Even though the manufacturing industry has seen robot-driven automation since the last couple of decades, the IT world has been speaking about it only for the past 5-6 years. IT industry has really seen accelerated focus towards automation only in the recent past, one of the main reasons being the advent of tools like UIPath, Automation Anywhere and BluePrism that have brought down the time to create bots by providing an easy to use interface and rich feature set to integrate with third-party systems like ERP, etc.
These tools also allow us to build “intelligent bots” by integrating RPA with other cutting-edge digital technologies like Advanced OCR, AI, and ML. This has truly widened the scope for intelligent automation and has thrown opening many interesting possibilities in the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) space which were earlier considered impossible.
Is it as easy as it sounds? A large US-based consumer company had implemented RPA, creating 30+ bots to automate some of their business processes in the last one year. However, most bots either became defunct or failed to serve the envisioned purpose, for various reasons. This is not a one-off situation and is being faced by many organizations across the world who are running large automation programs.
ROI from RPA?
The solution lies in evolving processes and best practices which can be adhered to while working on automation projects to obtain desired results from the bots when they get deployed on production.
Also, clients must not fall into the “automation trap’ – they must keep in mind that adopting newer technologies will go through certain cycles of transformation before attaining maturity levels. One way to avoid this is to conduct extensive workshops with clients who are new to automation before embarking on automation projects. More significant benefits like quicker decision-making, increased compliance, improved turnaround time, etc. should be the goals rather than mere FTE reduction.
Choosing the right automation partner
As many businesses lack inherent automation expertise, choosing the right partner is of utmost importance. RPA projects tend to take less cycle time, and businesses may engage multiple vendors in order to parallelize the RPA projects to maximize cycle time. This may result in dilution of the objective, with each partner running their own individual thread, thus creating an unmanageable situation. Binding all the vendors through a common objective and ensuring that with necessary governance, mechanisms will achieve the desired outcome.
Most of the organizations start with automating HR and Finance use cases as these tend to be inhouse, and the risk of failure is minimal. However, the larger benefit of automation can be derived from discovering business use cases like Claim Management, Case File Handling, FDA filing, etc. These use cases demand deep domain expertise and will need advanced technologies like OCR, AI & ML, IoT, etc. to make the bots intelligent.
The road ahead
Finally, enough thought needs to be given to the post automation scenario when multiple bots are being deployed with reduced human oversight on the business processes, since bots tend to go unnoticed. This involves following standard design principles while developing the bots. Evolving checks and balances and having a strategy to monitor the bots in action while getting real-time insights from running bots, will make the system predictable.
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