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This article is the first in our miniseries, presenting the key conclusions about the current state of assessing automation potential within Robotic Process Automation (RPA), while also providing insights into its connection to Process Mining.
A report about your company's processes landed on your table. It states that the potential to automate is almost double than what is currently being done.
What crosses your mind? That you should probably set your aim higher, maybe even up to 100% automation. Because someone said your current automation rate is too low in some areas of the process you oversee.
But have you ever stopped to think about why that should be the goal?
Well, first let’s cover what an automation rate is. An automation rate is the way in which some process mining vendors communicate the assumed potentialof an activity for automation.
The thing is, automation rate doesn't tell you that much when presented on its own. You need context.
Though automation rates may be nice for reporting numbers to management and are also engaging buzzwords these days, sometimes it's better to ask for a second opinion.
And that time is now.
Types of Processes from the Process Mining Perspective
Before even going deeper into the challenge of assessing automation potential with so-called automation rates, let's get clear on some of the terms to be used.
When talking about processes, always be careful of what kind of process you have in mind. There are three differentiating types of processes from the executor's point of view:
- Manual processes require physical activity such as carrying a contract to the copy machine and handing it over to your colleague. Such processes can't be digitally transformed and automated at this stage of technological evolution.
- Under the human-driven digital processes falls everything employees do on their computers, which in this modern age is a big chunk of everyday work tasks. Employees interact with company's IT systems and, thus, create event logs in the backend - pieces of information about the case ID and activity, accompanied by a timestamp. You can automate many of these processes, and we’ll discuss that later.
- Automated processes are fully independent from employee interaction except for cases of upgrades, maintenance breaks, or monitoring. The execution of these processes is in the hands of software solutions in the area of Business Process Automation (BPA), Application Programming Interface (API), or Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
The distinction is crucial for the purposes of Process Mining and Robotic Process Automation, as manual processes are excluded from potential automation.
Process Automation vs. Task Automation
RPA is a type of automation where a so-called “bot” performs specified activities that were otherwise executed by a person on a computer. RPA has become a widespread notion among business and industry leaders, and due to this, a lot of buzz surrounds it.
The truth is the technology's potential is great: it saves time for the company, supports compliance, helps avoid errors, and more
Yet, some experts point out the fact that instead of Robotic Process Automation, the more appropriate term that should be used is: Robotic Task Automation.
For the vast majority of processes, “bots” cannot perform end-to-end automation without human interaction. (Author’s note: They are able, however, to run entire variants of a process) This is due to the fact that only smaller tasks fulfill the requirements for RPA implementation. It’s those that are standardized, repetitive, occur in high volume, and don't involve human decision-making.
An RPA initiative can have a huge impact on various tasks such as submitting invoices for approval, opening emails, transferring order numbers into the system, and so forth. However, it can't take on the full Order-To-Cash or Purchase-To-Pay process due to their complexity.
What is an Automation Rate and Automation Potential?
As you've already learned the differences between human-driven and a bot-automated process, the debate can begin.
Vendors in the market tend to have two arguments up their sleeve: automation rate and automation potential, one complementing the other. What should these indicators be saying?
The formula first. An automation rate is calculated as the amount of cases processed by an automation technology such as BPM, RPA, or others, divided by the total amount of cases. Example? If your process involves 10,000 cases of which 3,000 are executed by bots, your automation rate is 3,000/10,000 = 0.3, or 30%
What does this tell you?
That only 30% of cases in your end-to-end process are covered by automation, and so your automation potential is 70% to get your processes fully automated.
But how do you know whether 100% is even possible? If something isn't automated, should it be automated? Are all the processes in your organization suitable for automation? What role does the uniqueness of your organization play in the automation rate calculations? Is there any type of benchmarking for each process in your industry?
These are all crucial questions that need to be answered in order to figure out what the true potential of automation is. So, here’s your homework.
Try to the best of your ability to answer those questions, specifically for your company, using the most strategic colleagues you have around you.
If you need help seeing what is actually possible to automate in your company, get in touch with our in-house experts now.
The follow-up article on this topic will be focused on the specific challenges automation rates face today.