizations make the error at this stage of not asking staff at the coal face, preferring to refer to managers who are often a step or more removed from operational practicalities.

The final considerations comprise of how the new, virtualized workforce is to be managed: is this to be an IT function, or will there be a delegation of monitoring and control to individual work groups or departments?

Analogous to those concerns, support structures also need to be put in place to handle daily issues such as software updates (an IT concern) or change requests (operational management).

Finally, the governance of the whole structure needs careful definition, setting out the rules of change management, documentation, data security, and the predicted maintenance requirements.

With these steps in mind, here at TechHQ we’d like to showcase three RPA suppliers whom we believe should be first across your desk when considering a deployment, at any scale. None are specifically perfect for every enterprise, but we feel that one of the three should be the best fit for any organization embarking on a digital transformation of its processes.

ANOTHER MONDAY

Another Monday’s name refers to its ethos to transform organizations’ ‘TGIF’ mentality to deliver another type of Monday altogether– one to which employees at all levels look forward.

Speaking of transformation, Another Monday’s platform is unique as it is the only one on the market that offers a proven (and published) methodology for its clients to adopt, scale and manage an automation structure.

A high-profile newcomer in Forrester’s most recent list of the top global RPA providers, Another Monday (AM) offers a very rapid, scalable platform. In fact, the company reckons to have created the largest bot farm in the world with bots equivalent to 1,800 full-time employees. With installations like these, it is creating massive efficiency savings between 69 and 99 percent for its clients.

AM can create tangible results in as little as four to eight weeks, with the solution’s development platform empowering bot factory environments that use visual scripting and granular re-use of code snippets.

As part of AM’s “think before you automate” approach, an automation journey commences by establishing a proof-of-concept based on precise process definitions. From that point, the platform scales and reaches customer-facing (or frontline) staff for maximum impact right through the whole enterprise.

TechHQ will be covering Another Monday’s offering in more detail in the new year (watch this space), but for now, click here to learn more.

NICE

NICE combines unattended and attended robotic processes as integrated elements of its RPA solution. Unattended robots can be installed on servers and work to replace the repetitive, mundane tasks that create errors when undertaken by human staff. The company states that ten robots can replace 100 people– and re-assigning those staff is where the company’s clients find notable value.

Attended robots are based on users’ desktops and are designed to work alongside operators where human intervention is required.

Additionally, NICE’s Automation Finder uses desktop analytics, examining the processes undertaken by staff each and every day to pinpoint where automation can be used to improve efficiencies.

The company claims its algorithms utilize machine-learning to adapt to specific internal processes to eke out the best from the platform, and the human staff at work.

NEVA is NICE’s virtual assistant who powers the attended robotic processes, providing guidance and recommendations to staff as they work. Her responses are couched in the specific company’s processes and offerings, so suggestions and actions are quick and accurate.

The virtual assistant can be voice-activated, and is the front-end of the entire RPA system in daily use – able therefore to leverage upstream apps like OCR, without, we hope, invoking the spirit of the now defunct Office ‘paper clip’ helper.

WORKFUSION

There are three tiers to WorkFusion’s offering: RPA Express Starter, RPA Express Pro, and SPA (smart process automation), the latter being available as a cloud deployment in addition to in-house installation– a requirement for the two lower tiers. There’s also a free, downloadable demo to help proof-of-concept exercises.

WorkFusion claims to deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning in its background algorithms, ensuring that the backend learns the organization’s processes as it goes along, and thus is able to improve efficiencies continuously.

The AI engine can be trained on many fewer documents than are needed in traditional deep-learning education exercises– the company quotes 500, not 500,000– and the OCR (optical character recognition) system is fully multi-lingual so that multiple character sets can be analyzed and used.

WorkFusion lets companies monitor and report on bots’ progress using a dashboard-driven GUI, not ‘Excel hell’. The interface can plot data flows, create data insights, and prescribe process optimizations as per the AI engine’s suggestions, which further pushes efficiencies throughout the company.

The New York-based company now operates across Europe and Asia, with offices in London, France, India, and Singapore, and specialists are available 24/7 for advice and on-going support.

*Some of the companies featured on this article are commercial partners of TechHQ