RPA Pitfall #2: Striving for End-to-End Automation When It’s Not Cost-Effective
As RPA becomes more universal, there is a justifiable desire to automate cross-functional business processes from end-to-end. The benefits of doing so are clear: cost savings, productivity and efficiency gains, capacity increase, general process improvement, etc. However, in most cases, this is a tricky situation that organizations are lured into based on perceived benefits. We often witness across various implementations that an organization’s “boil the ocean” approach to automating an entire end-to-end process often proves to be impossible, or, at best, extremely difficult. RPA is not a one-size-fits-all solution. For a true end-to-end automation, other technologies such as OCR or machine learning are likely required and, in some cases, extensive process re-design or optimization efforts are needed just to enable a process for automation. These extra steps are all likely needed if the approach is to focus on an entire process, which in the end proves to be a costly endeavor that requires a substantial amount of effort. However, this should not be a barrier to realizing value from your RPA program.
The key is to identify your quick wins. For example, in an order-to-cash process instead of automating from end-to-end, identifying the sub-processes within it that are best suited for RPA such as Invoice Processing and Customer Account Updates could prove more valuable to the organization in automating them separately. To identify ROI-heavy solutions and plan out an automation road map accordingly, an organization needs to assess which processes would deliver the most value in conjunction with the effort required to implement the proposed solution. For this to happen effectively, investing in Business Analysis prior to Automation is a crucial step in an organization’s journey.
Having a trained automation business analyst involved from the beginning stages of automation mitigates the risk of tackling a project too large, or worse, attempting to automate one without enough ROI to justify the time and effort it would require. BAs are trained to identify the best processes based on a variety of benefits to the business. Outside of time and money they are trained to calculate throughput increase, error reduction opportunity, ease of implementation, and feasibility scores. Relating to this pitfall specifically, feasibility scoring solves for this as it determines how much of a process can be automated and what outside technologies and efforts are required to do so, thus preventing a company from trying to tackle an end-to-end automation and failing. A trained Business Analyst would also be able to break apart a proposed end-to-end automation and create a structure for automating the sub-processes within it. In most cases, automating sub processes within a major business process offers a higher ROI with similar time reduction savings while requiring less time and monetary investment to develop and deploy the solution.