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Keys to Success in Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) eliminates tedious, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks and frees up knowledge workers to spend time on higher value work like strategic planning. It also reduces the risk of human error during processing.

When launching RPA programs, there are common failures to avoid, including those related to governance, management, scaling, and choice of technology. AAFCPAs has outlined best practice recommendations to help clients achieve long-term success.

What are the keys to a successful RPA Implementation?

Identify areas for improvement and inefficiencies.

The speed of change is one of the top business challenges organizations face today. To compete, it requires flexibility and an innovative mindset. AAFCPAs encourages a culture of continuous improvement—and okay-to-fail, out-of-the-box thinking.

Leaders can encourage innovation by emboldening the practice of intrapreneurship, rewarding innovative habits, offering experiences outside the norm, modeling and promoting innovative behaviors, and creating and nurturing a collaborative work environment.

At minimum, consider providing a ‘suggestion box’ that welcomes user input from all levels. Ask your team to think about tasks that are highly manual, repetitive, and rule-based (i.e., if this, then that). Some quick areas for success with automation include manual reporting or data manipulation, system checks, billing, and scheduling.

Ensure requirements are clear and precise.

Not all inefficient processes are right for RPA. AAFCPAs guides clients through defining the criteria based on which they can select the right process for automation. This includes gathering the rich context to make the project successful, including detailed process flows, functional and non-functional requirements, user stories, compliance and regulatory requirements, and functional and acceptance tests.

  • Start by mapping out the process in place (e.g., flow diagrams), rules, and the associated time commitment
  • Solicit input from all functions and levels in the process, and map out the desired process
  • Draft clear definitions of what needs to be automated, and what the expected outcome should be (e.g. improve the process speed by at least 5X)

RPA should always be tied to the long-term strategic goals of the organization. AAFCPAs can help you plan ahead with scaling in mind.

Ensure good project management.

  • Select and assemble an experienced and passionate team of internal and external stakeholders
  • Reference your Requirements throughout the implementation and avoid scope creep
  • Run a pilot, or a subset of the solution, then review with stakeholders
  • Conduct frequent check-ins with stakeholders

Choose the right technology.

New RPA solutions are entering the market regularly, and AAFCPAs assists clients in selecting the right RPA solution based on fit to your Requirements. RPA technology should be evaluated based on pricing, ease of use, ease of setup, ease of administration, future elasticity, and quality of support.

Testing

Through RPA testing, you can define the inputs, expected results, and outputs to check whether your automation project is working. You can also view activity coverage during execution to make sure that the behavior remains the same while making changes to a workflow.

AAFCPAs advises clients to start with more data rather than less, as it is much easier to scale down than to expand the data set.  Clients are also encouraged to use real data, or an environment as close to production as possible when testing. Without valid test data, automation testing can lead to inaccurate test results, which if not captured and resolved will produce erroneous output data. Additionally, clients are advised to test any potential integrations with additional systems (if applicable), and to conduct user acceptance testing.

Plan and Budget for Maintenance

One benefit of RPA is that it integrates with existing business applications. On the other hand, these applications get constant updates, which can impact the delicate RPA workflows/configurations—and could lead to costly downtime.

To ensure business continuity of automated processes, AAFCPAs advises clients to identify every dependency upfront. With the right tools, you can connect dependencies to specific, relevant process steps, which provide greater clarity should a breakdown occur. You can also review these dependencies in advance of implementing any enhancement to your processes/RPAs to avoid breakdowns.

Other maintenance best practices include:

  • Running updates and reports at night with maintenance specialists readily available to respond to any issues that may arise.
  • Continue evolving the solution according to new requirements.
  • Take note of additional opportunities for automation that may arise for future RPA opportunities.

AAFCPAs’ Business Process & IT Consulting practice understands the unique requirements to achieve RPA success, including proper design, planning, implementation, and governance.  We understand what it takes to scale RPA technology successfully to ensure long-term implementation success.

If you have questions, please contact Vassilis Kontoglis, Director, IT Security & Data Analytics at vkontoglis@nullaafcpa.com, 774.512.4069; Ben R. Davis, Business Process Improvement Specialist at bdavis@nullaafcpa.com, 774.512. 4162; or your AAFCPAs Partner.

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About the Author

Vassilis Kontoglis
Vassilis is a highly-skilled IT professional with proven expertise in: business process improvement and change management, information systems gap analyses, cyber security and IT risk assessments, systems selection & implementation, IT auditing, and special attestation reporting (SSAE 18 and SOC 2). Vassilis performs comprehensive and thorough reviews of technology systems and environments, and advises clients on how to use technology to best achieve business goals and objectives.  He elicits input from stakeholders at all levels of the organizational hierarchy in order to thoroughly evaluate business performance across functional boundaries.  He analyzes current and potential business and IT processes to identify clear opportunities for improvement, which may include streamlining and automation, productivity increases, strategic alignment and cost reductions.