Not until you fail with RPA can you begin to succeed.
I sat with my son, Tanner, the other night, helping him take information from an Excel spreadsheet and transfer it into a report in a Word document table. Really mindless transfer, that went from a table in Excel to a research paper.
I sat with him formatting the information for an easier transfer, because he was doing the move one cell at a time. It got me thinking about RPA and what processes and tasks are the best to automate using RPA. I could tell you the typical suspects like HR onboarding, order fulfillment, customer acquisition, call center details and the list can go on.
How To Identify The Best Tasks To Automate
We will have articles and use cases specific to those automations, but what I wanted to impart in this article is how to identify these tasks that are the best to automate. There are two ways to accomplish this that I will describe here:
- A survey or interview of current personnel
- A sniffer or automation mining tool
First, how to find out what processes are best to automate using interviews and surveys. Like what I was doing with Tanner, you have people in your company that are doing the same thing.
Whether they are comparing information for accuracy or creating reports, they are being spreadsheet jockeys. This is a valuable tool, but it is time-consuming. What they should be doing is looking at how to use the information, or coming up with better ways to infer from that information.
What they are really doing is cutting and pasting, and looking at things line by line. So the easiest way and the best processes to automate are ones that are task-driving that use Excel. So I would start with a survey that politely asks if you use Excel and, in that effort, do you do the following:
- Cut information from one cell to another
- Cut information and transition it to another application
- Look at two separate pieces of information, possibly two Excel sheets, to see if the numbers are the same or different
If you ask those three simple questions and the answer is yes, you now have some easy tasks that you can automate using RPA. Of course, it’s worth remembering at this stage that the more repetitive the task which is considered for automation, generally the higher the ROI and/or removal of human error.
If you are looking for a more intelligent and concrete way to figure out your task automation, you will want to use a sniffer or task discovery tool. I was recently on a call with a company, Skan.ai, that utilizes AI technology to monitor the behavior of people on applications.
From there you can infer task automation. It is quite brilliant and quite scary technology. When using this technology, often it can be looked at as the X-ray machine that the doctor needs to use to prescribe the corrective action.
So you run the analysis and it tells you several things, starting with what applications are being used, when and how. From this you can infer what teams and what actions are taking place. This will allow you to hone in on specifics of process optimization, not just task automation.
RPA Automation Task Examples
As it pertains to what is the best place to start, or what processes are best to automate, I have my list as follows (I have these as they are a generally applicable functions among all businesses and government):
- Onboarding new employees – You can utilize RPA to create the image, build the laptop or desktop, create the logins, and other tasks that allow a person to come onboard. This would also include acceptance letters, sending out handbooks, and any training
- Termination – similar to new hire, cutting access can be painful and personal. Having this automated is a process that can be easy to do
- Invoice automation – this allows you to take the information from your CRM or point of sale system to generate the appropriate invoices to customers. Obviously not applicable to government.
Many processes are industry-specific, but if you think about what all companies do, you can infer some of the most automated processes.
In regards to the original line of my article – you can create happy path automation, and most people do this. Where they come unstuck is that when they fail, they don’t learn. Fast failure in your RPA task automation allows you to see where you have incompleteness in what you have chosen to automate. Know you will have to cover your automations until they have failed enough that both your failure and learning are at tolerable levels.