• Digital Workplace
  • December 21, 2016

Path of Progress in Robotic Process Automation: Three Stages to RPA Success

My previous blog post Machine intelligence and robotics – How your organization can benefit from business process automation was about the significance of machine intelligence and robotics for societies and organizations, and discussed the history and evolution of mankind and machines. This blog post will focus particularly on improving productivity through Robotic Process Automation (RPA). We will look at three development stages that companies and organizations can use to increase their productivity through RPA.

This new technology of business process automation has evolved to the point where it can be utilized extensively at a very low cost compared to traditional ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) integration methods. With software robots getting down to work around the world to eliminate dull, repetitive and routine tasks, it is time to think about how people and organizations could best make use of their digital assistants.

Continuous, rapid change as a driving force for RPA

Why are organizations and companies using more and more time and energy on automation?

Growing business organizations have traditionally utilized ERP systems to produce automated processes. However, the rapid growth of companies has made their earlier ERP investments prematurely outdated, as their ERP technologies have been too stiff and massive to scale according to organizational growth and process changes.

This has resulted in multiple manual process steps (humans transferring data between systems), inconsistencies in data processing (entering the same data separately in several systems) and uneven quality in intermediate process steps and final outcomes. In other words, the agility and capabilities of traditional automation do not meet the pace of development in organizations. RPA is a potential answer to these growing pains!

RPA has the following implications for organizations:

 1. Reduced process turnaround times;
 2. Higher outcome quality;
 3. Scalability and agility;
 4. Improved measurability (manual process steps are digitized).

Here are just a few examples of operations that can easily be performed by current software robots:

  • Opening emails and attachment files and saving them or extracting data from them
  • Filling out web forms based on rules
  • Extracting data from several information systems and re-editing data to create dashboard reports
  • Integrating and pruning data and comparing data between different information systems
  • Performing calculations and copying and pasting the result forward
  • Visually identifying a certain character string in a document (pattern recognition) and extracting data on this basis

Means of increasing RPA utilization rate in organizations

Robotic Process Automation offers a variety of ways to increase the degree of automation. For organizations, however, robotics is a new phenomenon and its implementation may arouse suspicion and resistance to change. Therefore, business management should quickly increase knowledge about RPA among management and employees in order to ensure that the potential benefit is realizable.

RPA software, just like any other business software, is used and steered by people. While the degree of automation is being increased in, say, payroll computation and financial administration processes through RPA, robotics should shift towards people's work and be integrated into it. RPA is based on well-defined processes and logical rules related to them. These allow the robot to work either a) automatically in the background or b) initiated by a human. When changes are made to a process or to the business software used in the process, the robot has to be retrained for its task as well. This training will be a new special skill that companies must be able to obtain.

Three stages on the path of progress in Robotic Process Automation

We have defined three stages for the path of progress in robotics. Each of these contains different requirements for the organization's ability to develop and learn.

Stage 1

In the first stage, the organization sets out to test and pilot RPA in its processes. In this stage, it is usually a good idea to use a consultant and an expert with special know-how in the field of RPA as well as a vision about how Robotic Process Automation could benefit your company. It is typical to select one function and a few processes as starting points for piloting. With the help of the consultant, the benefits of RPA can be estimated quickly and an action plan can be prepared for the development of RPA automation.

The key is to increase your organization's understanding of RPA and gather experiences.

Stage 2

In the second stage, the organization expands the utilization of RPA to several functions and processes. The consultant can help to define complex sets of rules and assume part of the workload in training the robots. In this stage, the key is to share the information and know-how obtained in the pilot with the organization and to increase internal RPA capabilities in a determined manner.

Stage 3

In the third stage, RPA has become the standard procedure for increasing the organization's productivity, and it is managed through a centralized center of excellence or function-specific RPA teams. The organization possesses plenty of internal intellectual and knowledge capital on robotics and is able to maintain and develop these self-sufficiently. The key is to standardize RPA and to measure and manage competence and capabilities.

Access to robotics through digital learning

At Valamis, we have provided organizations with the opportunity to implement RPA in stages. The international digital learning platform Valamis is an excellent way to support and enable an organization's progress on the path of robotics through the three stages presented above. While you are increasing productivity by means of RPA, you are also managing your company's ability to adopt, implement and scale robotics throughout functions. The utilization of RPA requires increasing automation skills, learning new ways of working and continuously developing operations. With the analytics produced by the Valamis learning solution, you will be able to measure and verify the effect of robotics and the efficiency of its development.

If you're interested in utilizing RPA in your organization, contact us.