The RPA Revolution: 6 Things You Need to Know About Robotic Process Automation

This article is co-authored by Sutherland Global’s Ian Barkin (@IBarkin), Global Head of Innovation, and David Brain (@Dave_Brain), Global Head of Process Robotics.

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In a recent Sutherland blog post, we pointed out that robotic process automation (RPA) has been getting a lot of buzz these days. Companies are looking to jump on the RPA bandwagon, and with good reason. It eliminates the need for personnel to perform repetitive, manually intensive tasks, streamlining operations and reducing errors.

But RPA isn’t a standalone offering; it’s one component of a larger delivery strategy. An important, game changing component, certainly, but not a strategy in and of itself. For RPA to be effective, it’s essential to have your other business processes running smoothly – before making the leap to RPA. Here are a few key points to consider:

1. Just because something can be automated, doesn’t mean it should be.

Before committing to RPA, companies should look at all aspects of the solution. Some tasks are still better suited to ‘manual’ work – for example, exceptions that require human intervention or regulatory or policy-based judgment. Expecting end-to-end automation of all tasks is obviously not realistic.  Furthermore, automation should complement and not replace certain IT initiatives for ERP upgrade and tool deployment. Therefore, it’s important that businesses establish clear visibility of their IT roadmap and then make the decision as to what tasks will benefit from robotic automation.

2. Success is determined before development begins.

Companies can’t, or shouldn’t, start development until they have set the framework for a successful RPA approach. They need a robust requirements capture that outlines their technology landscape, process identification and future vision – and that integrates testing methodology to ensure accuracy. It’s essential that businesses have a firm understanding of the current systems in place (including the process and sub-process activity steps throughout the entire value chain), as well as the necessary changes to process and management that will enable the new system.

It’s also vital to attain operational ownership of the RPA solution design. Implementing RPA involves operational changes that affect business processes and practices. Without buy-in from key internal stakeholders, it’s unlikely that the transition will succeed. It is, therefore, critically important to get personnel and management on board before automating.

3. Implement small, then build up.

With RPA, it’s important not to shy away from tackling complex processes. But that doesn’t mean a “big bang” approach is the way to go. Instead, companies should roll out the new system in stages. RPA isn’t process-specific, so the robots can operate multiple processes without being fully integrated. This leaves the door open to later automate processes that weren’t selected when RPA was initially implemented, empowering businesses to expand the RPA solution as they grow.

Regardless of whether a new process is introduced at the outset or further down the road, it’s always important to implement a first release with enough time to test and refine the operating model before completing the transition.

4. Information security is key and must be designed early on.

Increasingly, companies are turning to RPA because it offers improved security, audit capabilities, analytics and governance. RPA technology can interpret existing applications for processing transactions, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. So before flipping the switch, businesses must ensure that they’ll be able to trace all virtual machine (VM) activity back to the individual who issued the directive. This ensures accountability and transparency.

The physical location of where data should, and could, be stored is also a security consideration that must be addressed from the outset. Keeping data onsite leaves important, confidential information vulnerable to theft, or damage due to fire or flooding. Storing data offsite with a trusted partner provider will protect valuable information from misuse or loss, ensuring business continuity.

5. Locate the project team close to the operation.

Despite the best of intentions, when it comes to day-to-day processes, local management hierarchy always wins. If there is a discrepancy between how the RPA approach is intended to work and how it is actually carried out onsite, ambiguity and confusion will arise, resulting in delays and mistakes. Positioning the RPA project team close to the operation increases the likelihood that processes will be carried out harmoniously, and the way they were designed. In short, proximity to the operation ensures that the desired benefits are achieved.

6. Don’t just buy “robots,” buy a solution designed to transform operations.

As mentioned, RPA is just one component of a bigger delivery strategy. It has the power to change the BPO industry’s landscape, but only if properly integrated as part of a greater whole. Ultimately, businesses will have most success if they partner with a provider who will ensure that the implementation and use of RPA is closely aligned with their internal strategy. A good partner, such as Sutherland, will do more than implement systems; they will enable transformation.

Why Sutherland?

Sutherland is a pioneer in the field of RPA. Our Innovation Labs are devoted to BPO innovations, giving us unique insights into the latest industry developments, and empowering us to offer our clients the very best in available resources and technologies. With our ongoing partnership with key partners, as well as our internal support center of RPA excellence, we are ideally positioned to help companies transform their businesses. In fact, over the next year, we will have gone live with several major RPA deployments across multiple sectors. To learn how RPA can help you, schedule an appointment today.

For ongoing updates on F&A automation, including RPA, follow our LinkedIn page.

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Ian Barkin (5 Posts)

Ian Barkin is the Global Head of Innovation at Sutherland Innovation Labs. Responsible for managing the innovation process inside Sutherland in order to identify business opportunities and new technologies/services, and then to develop and commercialize these into capabilities for the benefit of our clients. Doggedly focused on value creation, inspired collaboration and development of industry altering capabilities and services. Twitter: @IBarkin


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About Ian Barkin

Ian Barkin is the Global Head of Innovation at Sutherland Innovation Labs. Responsible for managing the innovation process inside Sutherland in order to identify business opportunities and new technologies/services, and then to develop and commercialize these into capabilities for the benefit of our clients. Doggedly focused on value creation, inspired collaboration and development of industry altering capabilities and services. Twitter: @IBarkin

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