Mikko Mattinen // February 28 2019

Before your rush into AI – do you know what is RPA?

Artificial Intelligence seems to be the hot topic in management meetings. We daily read news about new applications mastering AI. In seminars we see cases exploring the business opportunities that AI gives. Not to mention companies, like Levi’s (yes – the original jeans company) even announced that they hired a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer.

Most probably great many of you is thinking that “we need AI”. And it definitely is mandatory to asses that question in management team meetings. While you are assessing AI, you should also put Robotic Process Automation into your agenda.

What is RPA?

RPA is Robotic Process Automation. As the name states it is a tool to automate manual processes. Consider RPA as a complement to enterprise systems. RPA itself is a software package that can be customised and you can automate systems that ERP does not cover. Popular RPA-systems are Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and UiPath. Typically these systems are used for processes and sub-processes that ideally are suited for automation. RPA-systems are used for workflows or operations that can be standardised. The RPA system can be trained to collect data from other systems and compile the reports to be reused as such for the basis of analysis. For example finance or human resource department might use RPA to automate checking certain routine workflows such as travel expense bills.

How should you proceed?

RPA will be the game changer for near future. According to Mary C. Lacity, Leslie P. Willcocks & Andrew Craig you have five reasons to be in the game:

1) It’s a beautiful start

Identify and manage business challenges for future operations.

2) You get Strategic Intent

Resourcing RPA should be a strategic business project.

3) Building understanding

You start understanding the mid-term and long-term end-results of RPA.

4) It’s all about scale

Centralising automation capability will accelerate scaling.

5) You need C-suite

Ensuring that management is completely on board with the strategic vision

What to do?

You need to consider which process or business operations you could and should automate? Select just one process to be automated as a pilot project. Here are some selection criteria:

• Does it generate FTE savings?

• Is there process time savings?

• Does it increase productivity?

Start by hiring a competent change management consultant. External advisory is most probably needed, because this activity is something that your organisation is not used to. Secondly the external advisor typically gives the possibility to break silos. And thirdly – this a change management initiative. Nearly all RPAs offer some kind of trial version which you can use in piloting. If you can hire an external help for doing the set-up then your own personnel will have more time to do the design.

Good to go?

If you can generate positive answers for the previous questions – you are good to go. And remember the pilot project does not need to be the biggest process in your organisation. Maybe something that your communications department publishes fairly often? It could be basis for an internal newsletter. It can be also automating the weekly sales report. Boy, the sales director will be happy that he doesn’t have to compile the report on Sunday afternoon.

A bit more advanced examples could be the Triple Win Business case of Zurich Insurance and Blue Prism. In that case the target for RPA was time to analyse a medical report. With RPA the time was taken from 58 min to five seconds!!!!!! They achieved 39 000 hours saved per annum or freed up to other activities. The biggest bonus was 5 million USD yearly savings.

Start Growth Hacking your processes

“Everybody should come out of the pilot as a winner. Important to incorporate RPA into corporate strategic thinking, service automation, digital developments and business strategic intent. Do not buy technology, buy business solutions that fits into your agenda.”

The main point is that you aim for the RPA “triple-wins” for shareholders, customers and employees as Mary C. Lacity, Leslie P. Willcocks & Andrew Craig have expressed it. When you get shareholders, customers and employees on-board you can really start hacking your business.

By Mikko Mattinen, COO

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