Less “pyrotechnic”, RPA (Robotic Process Automatization) technology emerges as the one that can bring, in the short term and with relative ease of implementation, the greatest impact for companies.
However, reaching the real potential of this tool has been presenting a series of pitfalls that compromises or even unviable many of its benefits.
RPA is a technology for automating business processes with a high level of repetition, with mappable rules and with a low level of variation. In general, these processes involve consulting and using information and performing simple tasks, such as creating e-mails, issuing notes and payment slips, etc. These activities are now carried out by a “virtual assistant”, programmed using software with its own technology.
A recent report points out that the potential RPA market in the world can reach an impressive $ 50 billion. In 2019 investment in this area is expected to be around $ 2.1 billion, growing at an annual rate of 37%. Another study (2018) indicates that 80% of companies are at some stage in the implementation of this technology, with only 4% of them having large-scale operations.
Complementary to this data, there is a market reference that reveals that the RPA implementation can cause a cost reduction of up to 65%.
In addition to the reduction, the RPA also brings benefits such as increased productivity, greater availability (24X7, 365 days), reduction of operational errors, standardization in the execution of processes and consequent better quality, meeting deadlines more quickly, greater control, speed, better information management (including data and statistics generation), compliance and security.
The journey to this horizon has its stages and mishaps, see below a summary of the main seven:
1 – Correct processes mapping: Some companies prematurely implement RPA, not having correctly mapped and structured the processes that will be robotized. This can generate the need for many revisions, establish many exceptions and even rework, in addition to reducing the efficiency achieved with the implementation.
2 – Really standardized processes: It is common for a given process to have the perception of being standardized, but when we look in practice there are many exceptions, particular situations and parallel demands. Automation through RPA has the possibility to encompass several standards, however, depending on the volume, programming is not economically viable and may require too much human supervision.
3 – IT participation: The RPA project starts with the business and process areas, but after overcoming the basic issues, the IT department must have an active participation, as it has detailed information about the company’s software architecture and specifications of the systems with the RPA will interact. In addition, after implementation, it is necessary to monitor the robots by specialized professionals to make the adjustments, maintenance and even next developments that will guarantee the return on the investment made.
4 – Expectations of stakeholders: This is a basic issue of project management and even more important in robotization. The expectations of cost reduction must be very well evaluated through a well-built Business Case (since it varies a lot from situation to situation), as well as the visibility of human interactions, which will still be important to identify eventual processing failures and atypical situations, analyze the data generated by the robots and even identify needs for improvements and new opportunities.
5 – Employee engagement: Similar to the previous item, but with a focus on people who will interact with the robots. It is important to understand that this is a new model of work, in which robots perform repetitive tasks and collaborators the strategic, analytical and creative parts of the work, in addition to supervising the systems. It is necessary to build and cultivate this ‘good coexistence’ between robots and humans.
6 – Assisted operation: It is also important that, after implantation, the company is prepared for the daily operation of the robots. In the beginning, it is common for doubts, exceptions and even extra schedules to arise that will guarantee greater fluidity and efficiency of the processes in the medium and long terms, have a dedicated team to this operation is a critical success factor.
7 – Remote unstructured information and data management: Almost all RPAs handle large amounts of data. For automation to be possible, this data needs to be structured and accessible in secure environments. For example, invoice information must be digitized or, in another situation, the different databases accessed must have compatible formats.
The RPA has a clear general objective, to increase the efficiency of companies in certain areas. Therefore, at the end of the implementation, in addition to the precautions already mentioned, it is necessary to monitor the execution indicators to “do the math” to validate that the initial investment had the expected return. With this, it is possible to direct the next steps, whether for an expansion within the same area, opening new work fronts and even, in very rare cases, leaving this model if the cost / benefit is not as desired.
Photo by Sarah Kilian