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New to RPA? Avoid These Top 5 RPA Mistakes

All across the country and from our network in other countries too, we’re observing businesses and teams new to RPA and automation making these same mistakes. Let’s dive straight in to see how these can be easily avoided

1)    Lack of senior or business leader buy-in

Getting senior buy-in is the only way to get a successful RPA programme moving. During stakeholder engagements it’s vital to get top-down enthusiasm and demonstrate how RPA can enable their senior management teams to be more efficient and cost effective.

If senior management are fully on-board, they can remove blockers, deploy the right personnel to assist the RPA team to attend workshops, identify opportunities, and they can invest their limited funds in more RPA initiatives. If senior leaders believe in the technology, they will be more likely to redirect funds away from ‘tried-and-tested’ methods, such as recruitment or outsourcing, and start investing in this new and seemingly untested (in their area at least) technology.

2)    Choosing the wrong process

Time and time again I’ve heard of companies or consulted with companies who were in the midst of trying to automate a complex, low-volume, highly volatile process as one of their first processes. Sometimes the process even requires several forms of AI.

This is a clear sign of “shiny object syndrome” (SOS), the propensity to chase something because it’s new and shiny and everyone else is doing it.

Or perhaps a case of “The one who shouts loudest” gets their process automated. At this point the RPA sponsor or senior needs to step in. New things can have great value, but there must be a logical approach to utilitising such a powerful tool.

Choosing the wrong process to start with is guaranteed to stall an automation programme. Stakeholders will lose interest, the RPA team will get disheartened, and the RPA sponsor will be wondering whether she will ever get a return on the investment and may consider pulling the plug on the whole thing. Such a toxic perception of this tool will swiftly destroy what you are trying to achieve. If you suspect you have started with the wrong process, this realization may mark the last chance you have to hire an experienced RPA analyst or success manager to turn things around and get the process back on track.

If you have just hired an expert and have yet to choose your process, it would be wise to listen to the expert to avoid choosing badly.

3)    Lack of time/commitment from SME

Though buy-in from senior leadership gets things moving, the second hurdle is getting the managers and the team themselves excited and keen to get involved. This is potentially the hardest sell, as many may be totally content with the old way of doing things. Some may not feel comfortable with change in general, and the rest may quietly fear that this new technology could change their job or replace them.

Once team managers and SMEs are on board, the right expectations need to be set with them so they understand how much time the RPA team requires from them in order to design the right solution, to the necessary detail. If expectations are not clear upfront, staff and managers may grow frustrated with intermittent disruptions to business as usual. It’s important that they understand how the discovery and implementation process works, and the RPA team needs to clearly layout their method, and explain that it’s not a one-and-done event, but a staged process.

4)    Poor stakeholder education and communications

Doing RPA in a dark corner of the office leads to staff thinking the worst. Openness and visibility is best; take them on the journey with you. At a minimum, an easy way to stay visible is to create a newsletter and an online portal with information on the technology, the process and a discussion forum for questions and concerns.

In addition to the visibility provided by open-door policy and regular lunch-and-learns or periodic workshops, the Centre of Excellence should stay in communication with staff. Popping up and disrupting teams for a few days, then disappearing without results can be very irritating. Stakeholders in a few organizations I’ve worked with have expressed their frustrations about previous RPA teams who attempted to implement but were shut down or moved on to a different team without any explanation. Understandably when I came to launch the RPA properly I was initially meet by reservations and reluctance. Even if your RPA team needs to close down an initiative, its courtesy to inform the team as to why, so that the relationship ends on good terms and they are welcoming the next time you circle back.

5)    Not streamlining process first

There are two schools of thought in RPA. Roll out automation fast leaving the processes as it is because it will immediately impact the bottom line. Or optimize a process first with lean thinking so that the process is redesigned to be streamlined and is designed for a robot instead of a human. At Lean IA, you can surely guess which one we prefer. Garbage in, garbage out.

Optimising a process can provide a much faster payback period as costs may be lower because the process may be designed to be simpler. Imagine a process where the human goes back and forth to pull data from one application into another. This workflow is long winded as the human has limited memory, whereas the process could be redesigned for the robot to take all the information from the whole page, then paste it into the other page in one go, thus eliminating the old back-and-forth way.

You can learn more about implementing RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and intelligent automation at Leania.co. The Lean Intelligent Automation consultant

You can read about Lean IA’s trademarked AEIO YOU method in their new book Business @ the Speed of Bots, Succeeding In The New Age Of Digital Transformation

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How to quickly identify your RPA team’s strengths and weaknesses

When you’re in the mists of ‘doing automation’ it is sometimes hard to find the time to take a speak back and understand what is and isn’t working in your RPA delivery. Make projects have stalled, staff aren’t as engaged anymore, or key stakeholders are looking elsewhere to invest their budget to save time and money, like in outsourcing.

I can’t now remember which business psychology book I had read this, however an important point it made was that you can’t perform whilst you’re in a learning phase and you can’t learn when you’re in a performing stage. This is why in our AEIO YOU methodology, reflection is a keep step in RPA delivery.

You can’t perform whilst you’re in a learning phase, and you can’t learn when you’re in performing stage

I’ve seen many teams that have processes and frameworks set up and keep running and hitting a brick wall, repeating this action each time, hoping the wall may eventually break (though you may run out of money due to minimal results before that happens).

So, here are a handful of questions to ask your self, your business and your team at each stage of the AEIO YOU method to help you identify where you may have potential areas of improvement in your RPA team and implementation process, which may encourage finding a new method that fits your situation

A: Aware & Align

Are YOU Aware?

It’s vitally important to win hearts and minds by being visible and taking key stakeholders along with you through the transformation journey.

  1. Can you and your RPA team clearly articulate in a sentence or two what RPA and intelligent automation is?
  2. Do senior managers in Operations, IT and HR understand how RPA and intelligent automation can impact and benefit their teams and departments?
  3. Do directors and C-levels understand how RPA and intelligent automation can fit into the organisation’s strategy? And do they have congruent realistic expectations?
  4. Do team leaders and staff members understand how RPA and intelligent automation can enhance their performance, productivity and job satisfaction?
  5. Do your RPA and Intelligent Automation Centre of Excellence and Operational Excellence teams understand the various myths and challenges as mentioned, and are they aware of how to avoid common pitfalls?

Otherwise can you combine several RPA hubs or centralise resources, tools, and knowledge so you can learn and improve faster?

  1. Are all RPA opportunities identified, assessed, and measured in the same way?
  2. Do all developers and support engineers work to the same coding standards?
  3. Do you have a standard tool kit, including checkpoint criteria and templates for each stage of automation lifecycle?

E: Educate & Empower 

Are they educated?

Test whether your Centre of Excellence (CoE) team has educated your entire staff:

  1. Can key stakeholders and staff involved in RPA projects clearly explain what RPA is, and what the benefits are at a business, department, and individual level?
  2. Have you connected with HR to educate them on the emotional impact of digital transformation with regards to new career paths and incentive structures?
  3. Has everyone in the teams you’ve targeted for automation attended at least one lunch & learn session or workshop?
  4. Do teams understand what the eight types of waste are?
  5. Do team managers understand what metrics must/should be collected to assess a process’s performance and suitability for RPA?
  6. Does your CoE have its own intranet portal with information, shareable material, and a forum for requests and questions?

Do they feel empowered?

Verify that your CoE is providing the tools, templates, guidance, and training need to accelerate your digital transformation strategy:

  1. Has each team interested in RPA been given an automation catalogue template and guidance?
  2. Is the CoE having regular communication with teams who are pursuing RPA to ensure they are using the right tools, and using them in the right way?
  3. Has the CoE received any positive feedback or interest from staff keen to learn more about the technology or take on more responsibility to assist in identifying and assessing opportunities?
  4. Has HR communicated that the CoE may provide new roles in the near future?

 I: Inspect & Ideate

Inspect: Have you identified and prioritised opportunities?

Review these questions below to confirm that your team has prioritized your automation candidates in a logical way:

  1. Have you measured your processes by effort (AHT x volume) and potential saving?
  2. Do you know which handful of processes make up 80% of all your team’s effort?
  3. Have you reviewed your top processes in detail to understand their complexity?
  4. Have you plotted your top processes by Effort, Benefit, and Ease of Implementation on the Complexity quadrant?
  5. Have you provided the leadership team with a visualization of the makeup the department’s processes so that they can strategically prioritise which processes to automate first?

Ideate: Have your solutions involved all the right people?

It’s important to include those stakeholders that may cause or be affected by the existing problem and may be impacted by the solution when implemented:

  1. Have you involved key stakeholders from the team(s) that are upstream from your process, who feed information into your target team?
  2. Have you involved key stakeholders from the team(s) that are downstream from the process, who receive information from your team?
  3. Do all the root causes identified by the workshop group relate to all the problems being experienced in the target team?
  4. Have you first considered lean process re-engineering?
  5. Did you have a technical expert present in your solution design workshop?
  6. Did you have full participation with everyone’s opinions being heard and respected?

O: Optimise 

Are your processes lean?

Before moving to the automating stage, look back and see how much waste you’ve removed from the process and see if you now have a lean process to automate.

Remember that the purpose of Lean Six Sigma is to meet the customer’s expectations as fast as possible, and in RPA and intelligent automation, Lean Six Sigma can greatly increase the ROI of your initiatives. See how well you can answer these questions:

  1. Have you identified all eight wastes in your target process and team?
  2. Have you mapped out your target team or process in a SIPOC?
  3. Have you identified non-value-added areas using a VSM?
  4. Is your CoE’s physical and digital work environment organized using the 5 S method and ready to scale?
  5. Have you run a root cause workshop and used the 5 whys to discover what the potential root causes are for the inefficiencies in your target team?
  6. How much waste have you eliminated in the proposed future state model, even before you automate?

Y: Yield 

Are you getting value?

The big question clients, stakeholders, and senior leadership will ask is, are they getting value from this digital workforce? Look at these questions to make sure your team can answer this:

  1. Was performance of the processes measured accurately before they were automated?
  2. Do you have visibility of your bots’ performance, via logs and a dashboard?
  3. Do your internal/external clients have visibility on how their bots are performing?
  4. Are you regularly tracking the bots’ and CoE’s performance metrics that answer the right questions?
  5. Have you found ways to quantify qualitative data? (cost of errors/re-work, using Net Promoter Scores etc)
  6. Have your robot performance indicators helped teams discover potential ways to improve on the most common systems and business exceptions?

O: Organise & Oversee 

Are you in control?

Go through these questions to confirm whether your Support team have all their bots under control and the team has a scalable structure.

  1. Do you have someone carrying out each role shown in the Support CoE structure (even if some of your team are wearing several hats)?
  2. Do you have a transition manager who is a separate person to the developer and support engineer?
  3. Do both the Development and Support teams use the same agreed coding standards, best practices, criteria, and knowledge base?
  4. Do you regularly provide process owners with bot health and performance reports and discuss seasonal or future volume increases?
  5. Do you have a prioritization mechanism and triage process for handling requests and defects?
  6. Are you continuously looking to optimise your CoE through the same lens as when inspecting a BAU team? (automate repetitive tasks, using self-service portal for clients and process owners).

U: Uncover, Upgrade & Upskill 

Have you identified ways to enhance your bots to gain more benefits?

Keep circling back to the beginning of the AEIO YOU lifecycle to stay aware of new emerging technology and education.

  1. Is your team aware of the plethora of different types of AI capabilities on the market? (e.g. chatbots, ICR/OCR)
  2. Have you meet with different AI vendors and watched demos of what their products are capable of doing for your business?
  3. Have you run any POCs with vendors to demonstrate first-hand how much value their ‘bots’ can add to your CoE team?
  4. How serious (or nervous) is your business at implementing AI into their business processes?

Want to get a clearer understanding of your RPA/CoE teams stregnths and weaknesses, take our straightforward multiple choice test and receive a free report that scores each sections and breaks down your results with useful actions you can use today to improve

TAKE THE RPA TEST

You can learn more about implementing RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and intelligent automation at Leania.co. Lean IA Consulting

You can read about these tips and tools used in their AEIO YOU method in their new book Business @ the Speed of Bots, How to implement RPA that scales

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RPA FAQs and some TLAs

What does RPA stand for and what does it do?

Robotic Process Automation. This is low or no-code software that automates business processes by mimicking a human’s clicks and keystrokes on a computer screen.

RPA works for almost any monotonous task your teams do on their computers, for example, it can copy and paste data from one application to another.

What is a PDD and an SDD?

PDD stands for Process Definition Document, this is the most important document in RPA because it is used by the business analyst to transfer the business’s problem into a technical solution that the RPA developer can understand

The developer uses the PDD to create the SDD (solution design document), which is a more technical document which provides guidance to the architecture of the bot

What is an L4 keystroke document?

L4 stands for Level 4, which comes from Six Sigma is arguably the lowest most detailed process map, whereas L0 would be a very high-level map of the process

In RPA a level 4 map shows the clicks and keystrokes a user would make to perform a task or process, each step in this map would be numbered and would be accompanied with a keystroke document which would further describe each step and provide a screenshot highlighting the button clicked or text box typed into

What is a POC?

POC stands for Proof of Concept, where a business would test the capability of a new tool or software to see if it worked in the way they want to use it. However, businesses generally prefer to call this POV or Proof of value so that they can measure how much value the new tool provides at a small scale

A POC/POV is generally done before a large scale purchase is made, as is used to get buy-in from stakeholders

What is a CoE?

CoE stands for Centre of Excellence (similar to Operational Excellence), this team or function is responsible for sustaining high quality and consistency in the delivery of a new capability.

This is done by having central place which provides tools, techniques, templates, training and frameworks to ensure that all across the business everyone is implementing and assessing RPA in the same way for example

What is an Automation Catalogue?

This is a list of all the manual processes in an organisation that has gone through an assessment to see how suitable it is for RPA and what expected benefit can be gained from this using RPA

Analysts may want to put another layer of assessment to see what other benefits can be gained using other methods aside from RPA, e.g. outsourcing, Lean process re-engineering, intelligent automation or AI

What is an EAR?

EAR stands for Enterprise automation roadmap. Once the list of processes in the automation catalogue has been thoroughly assessed, they can be prioritised and put into waves, and presented on a roadmap to show how the full RPA rollout will be accomplished, and when

What is Lean Six Sigma?

This is a combination of Lean thinking (making things efficient), and Six Sigma (making things well/high quality).

Understandable Lean Six Sigma is a powerful combination with RPA and intelligent automation as automating a lean process can provide much higher ROIs as you get “more bang for your buck”

Some other acronyms from the intelligent automation world

AEIO YOU: A method for successfully implementing intelligent automation into an organisation

IA: Intelligent Automation

RPA: robotic process automation

FTE: Full-time employee

AI: Artificial intelligence

GUI: Graphical User Interface

SME: subject matter expert

PDD: Process Definition Document

SDD: Solution Design Document

SLA: Service Level Agreements

API: Application Programming Interface

ICR: intelligent character recognition

COE: Centre of Excellence

CBA: Cost benefits Analysis

RCA: Root cause Analysis

A case: a unit of work that flows through a process, e.g. an individual customer request

PMO: Project/programme management office/officer

UAT: User Acceptance Testing

POC: Proof of Concept

POV: Proof of Value

EAR: Enterprise Automation Roadmap

MPV: Maximum Potential Value

TPV: Target Potential Value

AHT: Average handling time

SIPOC: Supply, Input, Process, Output, Customer

COO: Chief operations officer

TT: Takt time

GDPR: (General Data Protection Regulation)

CASS: (Protection of Client Assets and Money)

ML: machine learning

OCR: Optical character recognition

BPO: Business process outsourcing

BPM: Business process management (or Mapping)

VM: Virtual Machine

VDI: Virtual desktop interface

You can learn more about implementing RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and intelligent automation at Leania.co. Your virtual consultant

You can read about these tools used in the AEIO YOU method in their new book Business @ the Speed of Bots, How to implement RPA that scales

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The 36 steps the AEIO YOU method

The underlying approach of the AEIO YOU method is to ensure you’re applying Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and intelligent automation to lean (aka streamlined and optimized) business processes. Using lean thinking you can achieve a much higher ROI from your new technology than if you were to have just automated bad processes.

Remember the old adage, ‘GIGO’ (Garbage in, garbage out)

Follow these steps to bring your RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE) team to a maturity level to proudly call it an Automation Factory. Then start again from step 1, but this time with a newer technology

Here are our 36 steps of the AEIO YOU method:

A

1. Understand the Technology

2. Know the myths, Challenges and the Benefits

2b. Know the common mistakes and pitfalls

3. Understand the market

4. Choose the right solution provider

5. Be an evangelist

6. Run a Pilot (POV rather than POC)

7. Start building your Centre of Excellence

E

8. Bring in the Experts

9. Involve staff so they welcome the change

10. Keep hold of your most valuable assets

11. Upskill to build capabilities inhouse

I

12. Zoom out. Create an Enterprise Automation Roadmap

13. Zoom in: Define and Measure the problem

14. Filter on what’s suitable

15. Focus on the top 20% (80:20 rule)

16. Build a complexity map: Cost vs Benefits vs Financial savings

17. Prioritise: Go for some quick wins first

18. Zoom in further: Business Analysis 101 (Data and requirements gathering)

19. Root cause analysis

O

20. Solution design

21. Lean thinking

22. Business Case: detailed cost-benefits analysis

23. Define the process

24. Design the solution

25. Build the solution using best practices

26. Prepare the data for testing

27. UAT

28. Hand over to support team

29. Launch

30. Reflect

31. Repeat and scale

Y

32. Realise the benefits

O

33. Maintain the benefits

34. Manage the changes

U

35. Circle back for continuous improvement

36. Discover newer technologies

You can learn more about implementing RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and intelligent automation at Leania.co. Your virtual consultant

You can read about Lean IA’s trademarked AEIO YOU method in their new book Business @ the Speed of Bots, How to implement RPA that scales

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5 Levels of CoE maturity: How mature is yours?

There are several levels of maturity that I’ve seen. Which one are you?

Level 0 (Explore stage):

You’ve just started looking into RPA and automation, you’ve not deployed anything. You’ve seen a few demos but have not yet decided which vendor(s) to use.

Level 1 (Experiment stage):

Your team have self-built automation robots using a free license to understand how the technology works and/or you’ve engaged with preferred vendors who may have given you some licenses for free. No real structured approach yet for assessing or implementing opportunities.

Alternatively, if you have outsourced your CoE completely then your maturity would also be Level 1 as you have not yet developed any in-house capabilities.

Level 2 (Pilot stage):

You’ve hired a hybrid RPA developer who also does the business analysis work to find opportunities to automate, and you’ve deployed a POC (proof of concept). Some RPA documentation and assessment tools exist, and you have a logical approach to assessing opportunities.

Level 3 (Team formation stage):

You have a few expert team members doing some of the roles that make up a CoE team but not a complete structure; a solutions architect, developers, support engineers, RPA analysts, PMs and perhaps a Lean Analyst. You have documented processes, a framework and a toolkit to generate consistent automation solutions.

Level 4 (RPA factory):

A polished team of experienced professionals who have delivered automation in several environments, as well as automation champions throughout the organization as advocates. A steady pipeline and a refined framework to churn out automated solutions at a consistent quality and speed. A complete toolkit with controls and reporting tools.

Level 5 (CoE as a Service):

Experienced team able to provide their services to internal and external clients. Clear terms of service, SLAs and governance processes.

If you have a large organization, you have probably set up several satellite RPA teams that report to you.

There are 2 main types of CoEs. Centralized or Federated, however, the maturity of your CoE team and the geographical location of operations teams may determine which structure is right for you.

Centralized:

This is where you generally should start. Have one team that manages all RPA opportunities happening throughout the organization. This is good for companies where the CoE sits together and all staff are based in the same location, or teams and business units can be easily reached.

Federated:

This is where you have resources embedded in different business units however they still feed into and draw from a central team for training, tools, knowledge management and governance

Whatever you do, ensure that you don’t have different teams running RPA projects in different ways, learning different lessons and using different RPA vendors – this will only lead in disaster

You can learn more about implementing RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and intelligent automation at Leania.co. The Lean Intelligent Automation consultant

You can read about Lean IA’s trademarked AEIO YOU method in their new book Business @ the Speed of Bots, Succeeding In The New Age Of Digital Transformation