Over the years, science has made great strides in many areas. Yet we have failed to act on our most valuable asset: time. There are no methods to increase the hours in a day, but there are technologies that support us in optimizing it. Automation is one of them. The more tasks and processes we can make autonomous, the more time we can devote to actions that improve business performance. But what do we need to know about Robotic Process Automation? Here are some insights.
What is the difference between Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
Before we talk about barriers to automation or robotics-related processes, it is useful to understand what changes when we talk about cognitive automation or deterministic automation. Actually, there is no real difference; in fact, we can say that intelligent automation is the convergence of two technologies: Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence.
When automation is added to the ability to learn and modify the output based on reading different data, we enter Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). The contribution of AI is precisely to go beyond deterministic software programming and adapt the program based on new data processed from a dataset chosen as the source of machine training.
Let’s take an example. Suppose I need software that will classify data in the same columns as a standard spreadsheet and enter the instructions first. In that case, deterministic automation will be enough for me to repeat the process with each request. If, on the other hand, I need to classify information that comes to me via email, the text of which is constantly changing, I need software that goes beyond mere classification and can read and interpret the content. So while in the former case, I will only need RPA, I will need IPA in the latter.
How to choose the right level of automation in the enterprise?
Although there is no doubt that automation facilitates the work of resources, optimizes processes, and improves performance in the short and long term, not all companies choose a full implementation. It is more common, more or less unknowingly, to use software that has it only in particular areas. But what are the aspects to consider before making any kind of choice? Here are the main points from automation and RPA in general.
1. Interconnected processes: the logic of silos falls away
Department divisions are separations that are useful from an organizational point of view to define boundaries or assign activities but not functional from an operational point of view. Today’s activities are increasingly interconnected, and processes require sharing and smooth passage of information. We cannot imagine a human resources department that does not interact crosswise with the departments for which it will have to hire new resources. Nor a marketing department that is only superficially familiar with the product/service that is the subject of an entire campaign.
Yet there is not always sufficient time for information sharing and, more importantly, not all processes are structured to cross organizational boundaries. And here, RPA becomes an avenue that facilitates data transitions. Through summary dashboards, automation allows all employees to update and show data in real time during meetings.
2. Barriers to the adoption of automation
When it comes to new technologies or innovations, which are spreading and involve heavy investment, there are mainly two barriers:
- the high costs to be incurred, especially if the savings are not immediate;
- lack of experts in the company who know how to implement the technology and optimize it in a short time.
Automation is no exception in that, it requires skilled figures who cannot be trained in a short time and who, beyond the specific profession, can sense the potential and the sectors that could benefit the most.
Example. If I want to automate the subscription management of a service, there is software already programmed that would be sufficient to rely on. But if the service our company provides has exceptions, a pre-programmed program would not suffice, especially if the data used for programming changes all the time. Here is where an expert programmer is needed who can not only handle the variations but also shape the program based on the evolutions of the service.
If we do not have experts or talent in the company, the costs rise and add to the initial investment that will need more time to pay back. It is good to remember that the IT department’s resources perform various day-to-day activities already broken in, and the entry of the RPA, especially during the initial phase, requires time to devote that often cannot be found. In addition, the costs devoted to the IT department are not many and often run out with the purchase of technologies.
Finally, let us not forget that defining a well-structured strategy takes time and expertise. Just as indispensable is also a correct choice of the dataset to be used to program automation and worrying about the constant updating of data.
3. How to cope with change with resources
After ensuring we have the right skills and budget to implement automation, we need to involve most of the operational resources that will participate in the change.
Therefore, we will be faced with questions such as, “How do I do training if I don’t have time?” “If I have difficulties with the new processes, can I go back?” “If the program does these activities, what do I do?” “Are we sure we know the right strategies?”
Doubts during a change are physiological and sometimes even functional, but one must be prepared to give comprehensive and focused answers. This brings us to the next suggestion.
The potentials of automation are many, but you need to know about them in order to implement them properly in your company and gain numerous benefits from them Click To Tweet
4. Getting people to understand the potential of automation
The first step when introducing innovation is to show what the changes will be. It must be explained to employees that they will not lose their duties, but simply receive support that will enable them to devote themselves to more complex and fulfilling activities. Only in this way can obstructive actions to implementation be avoided. Instead, users of the software or services will need to be shown, in addition to the new methodologies, how the technology offers quick and effective solutions and to illustrate what the benefits of automation are, which may not be clear at first.
Let us not forget to evaluate the training time of the resources working in the processes involved. With them, we will have to share the strategy and long-term goals to show, practically, how RPA optimizes processes and makes the work of resources more efficient.
5. How automation fits into flows and processes
The only way to ensure customized automation based on business needs is to incorporate change into business process management. BPM allows optimizing workflows and processes, reducing costs, efficiently allocating resources, and improving scalability. This will highlight the flows where automation will make a difference. Indeed, we cannot automate effectively unless we thoroughly understand our processes and the effects they generate in the organization.
It has also been seen that the sectors that benefit most from RPA are logistics, finance, and the human resources department. This is because they have structured processes that are repeated with some frequency, such as: sending and classifying invoices, managing orders, and searching for resources based on skills and relevant CVs.
Automation, especially advanced automation in which Artificial Intelligence also plays its part, is not only expressing its potential in already active activities but is also proving useful in research and development departments and predictive activities whose data analysis enables more accurate decision making.