Robotic process automation beneficial – only if done right

  • Integrating the right kind of automation into a business is key
  • Strategies to select the right kind of process transformation
Robotic process automation beneficial – only if done right

 

WHEN considering automation and if it will bring value to your business, ask yourself how simple your process is, advises Grid Infocom Ltd Southeast Asia president Syed Niyaz Basha (pic above).

Basha was speaking at the Outsourcing Summit 2016 on Oct 26, where he delivered a keynote address entitled Robotic Evolution – Separating Hype from Reality, in which he spoke about how the integration of automated business processes with cognitive processes signify a change in the way work is carried out, as well as provided tips on the best ways companies can start incorporating automation into their business processes.

“Even with your best-in-class applications, ask yourself how simple your process is in terms of speed, cost and efficiency. If you have a sophisticated system, it should be simple,” he said.

Paradigm shift
Robotic automation is certainly not artificial intelligence nor is it script-nor macro-based automation. It is strictly any process that is predictable and rule-based. Syed revealed that interest in such automation has grown significantly over the last two-and-a-half years, most significantly over the last 18 months.

With the evolution of robotic process automation (RPA) and the advent of its disruption to the services industry comes the question of how real and beneficial it is. Syed pointed out that the work that humans do in today’s service economy is inefficient – there are too many applications, process and knowledge issues, human error and issues of hiring, training and retention, among a slew of others.

“Even with the best in class applications, we still end up performing a lot of activities manually.

“Robotic automation simply operates business applications exactly the same way a human being does. This means you don’t need to keep training people for the work, and you get speed, accuracy and scalability,” he said.

‘Robotic’ staff are able to work consistently, 24 hours a day, interact and share information, commit no mistakes, and be trained to adapt to changes in minutes or hours.

To automate or not, and how?
But there is no point in automating your processes if they do not produce any business benefits.

Syed's advice is to start a process discovery session before you begin your automation journey. A good process discovers session does not require an RPA tool; it can be a paper-based exercise. It will tell you whether or not there is any room or scope for automation in your business. In most cases, it takes a few hours or a day or two.

If automation is for you, the next thing to do is pick the right process to automate. “The decision should be based on the business benefits, timing – where your business is – the type of process and value to the business,” he said. 

Equally important is prioritisation of transactions. Basha explained by using the example of ATM dispute management. A human can prioritise dispute cases based on the amount of money involved (the bigger the amount of money, the more priority is given to the case). A robot, however, must be specifically programmed to carry out this prioritisation.

“It is very important for the automation owner to plan and design good prioritisation both for process selection and transaction selection,” he said.

Thirdly, when building your automation, rather than focusing on automating the steps that are currently manual, focus first on the ‘not-so-happy path’. Syed cited the example of the autopilot application in aeroplanes; the autopilot can be used in almost every scenario but not in extreme turbulence, when a human is needed to pilot and navigate.

“If you can capture the exceptions well, your automation will be perfect. No matter how good your automation is, there will be a scenario where it will not be used or it will be decommissioned.”

Usage and returns
“There is a misconception that automation is an end, but true, successful automation is just a beginning,” said Syed.

If a business continues to grow, the time will come when the automation cannot deal with the new business requirements. You may have to make significant changes to your back-end.

“Use automation as sandboxing when you are making such changes – implement them through robotic automation first,” advises Syed. “If it works, move the change to your CRM and other applications. This way, your RPA and core transformation goes hand-in-hand and complements each other, and amplifies the overall business benefit of this exercise.”

With successful RPA, the return on investment that a business can expect is four to six months, revealed Syed. “If it’s any longer, there is no point in automation – a business would rather deal with their medium-term strategy another strategy.”

The implementation time should not be more than 12 weeks – this is the standard of the best automation practice.

“This is the return on investment a business should demand,” he said.

 
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