As middle market companies look for new solutions to improve their profitability, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is becoming an increasingly valuable investment. Once relegated to the IT departments of Fortune 500 businesses where there was the budget, patience, and technical know-how to support complex new technology, new vendors and implementation models have opened the opportunity for RPA with smaller companies.
Simply put, RPA is technology that allows you to automate manual business processes by simulating human input. For example, if you have someone who needs to take information from a customer email, look that information up in one database, and then enter information from the database and from the customer email in another system, that is considered a manual business process that is likely repeatable and something that can be automated with a “bot.”
GUEST POST | STEPHEN RONAN, PRINCIPAL, CITRIN COOPERMAN
IDENTIFY AND DESIGN
Before you begin, you will need to identify the processes you wish to automate. There are two ways to identify your processes.
OPTION ONE | STEP-BY-STEP EVALUATION
Use a process taxonomy or inventory and perform a deliberate step-by-step evaluation of each process to determine the best candidates. With this approach, we recommend using a standard scoring matrix to measure the processes across the following dimensions:
- Odds of changing
- Characteristics of existing supporting systems
OPTION TWO | POLL YOUR TEAM
Poll your management team for processes that are manual, slow, and will either save employees time or make their work experience better. For many organizations at the beginning of their transformation journey and especially for companies who are required to use industry, customer, or vendor-specific technology platforms, this can be a practical and efficient approach. The odds are, your managers know the low-hanging fruit in their departments and, when dealing with this type of technology environment, there are bound to be plenty of processes that are good candidates.
Selecting processes isn’t just about identifying them – you also need to confirm that they are good candidates for automation. Designing how the automation will work at this stage will make sure that, before you commit to a full build or even purchasing the software, you confirm that the processes can and should be automated.
A process design will include a detailed process flow, information about each system that is used during the process, documentation of the data inputs and outputs of the process, and information on how long each step takes. After the process is designed, you will have enough information to understand how complex it will be to build, whether automating it is feasible, and what the cost and benefits of the automation will be.
CHOOSING SUCCESSFUL PROCESSES
We advise our clients to not choose their most complex processes for their first phase of automation implementation.
It is ok to gradually work up to highly complex automations; however, you want to start with functions that are limited in scope, not overly complex to build, and ideally measurable.
All automations are evaluated along a quantitative axis and a qualitative axis. The quantitative axis is cost or time savings.
COST SAVINGS FOR AUTOMATIONS WILL GENERALLY COME FROM ONE OF THREE AREAS:
- Time savings related to eliminating manual labor from the processes, generally calculated by looking at the staff time saved by automating a given process
- Benefit from the process being executed faster or more frequently (i.e. driving down Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) by invoicing and sending collection statements more frequently)
- Eliminating mistakes that cause some sort of negative outcome such as time spent on root-cause analyses and problem resolution, customer churn, etc.
The qualitative axis is about whether automating the process will make the customer experience or the employee experience better. Every business has their “problem” processes that nobody likes to do and everyone knows about. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a reconciliation and sometimes it’s something as complex as employee onboarding. While these processes may not always yield significant time savings, automating them makes everyone’s lives easier and leads to less friction with employees and customers. Automating these types of processes will build credibility for your RPA project and fix something that is considered to be a painful issue in the business. We generally recommend including one or two of these processes in your first automation phase.
While certain processes may not always yield significant time savings, automating them makes everyone’s lives easier and leads to less friction with employees and customers.
Principal | Citrin Cooperman
Steve Ronan is a principal and the leader of Citrin Cooperman’s Strategy & Business Transformation and Business Process Outsourcing Practices. He is an experienced professional in the theory and execution of improving business value. Citrin Cooperman is among the largest, full-service assurance, tax, and business advisory firms in the United States, having steadily built its business serving a diverse and loyal clientele since 1979. They have deep experience in a variety of industries, including entertainment, financial services, franchising, health care, hospitality, private equity, real estate, and technology. Their mission is to help their clients “focus on what counts.” They provide a comprehensive, integrated business approach to traditional services, which includes proactive insights throughout the lifecycle of their clients; wherever they do business, across the globe.
Stephen E. Ronan
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