No matter what the business, there are certain repetitive activities that have to be carried out, but which are considered a drain on your human workforce. Robotic process automation (RPA) can help.
RPA refers to the use of software-based “robots” for carrying out mundane, repetitive, rule-based tasks in a business context, thereby freeing up your flesh-and-blood workers to focus on more valuable, interesting business priorities. RPA can be utilized for virtually any task that’s driven by schedules and rules — whether it’s data migration and entry, extracting information from scanned documents, certain payroll tasks, updating vendor records, or a range of others.
When it comes to expenditure, human resource allocation, and more, RPA can help transform your business. But some people who could benefit from RPA may wonder about what the steps are when it comes to installing them in the workplace — perhaps being concerned about whether RPA tools can effectively replicate tasks that, up until then, have always been handled by people. After all, since every business is different, so too are its demands for automation.
In fact, RPA is a highly bespoke service that is built from the ground-up to solve the specific automation challenges for each business. These are the steps typically followed as it is integrated into a workflow.
#1. Identify the areas
The first stage of RPA deployment is using a strategist or architect with knowledge of what the technology can do effectively to work with a business to identify the core areas where RPA may be at its most useful. RPA works most effectively at step-by-step tasks carried out in volume and with high frequency. However, the breadth of tasks that fall under the automatable category is increasing all the time. Working with RPA experts, using an agile methodology, can help to recognize the core areas and tasks within a business that can most benefit from automation.
#2. Discovery and analysis phase
Next, a Process Architect will take on the task of analyzing and identifying the requirements for RPA for a client. The Process Architect must be both highly skilled at RPA modelling and engineering, as well as able to familiarize themselves with exactly what a potential client wants to get out of the automated process. This involves figuring out the degree of automation (for example, some jobs may be better handled by humans, but in a way that hands off certain repetitive tasks to machines) and the complexity of automating these tasks. At this stage, the client should also get an idea of the potential benefits and outcomes involved with automation.
#3. Designing the tools
Once expectations and processes have been worked out, it’s up to the Process and Technical Architects to draw up a Process Definition Document (PDD). This divides tasks into the various step-by-step components that take it from start to finish. After the PDD, the project architects will create documentation such as an Object Model Diagram that clearly shows the workflow the RPA tools will follow. If the client looks at the documentation produced at this stage, they will be able to get a good idea of how the finished RPA tool will work.
#4. Building the bots
If the Process Definition Document phase is akin to an architect drawing up blueprints, then the next step is where the builders come in to make those drawings a reality. During the bot-building phase, developers create the RPA tools, writing all the automation scripts and codes that are needed to assemble the tools laid out by the Process and Technical Architects.
#5. Testing, testing
Up until this step, everything about the RPA bots have been hypothetical. While the benefits and likely outcomes have been laid out, and the task at hand satisfactorily divided up into its component steps, the client has yet to see it in action. During the testing phase, a dedicated testing team will put the bots through their quality assurance (QA) paces in a pre-production environment. The goal of this is to allow it to be demonstrated without actually deploying it as part of a real workflow. Instead, it carries out its tasks in a simulated environment, working as it will do for real, but in a safe way that means that any issues can be addressed without causing real-world delays or disruption for a business.
#6. Pulling the trigger on workplace implementation
Once the client and RPA team are happy that the tools function effectively, the final stage is deployment in the workplace. As with any new employee, there will be a period in which performance is closely monitored to ensure that is delivering as required. However, given the pre-implementation focus on integration and troubleshooting, there should be no problems at this stage.
After that, it’s just about letting the RPA tools do their thing — and ensuring that the benefits promised are delivered as required.