Best Practices, RPA
Pros and Cons of Using Robotic Process Automation for End-to-End Processes
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is taking the business world by storm. Can it be used to automate an entire end-to-end business process, though?
After breaking onto the scene a mere handful of years ago, the technology is already changing the face of multiple sectors, from manufacturing to the automotive industry, all the way to software development and beyond.
Here's a rundown of the basics of RPA deployment, what to watch out for, and some of the pros and cons to keep an eye on.
What to Ask before Deciding to Automate the Process End-to-End
RPA workflows are not the same thing as business processes.
What you’re automating, is the entry of data, the opening of menus, the clicks of a mouse - in other words, the activities a human undertakes to complete their process steps. Things to ask yourself about a task when you’re looking to automate with RPA:
- Is it rules-based?
- Is it repeatable on a regular schedule?
- Does it have well-defined inputs and outputs?
- Is it conducted in high volume?
If the answer isn’t Yes to all four of these questions, you may need to rethink using RPA.
Additionally, you should also consider the following:
- How many departments are involved? Cross-departmental buy-in will be crucial, as will documenting who is in charge of the bots if the tasks being conducted cross departments.
- How many software products are used? This is key to have documented for ongoing support. Any update that disrupts the GUI of any one piece of software in a process can cause the entire process to crash.
- Is any legacy software compatible? It’s not guaranteed by vendors, yet for RPA to work its magic, it’s critical that the bots be able to interface with the GUI elements.
Automating the End-To-End Process: The Pros
- Bots can work 24/7 with no coffee breaks. When configured correctly, bots can operate without direct oversight nonstop, and produce zero errors. With processes that include a lot of data entry and are easily repeatable with little chance of error, this is ideal.
- RPA allows for automation involving disparate systems, even when there is no API available, or the system is so legacy there’s only one person left in the company who knows how to use it. Since it operates at the GUI level, RPA can move data between these systems and modern ones with little interference, even when that involves copy-and-paste operations.
- RPA minimizes the need for human intervention. In processes like invoice processing where there are infrequent variations and a lot of repetitive data entry, RPA can complete the process run in a fraction of the time of a human employee. And with properly configured bots that know when to kick a troublesome transaction to a human for intervention, the errors in completed output will be zero.
- RPA speeds time from input to output. Processes like ERP data entry are notorious for taking hours out of the workday. There’s data entry, logging, updating, and processing that all need to be done.
Automating that entire process can reduce the time needed, from hours per day to minutes.
Automate the End-To-End Process: The Cons
- Process steps must be standardized, or you risk the RPA simply automating a bad process, which will turn out the same bad output, just a lot faster. Without a central authority (preferably IT) overseeing the bots in use across the organization, you can also find yourself with a “shadow IT” situation, where multiple departments are using different installations of RPA on multiple systems, without anyone else’s knowledge.
- Bots can end up slowing down a process. There are a lot of IT systems in play within a company (ERP, CRM, ITSM, Windows OS, et al) and often several are used in a single process. That means that whenever a single system goes down, the entire process will grind to a screeching halt. Since the bots are crossing back and forth between systems, they will be unable to complete the rest of the process until the affected software is back up. And that means a serious loss of output.
- Deeper issues can be covered over. Bots can automate processes that cross between legacy software and modern solutions. That can gloss over the fact that the legacy system really should be upgraded, but since no employee is using it directly, this can be overlooked for some time. Modern systems will include an application programming interface (API), which offer a more sustainable method of automation.
RPA is not a magic hammer that will solve all IT problems. Bots are a tool, that when used in conjunction with other tools can help an organization make its business processes run smoother, faster, and more efficiently.
If you’re considering using this tool to automate an entire, end-to-end process at your company, be sure to analyze your business processes first. And Process Mining is a pretty good way to do it.
Are you considering deploying an RPA solution within your organization? Let us know.
Michal Rosik Chief Product Officer & Product Visionary at Minit
29. 07. 2019