Enterprises have begun to invest considerably in robotic process automation (RPA) in recent years. RPA is one of the critical technologies that enterprises now are leveraging to automate their business processes to make their businesses more agile and efficient. When properly deployed and managed, RPAs can automate everything from mundane tasks (such as organizing files) to more significant functions, such as user provisioning to resources and more.
While RPAs do promise to help businesses move more quickly and with more agility, a company’s RPA strategy needs to be executed effectively across the organization. In my recent discussions with CIOs and others implementing RPA, the following practices repeatedly were mentioned as essential to RPA success.
One of the most common mistakes made is not thoroughly understanding the process being automated and the potential implications of automating the process. An example would include a business process that is time-sensitive and automated, which throws off the workflow timing. It’s possible the automation moves things along too quickly.
Another example would be not taking into consideration the nature of the data being accessed. If it’s regulated or sensitive data, there are security implications that must be managed. If the bot potentially will process sensitive or regulated information, the bot should be controlled appropriately. RPA technology is an IT function, and at the very least IT and security should be made aware of and potentially involved in the oversight of the bot. It’s much better to inform them and bring them in early than them finding out later about an army of bots managing and manipulating information.
After the process being automated is understood, evaluate the process for potential optimization. Sometimes processes that have been underway in organizations for years are more than just inefficient; they’re actually antiquated. Look for ways the process can be made more effective; consult all stakeholders when necessary or warranted; and consider refining the process if possible. There’s no sense in automating an inefficient process.
After the RPA is built, make sure to document its functionality and how its code works and examine its functionality. The RPA is now ready to be used. It’s important to continually monitor the RPA for potential abuse or something gone wonky. Send all the documentation relating to the bot to the IT department.
Should the bot do something unexpected or unwanted, prepare to answer for it as the bot, or business process, owner. Make sure the bot is managing risk within its acceptable scope and that it’s not given too high a level of access. While you as process owner may have administrative rights to an application, does it make sense for those rights to be transferred to the bot? Perhaps it does, and perhaps it doesn’t. It’s a risk management call and will vary from situation to situation. Just be aware that, as the owner, you also own the risk.
In one, two or five years from now you may not be in your current job position. It’s essential that the bot is constructed for this eventuality. Beyond the proper documentation and cataloging of the bot mentioned previously, put into place the appropriate identity and entitlement management of the bot. Down the road, someone may want to enhance the bot with machine learning or AI capabilities. For when this happens, it’ll be essential to have the bot well-documented as well as its entitlements well-defined.
While some enterprises have chosen to undergo organizationwide automation efforts, others are dipping their toes in tepidly with small RPA pilots. Others still haven’t decided on how to incorporate bots within their organization, so it’s happening organically and haphazardly as individuals and departments decide to make a go of it on their own.
If an organization is large enough, it may make good sense to put into place an RPA center of excellence. It will provide a repository of policies and strategies for RPA deployment, help catalog bot capabilities and dependencies and help drive overall RPA efficiency as the organization becomes more and more automated.
These bots are here to stay—in fact, they are going to grow in numbers. Technology research and advisory firm Gartner expects global spending for RPA to reach $2.4 billion in 2022, up from $680 million last year. That’s an increase of 57 percent annually. RPAs help drive efficiencies and remove mundane, low-risk tasks and workflows so that humans can focus on higher value and higher cognitive tasks.
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