We’ve come a long way since the father of robotics, George Charles Devol, programmed the first digitally operated industrial robot, the Unimate, in 1954. Fifty years on, stemming from innovations that began in the early 2000s, we have started to see the development of the virtual workforce. First were the “blue collar” robots on the floor of a General Motors automobile factory in New Jersey, then came virtual workers in the form of “white collar” robots. Always on time and never on leave, software robots have advanced to take up posts alongside human workers in our offices.
These robots are smarter and easier to build, deploy and manage than their less sophisticated script-based ancestors. Robots in the form of coded workflows, which are able to perform any action a human can perform using a mouse and a keyboard, including looking up and verifying information to copy and paste between portals, legacy systems or any data source for that matter. These robots offer far greater possibilities to automate simple or complex processes, to perform work more efficiently and reliably than any human and to free up scarce talent to perform real value-added work.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is now deployed in thousands of major corporations across the globe and has come of age. Unlike many trends that have colonised IT departments around the world, implementing RPA is much less intrusive; it’s cheaper to get started, quicker to roll out and it delivers an ROI in months, not years. However, RPA is a volume play: the more you automate, the more engaged your workforce, the happier your customers who are enjoying better products and experiences and, the better your top and bottom lines. You have to reach industrial scale to fully reap the rewards. For major corporations with massive transaction volumes, a large number of repetitive rules-based processes and legacy systems, savings of $10m per month, $100m plus a year, are not beyond the realm of possibility and have been realised in projects. At Another Monday we know this, as we’re delivering savings of this scale for some of Europe’s largest and most profitable companies. Along with thousands of other leading companies, our clients have now validated that RPA is a (positively) disruptive element and should be a key component of an enterprise’s digital transformation strategy.
RPA: a stepping-stone for digital transformation
A well planned digital transformation strategy will set out a roadmap that, on the one hand will make the lives of employees easier and on the other hand, will boost productivity and customer experience. RPA is able to address different aspects of this strategy like addressing the lack of connectivity between legacy apps or making gains in operational excellence by improving quality and accuracy.
RPA is also able to address long-term as well as short-term capacity issues, for example, those caused by demographic shifts or fluctuation in seasonal demand. A workforce supported by virtual workers, for fit-for-purpose cases, is much more agile than a human-only workforce. And as virtual workers can work anywhere and everywhere, 24/7 they will always outperform their human counterparts. A virtual workforce enables organisations to scale-up production fast and cope with challenges such as peaks and troughs in demand.
Data protection can also be a valid motivation; with RPA, sensitive data will be handled by software robots instead of humans. An RPA strategy would therefore best be shaped as a virtual worker/human worker hybrid model in which standard processes are automated and humans continue to handle exceptions.
A challenge, however, for those embarking upon the automation journey is the need to access the required skills. When you look at the RPA market, it becomes evident that there is a lack of sufficiently qualified RPA engineers and architects. The time needed to gain this experience restrains organisations from quickly realising the benefits of RPA. Companies that want to scale-up fast should therefore look for a partnership that brings the technology while also providing access to broad knowledge and experience.
About more than just technology
One of the main reasons why Another Monday was recently named a “hot vendor” by Aragon Research is because of a methodology that drives reliability and sustainability at scale, as well as a RPA architecture that supports RPA’s rapid scale-up. Another Monday’s RPA methodology embodies the philosophy “think before you automate”.
A proof of concept can confirm benefits and identify potential issues rather than jumping right into an RPA project. A pilot process provides lessons learned that enable organisations to rapidly scale up later on. These findings are great input for a business case, to avoid falling into traps regarding process implementation, deployment of software robots, organisational change and the complexity of upscaling.
Crucial steps for RPA success are rooted in the process: defining your objectives, defining suitable process, getting internal buy-in, selecting a capable vendor and executing advanced process analysis through operational mapping and process mining right through to thinking through, ahead of time, how the new virtual workforce is going to be managed.
The RPA journey continues after the go-live. Implemented bots should run stable with limited need for maintenance. Covering support, software updates and change requests are almost just as important as the previous steps. Last but not least, a governance structure that sets the rules of change management, documentation and security will help to reduce maintenance needs.
Making it happen
RPA is the ultimate overlay in any digital transformation and Another Monday, a high-profile newcomer mentioned in Forrester’s list of the top RPA providers worldwide, helps enterprises to make first steps towards digital transformation by offering the opportunity to scale-up automation fast. With the right approach, RPA will return quick results. Bearing in mind that the average duration of an IT project is measured in months, if not years, however, RPA is able to provide tangible and insightful results in four to eight weeks without disrupting the existing IT infrastructure, regardless the industry