‘WHERE are the bots?’

Mention robots and people imagine Transformer-like robots building machines and cars on an assembly line.

Contrary to beliefs that robots might take over the world one day, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a software robot which usually sits on top of existing applications, automating the transfer of data within processes quickly.

Legacy IT infrastructures which exist in many organisations nowadays force employees to extract data from multiple systems to complete a report. Instead RPA can be programmed to perform exactly the steps a human being would perform, except 20 times faster.

In a basic RPA, you can see the cursor moving around a screen, extracting information error-free from one system and inputting it into another system or downloading email attachments and uploading the information into an ERP system.

They work tirelessly around the clock, do not take vacations and come without any emotional baggage.

RPA has brought around much hype and enthusiasm among higher management of organisations who envision improved productivity and morale among the employees. Hence, the implementation of RPA often starts out like with a lot of excitement in the beginning that ends quickly, frequently leading to disappointment.

Where does the problem lie?

Project ownership: IT or Finance – IT teams which service the needs of the entire organisation in terms of hardware maintenance, cybersecurity compliance and software issues already have a lot on their plate.

A project introduced and driven by Finance or Operations is rarely met with enthusiasm by the IT Department.

Both parties have their roles to play in order to maintain the sustainability of RPA programmes.

Whilst Finance or Operations are often business driven, focusing on how much a process can drive up productivity, the IT team can contribute its technical knowledge about the existing IT infrastructure, integration between applications and data governance.

It is of utmost importance that both parties work hand in hand to reap the maximum rewards of RPA.

The responsibility of an RPA project ultimately lies with Finance as the key team to drive the project forward, contrary to the traditional beliefs that software related projects should be spearheaded by IT.

Before RPA-ing your processes, improve them first! Always challenge and re-examine the current processes within your company. The biggest mistake companies tend to make is to automate their ‘as-if’ processes, making the cautious mistake of automating redundant processes which are not required in the first place.

The ultimate silver bullet to resolving process inefficiencies using RPA are process redesigning and continuous improvement.

Change Management- Incorporating RPA into your business is not just about using technology, it is a cultural change. Failing to implement proper change management among your employees will lead to the ultimate demise of RPA implementation.

Humans are creatures of habits, hence the need to understand that robots are not taking over their jobs.

They are instead taking over the repetitive and unproductive tasks which humans perform, providing humans with a chance to upskill and perform tasks which are worthy of their capabilities. How do we effectively move from managing a team of people to managing exceptions thrown out by robots?

As Melanie Warwick of Google says: “Automation is not the destination, return on investment is.” RPA should be seen as a team sport, pulling together multiple functions of a business to achieve maximum ROI.

“The only limitation to RPA is our imagination” – RPA coupled with Artificial Intelligence will drive a new wave of digital transformation, so instead of merely adapting to it, let’s ride it!