October 10, 2023
According to research done by Automation Academy, more than one-third of failed automation implementations are due to poor selection of an automation use case. We wrote this article to help you avoid the pitfalls we’ve seen time and time again and guide your thinking in the right direction.
Before we dive in, here’s a quick reminder of what RPA is and how it works.
Robotic process automation, most commonly referred to as RPA, is the process of using an automated program to carry out repetitive tasks in a more efficient, faster and accurate way than a human could do. RPA has the strength to interface with multiple systems that an employee would have to access individually. This could involve emails, files, excel calculations, websites, custom proprietary software, and more.
In addition to working with the basic business software, RPA technology can interface with more complex systems like APIs or databases. RPA is an effective way to bridge the gap between human processes and complex software.
7 Criteria for Automating Processes
When deciding where RPA could be best utilized in your business, look for 7 key characteristics in each of your processes. Something that meets most or all of these criteria will be a good candidate for automation.
Pro tip: Try to quantify the ROI upfront, as this will help you prioritize your projects.
Time-consuming processes are primed for optimization with automation. Look for processes that are eating up lots of your team’s time day-to-day. Are these processes providing value equal to the time spent on them? What other tasks could your team be focused on if they had that time back? Sometimes the best RPA candidates are simply the ones that require too many hours out of your team’s workweek.
Developing new automation takes time, so you want to weigh the time to automate with how much time that automation is saving. If this process takes a human only 15 minutes a week, it might be difficult to justify the hours of development work needed to automate it.
Instead, identify processes that take large amounts of time — we’re talking hours out of the day. The more hours your team is spending on a specific process, the greater your ROI will be when you automate that process and free up your team.
2. High Volume
Another facet of determining the right processes is choosing high-volume workflows. Tasks that must be done over and over are extremely tedious for humans, but not for computers. High-volume processes are ripe for automation because they typically yield the highest human error rates. A computer, however, can perform these tasks around the clock with 100% accuracy.
Consider processes that must happen multiple times daily or continuously for your business to run smoothly. They might happen more at the end of a month or quarter or during your busy season. RPA tools can help you manage the influx of work without having to overextend your team.
RPA requires a rules-based process, so your best automation candidates are stable processes that don’t change often. These tasks can often be tough for humans to focus on, but computers excel at them. A process’s repetitive nature can also mean it’s run at a regular cadence.
In a repetitive environment, humans tend to struggle with accuracy and productivity. Our brains go on auto-pilot and morale decreases, which leads to more errors in data. Automation solutions can take over the burden of mundane tasks so your team is happier and delivers better results.
The main advantage humans have over automation tools is the ability to deal with new situations and nuance. RPA is not like artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning models — it can’t adapt to situations or perform decision-making tasks. It adheres strictly to the rules your RPA developer programs for it.
For a successful RPA process, you need a clear map, where every situation is defined. It can be a fairly complicated map, if necessary, but the bot must have clear instructions on how to handle every possible scenario.
If a process is too complex, it might be effective to split it into two parts. For example, imagine 80% of use cases are well-defined, rules-based, and could be easily handled by an RPA bot. The remaining 20% of edge cases needing human intuition could be rerouted for manual processing.
Don’t write off an entire process as unfeasible for RPA just because some portion of it transactions need a human touch. There are plenty of strategies for deploying RPA that can match your specific business needs.
5. Prone to Error
Do you have certain processes that are prone to errors? Do these errors affect your business or your ability to make informed decisions? RPA solutions can drastically reduce and even eliminate errors in your data so you’re always confident you have the right information.
Any repetitive process (especially with typing involved) will inevitably produce human errors. A human can't be perfect. However, a well-programmed bot will have much higher accuracy rates because, technically, it can be perfect.
It’s also helpful to consider if the consequence of error is very high. RPA implementation can solve problems that cause compliance infraction fines, rework time, and so on.
6. Involves Multiple Employees
This is another contributing factor to the ROI of your RPA solution. When you’re choosing which process to automate first, finding one that impacts multiple people can greatly increase your return on automation.
For example, you could choose a process that saves one person one hour of manual work a day. Or you could save 10 people one hour a day, which saves 10 hours for your business.
How many of your processes require multiple employees' time and attention? These typically cost businesses the most time and money because they pull employees from multiple departments away from their core roles and into more menial tasks. RPA can help you streamline these processes and get your team back to what they do best.
7. Involves Disparate Systems
Do any of your processes require the use of multiple systems to complete tasks? RPA is excellent at connecting disparate systems and making them work together so you don’t have to bounce between platforms.
When multiple systems that are not designed to talk to each other are at play, it’s common for businesses to put a human in the middle to coordinate the systems. RPA technology is specifically designed to fill that same gap, acting as a bridge between systems.
A process doesn’t have to touch multiple systems to be a successful RPA project, but the lowest-hanging fruit for automation often falls in this category because RPA is uniquely fitted to solving these problems. Plus, companies often have many human-based processes that act as these critical bridges between systems, slowing them down and costing them money.
Practical Use Cases
RPA can be used in almost any industry, including financial services, healthcare, supply chain distribution, field service teams, human resources, and more.
A few use cases that we cover in our RPA use cases guide include:
- Data entry
- Account reconciliation
- Invoice processing
- Client onboarding
- And more!
Read our case study to learn more about how RPA can help streamline data entry and eliminate backlogs in data-heavy industries and businesses.
Benefits of RPA
As you can see, there’s a lot that RPA can accomplish in your business, bringing a lot of perks. Some of the most impactful benefits include:
- Cost savings – Save money by investing in RPA and eliminating software that’s not cutting it.
- Time savings – Get your team back to strategic initiatives and let RPA take care of the menial tasks.
- Increased productivity – When RPA is doing the work of a full-time employee, or sometimes a whole team, your business is more productive.
- Improved efficiency – No more frustrating processes that require you to bounce between systems. RPA makes your business processes more streamlined and efficient.
- Accurate data – Never worry about data errors again when you turn the task over to RPA.
- Employee satisfaction and engagement – When people work on mundane and low-impact tasks, their creativity and productivity decrease. Use RPA to give your team more hours for the work they’re excited about that has higher returns and makes your company better.
- Scalability – Start with one process and then continue to expand. It’s likely there are quite a few processes in your business that would benefit from automation.
- Increased compliance – Have greater peace of mind by knowing processes needed for compliance are being done accurately and on time.
Are Your Processes Ready for Automation?
Almost every business has processes that are more headache than helpful. RPA can take these and make them more efficient and effective for your business. If you’re ready to stop losing time to tedious tasks, schedule a call with us. We’d be happy to assess how RPA can fit into your business.