1. Identify what can be automated
A successful RPA programme should start with proper planning and vision of a clear road map as to where we are now vs. where we want to get to, and the steps needed along the way.
So, the first step is to identify whether the project is worth the effort. You need to analyse the feasibility of automating the processes and systems, factor in the expenses required to setup/develop and maintain automations vs. potential long-term benefits.
2. Set up a team
It is vital to set up an effective project team of developers, testers, project managers, who are overlooked by the project sponsor or scrum master (product owner).
Whether you outsource RPA development or develop it in-house, you will need dedicated staff to ensure that enough resource is available throughout the life of the programme.
3. Software strategy
Once the team is in place, decide on the robotic implementation strategy.
Two main options available are:
- Off-the-shelf RPA software robotic specific solutions/studios – Openspan, UI Path, Blueprism, for example.
- Custom-coded, bespoke software development built using .net (c#)/python and other such technologies
4. Development strategy
Based on your software strategy you will need technically trained staff members to build your robots using either of the method below;
Train the staff on robotic software platforms so they can develop and maintain the robots or train the staff to become software developers, to allow them to custom-code the development.
Sometimes there may be a need to hire an external contractor to provide this training.
Outsource: This can be either on robotic software platform or bespoke developed solutions
Assign the development of robots to RPA developer of external software engineers/software house.
5. Implementation strategy
This is where you will decide how you will host the robots whether being on your own company servers or through external provider on third-party servers. Each of these options have pros and cons depending on the organisation’s needs, security of the data, speed of the servers, disaster recovery options and more. These should be considered while making this decision.
- Some automations can run on desktop computers such as, Robotic Desktop Automations (RDA), and replicate users’ actions to achieve the automation.
- While other solutions can be hosted on a remote server (RPA) and run autonomously at set intervals or triggered remotely,
Both of the above types can provide features like continuous updates, audit trails and on-demand reports.
6. Operational strategy
All ongoing work should be managed in one place, this includes new processes, change requests and bugs/errors.
This should be regularly reviewed and assessed to adapt with the business changes and prioritised based on severity.
7. Identifying the processes to automate
Once all of the above is in place, we can get started with identifying, prioritising and developing the robots for processes.
Obtain the list of all viable processes and triage – “high volume – low decision” processes can be built quickly, and they offer high ROI. On the other side, more complex processes can save some time/reduce several risks but in turn require longer development/testing.
8. Documentation (Statement of Work)
Before the development, you should engage with the SMEs and developers and walk through the process steps, streamlining the logic and decision paths and cut down the unnecessary steps.
It can also be beneficial at this point to design a conceptual diagram (flow-chart) showing a process flow covering movement of data between systems and the automation.
Identify what evaluation criteria are required to measure the success of the programme,how the management information (MI) will be captured and what on-demand regulatory or operational reports will be required so that these functionalities can be built in.
An important aspect of this process is having a starting point to measure the current way the process is being carried out.
This includes capturing where relevant, the number of errors, time taken per iteration and risk flags so that they can be compared with the new automation, giving a clear and precise view of the benefits achieved.
10. Develop new robots
Whether using off-the-shelf solutions or building custom-coded bespoke solutions, it will take time and high level of technical skills to implement the steps required to automate your processes. Even with record/play features you will inevitably require advanced concepts/custom decision paths to achieve the exact functionality that you need.
Custom coded solutions can be harder to start with but if done correctly, they ensure no reliance on third party software giving more independence and agility. Custom-coded RPA solutions have greater coverage of developers in the market. For example, it is easier to find c#/python developers with transferable skills, so there will always be plenty of resource available to maintain them further.
Using off-the-shelf products mean that the automations can be built relatively quickly with little development knowledge as most of these products have considerable library of useful automation scripts, so no prior knowledge of how to automate web browsers, SAP or other windows applications is needed.
11. Maintenance of the robotic workforce
Even with an organisation’s current automations there will be bugs, issues and exceptions so the robots will need to be maintained to take account of these. Therefore, you will need to keep resource available to resolve these issues quickly.
Automations are a fantastic way of driving efficiencies in your business however, they will increase your operations reliance on technology and will need to be kept updated.
12.Maintain backlog of features in a roadmap
Lastly, you will want to maintain a backlog of future ideas. To continuously see benefits and have the competitive edge over your competitors, you need to manage your current work-stack with new potential ideas that come in.
Seeing the automations in action, will always prompt new ideas.