Robotic process automation (RPA) continues to see rapid adoption across organizations large and small. Some companies attempt to figure out where to start on their own. Others seek help from more experienced partners. In either case, results can vary greatly.
So how do companies ensure or at least improve their chances for a successful RPA implementation? The answer is in the seven following best practices.
- Create a project plan. One of the keys to running a successful project is creating an appropriate plan, and an RPA implementation is no exception. It is not only necessary to determine the project timeline, noting key deliverables, but also to align with anyone who could have influence on or is accountable during the project. Ensure alignment during the pre-launch meeting, during the kickoff meeting, and again in status update meetings. Pre-launch meetings are a chance for the project owner to assign key personnel required for the approval of any deliverables. The kickoff meeting sets the stage for all involved, detailing what will be required for a successful project, who is responsible, and on what timeline. Finally, weekly status updates keep everyone informed about necessary decisions and set the team up for quick resolution.
- Engage IT. Typical software implementations are researched, proposed, and led by IT leadership. But this is not always the case for RPA initiatives. Often, one or more business units (e.g. Accounting/Finance, Procurement, HR) will identify the need to automate part of their workload and begin to solicit advice. However, even though many RPA tools are relatively easy to use and can be managed and maintained within the business unit, companies experience a much smoother adoption when IT is a partner throughout the process. Early involvement with IT enables business users to identify and create the best environments to house the software with the organization’s infrastructure. This early partnership will continue to benefit both parties as the automation initiative continues to expand – which most successful implementations will do.
- Communicate. Where RPA is concerned, proper communication makes a huge difference in how a project gets started. Communication should not be confined to the RPA center of excellence (CoE) – it should be disseminated throughout the organization to all those impacted. Without an understanding of the role RPA will play in the organization, people may be reluctant to share certain process details or even be prone to leaving for another role or organization. Communicating early and often will help avoid confusion and, when done well, will generate excitement and buy-in.
- Train the right resources. As RPA gains favor across organizations, development resources are becoming more readily available in the job market. One question that often arises when building a team is whether to bring in external resources or leverage and train internal resources. In many cases, a mix of existing business users who can be trained to develop and more technical resources who bring coding expertise creates a winning dynamic. When transitioning people from their traditional roles in the business to focus on automation, it is important to find team members who are excited about the opportunity, have a solid grasp of business dynamics and logic, and have average or better technical capabilities. It is worth noting that not all RPA tools are created equally; some require more technical acumen than others.
- Dedicate development resources. Once selected, resources must be allowed to focus on development activities. A dedicated developer can more accurately forecast his or her time to complete an automation. And it takes time to step back into development activities, so frequent interruptions or trying to split a resource’s attention throughout the week can be detrimental to a project timeline.
- Apply the automation lifecycle. Successful automation implementations follow a series of phases that make up the automation lifecycle, which consists of the following: process ideation and assessment to determine suitable candidates; process definition to define the current steps of a process; solution design to map out the proposed architecture of the automation; configuration to develop and test the automation; validation to confirm that it meets business requirements; deployment to promote the automation through the required environments; and management and maintenance to ensure the process performs as expected. Following this path will allow the team to ensure critical checkpoints along the way.
- Maintain accountability. Organizations often have RACI matrices to determine who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed for various projects across business units, and an RPA implementation should follow the same method. Ensuring the right parties are informed and their roles are documented will help facilitate progress. Creating alignment around the RACI assignments helps avoid delays that could impede an automation implementation.
RPA projects can feel overwhelming because much of the implementation is uncharted territory, but when you treat it like a project, you will see that success is well within reach. ISG helps companies plan RPA projects, engage the right resources and keep projects on track. Contact me to discuss how we can help you.
About the author
James Jones is a Principal Consultant in ISG’s Robotic Process and Cognitive Automation practice, with over 15 years of experience in process automation, project management, financial planning and analysis, supply chain analysis and process improvement. He has consulted on all facets of ISG’s RPA service offerings to numerous Fortune 1,000 companies. In addition to his role as a project leader, he has been hands-on with clients performing proofs of concept, assessment, training and implementation services.