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5 steps to getting started with robotic process automation

If you’re thinking about getting your business started with robotic process automation, you’re no doubt drawn to perceived time-saving and efficient benefits it can provide. But when implementing it into your company culture, how big should you go?

There is no right or wrong answer. At the extremes, some businesses go big and “all in” right away, while others are more measured with an individual use case to provide proof points before further deployment. Many others take a hybrid approach that lies somewhere in between.

Getting started with RPA may look different from business to business, but designing a proof-of-concept project is often the best way to jumpstart RPA efforts in your organization.

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An attendee working on a laptop computer participates in the Yahoo! Inc. Mobile Developer Conference Hackathon in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. The Hackathon is an opportunity for mobile developers to come together and hack around the Yahoo! Inc. Mobile Developer Suite. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Here are five steps to put you on the right path:

  1. Assess your current situation. Examine your processes, tools and workflows to determine what’s working well and what might need to be tinkered with before introducing RPA. If you find processes or workflows that are particularly time consuming and eat up large chunks of human work hours, they might be strong candidates for an RPA solution.
  2. Benchmark your existing processes. Gauge the efficiency of your current processes by looking at things such as the average cost of invoice processing or how long it takes to onboard a customer. Whether good or bad when compared with industry standards, the goal is to blow those standard numbers away with automation. This exercise will help you assess the cost of various functions, in terms of both time and money. Further, documenting your benchmarks arms you with evidence you can later use as proof points to showcase your more efficient RPA processes.
  3. Identify your RPA use cases. Which processes within your organization are ideal candidates for robotic process automation? Which require complementary solutions such as document capture and transformation or process insight and improvement?
  4. Organize and prioritize your use cases. Determine your highest-impact use cases and aim to first deploy RPA in ways that will maximize productivity gains and ROI. This sets you up well to prove the success of RPA within the line of business and to your executive sponsors. For those building a case to bring RPA into an organization, you may consider identifying just one or two key use cases that can positively impact the entire organization.
  5. Launch your proof-of-concept project. In most situations, this is a relatively simple use case that delivers high impact. Examples include:

Customer due diligence: Last year, Deutsche Bank was fined $204 million for serious violations of anti-money laundering controls. Financial institutions need better ways to comply with constantly fluctuating regulations to avoid fines that can damage both their reputation and bottom line.

Invoice portal integration: Automated technology eliminates the need to manually transfer files between multiple portals by transacting through a single system and quickly developing robots that pull together all of the relevant information you need from each portal. This speeds up the process and virtually eliminates the risk of human error.

Depending on the structure of your organization, change may not always come swiftly. Executives need proof points when making major decisions such as augmenting or flat-out reimagining long-standing processes.

When it comes to RPA, using these five steps to assess your organization's processes and determine which would make for a high-impact proof of concept will set you up for both short- and long-term automation success. And remember — it’s not about replacing jobs. It’s more about handling mundane or time-consuming tasks in a more efficient manner to enable your teams to spend more time concentrating on meaningful work.

This ultimately helps build morale within your organization while also making it more productive.

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