When you think about automation, it's easy to think that it's a very technical activity, and of course technology is an important component. But what actually determines the success of automation is often the work that is done before the technology is implemented, in other words it is often wise to do a feasibility study.
Do not automate incorrect processes
For example, the feasibility study is about finding out why you are automating and choosing which process to start with. It is also about mapping the selected process and making analogue process steps digital and identifying which steps can be deleted. Automating a faulty or inefficient process instead magnifies and multiplies the existing problems.
RPA projects: from idea to business benefit in three steps
At AddPro, we implement RPA projects in three stages. However, not all of our customers go through all three steps, because sometimes the customer has done parts of the steps on their own or with help from elsewhere. By listening carefully to where the customer is at, we can together identify how AddPro can best help the customer. The three steps in a typical RPA project are:
- Implementation of process improvement (digitalisation)
- Technical implementation (digitisation)
- Pre-study - process selection and change proposals
The feasibility study can look very different depending on where the customer's organisation is located. It can be a review of the processes where AddPro advises on which process is appropriate to start with. In other cases, the customer may already have a clear idea of the process they want to start with and AddPro can go further and help the customer map the process and make suggestions on how it can be streamlined. The feasibility study will also usually look at the extent to which the process is digital and what parts may need to be digitised before the process can be automated, as well as how long the process takes in its original form.
Implementation of process improvement - preparing the process for automation
This step builds on the findings of the feasibility study and implements the process improvements. For example, this may involve removing unnecessary steps. In many organisations there are processes that have steps that can be removed without degrading the process, such as reminders being sent out on an ad hoc basis for activities that can be automated instead. This step also ensures that the process follows the framework and also that it has a proper framework of its own, i.e. that there are binary steps where it is crystal clear whether this or that scenario should follow after a particular step and that the interfaces are digital. Already after this step, the process has become more efficient, but it is still not robotised.
Technical implementation - automation is completed
The third part is about the technical implementation and if you have done the previous two steps well, this step should not be very difficult to implement. There are many different tools that can be used for automation. At AddPro we often use Microsoft Power Automate. After automation is complete, it is important to evaluate the business benefits, for example by measuring how long the process takes in its new form. This gives you a figure for what you got for your investment and also a clear basis for whether it would be worthwhile to develop the automation with a more advanced integration. Finally, the question of management needs to be answered at this stage. Although RPA is very easy to get started with, as with any IT solution, sometimes the flows stop working. It could be that you have built a flow based on the robot clicking around in a business system and if the business system interface is updated, the flow will stop working. Then you should have a plan in place for who should act and how quickly it needs to happen. AddPro has been trusted to offer support and management agreements to many of our customers and can therefore offer peace of mind in minimising process downtime by rectifying any errors as they occur.
Towards all-time-high with the help of automation
But what about Olle, the faithful financial manager we have followed in two previous blog posts? How did he do? Well, he continued to work as acting CEO for a few months and during that time kept the company in good order. The increased workload that he feared could be managed quite well by automating some workflows. In addition to the RPA flow for the forecast report, which Olle built in the previous blog post, flows were implemented for onboarding new hires, invoice posting, and compiling monthly results. The new hire onboarding flow not only included ordering a computer/phone, account and permissions, but also directed the new hire to relevant training material in the company's interactive training portal. The automation enabled the company to get its monthly results faster, with the result that it was actually able to act on the figures with, for example, additional sales efforts or the allocation of more resources in strained areas before too much time had passed. As we leave the fictional Olle to his - by the looks of it - rather bright fate, he is busily discussing how other parts of the company's operations can use automation to reduce stress and improve results. And it actually looks like his company will make all-time highs this year! That's what happens when your people are allowed to focus on what adds the most value. All's well that ends well!
If you're reading this, you may also see that automation can help your organisation. At AddPro, we'd love to help you get started, no matter what stage of the journey you're at. Contact us and we'll set up a meeting to talk about your unique situation!