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3 Criteria to Choosing the Right Process to Automate

Posted by Francine Haliva on Nov 11, 2015 7:15:31 AM

As with any new technology, adopting robotic process automation (RPA) requires an investment of time and resources, as well as a commitment to change.  In our last blog post, we discussed three very important questions every organization should ask to establish if their business is ready for robotic process automation. Once the decision has been made to move forward, the next stage of the journey is choosing which processes are best suited for automation and have the potential to produce the most value.

Perhaps the hardest aspect of RPA is choosing which process to start with.  For example, should you tackle simple processes first or should you automate the biggest and most complex process first? Consider the pros and cons: If you start by automating simple processes then potentially you will get faster results with minimal disturbances.  On the downside, the results will most likely have minimal impact to your company's operations in terms of solving time or cost constraints.  If you choose complex processes that are critical to your company's business then the reward and ROI can be much bigger, but the time and effort involved is also greater. So where to begin?

Let's start with the basics. The first rule of thumb is that a process must be rules-based and definable to be automated.  These types of processes are most often data-driven and lend themselves to tedious and repetitive tasks commonly associated with processes in HR Services, Finance and Accounting, IT Services and Supply Chain operations.

A best practice for carrying out this initial assessment is to create a scorecard across the business for rating the automation potential of your business processes.  This scorecard will help you keep track and provide visibility of the process automation effort you are considering and help to avoid potential pitfalls.   

To help you determine which of your rules-based processes will offer the most value from robotic process automation, we recommend you assess and analyze each process based on these 3 criteria:

1. The Human Factor 

Processes that are consuming too much of your worker's time or using too many dedicated human resources are great candidates for automation.  In an eye-opening study conducted by the Vanson Bourne group, 63 percent of companies surveyed spend more than a quarter of their time on repetitive, manual tasks and 17 percent spend over half of their time. By automating mundane, repetitive, administrative tasks, your staff can focus on business valuable initiatives that require innovative thinking, personal interaction, problem-solving and decision-making.

Consider the following:

  • Which processes take up a large percentage of my employees' time? 
  • Which processes require a high percentage of dedicated staff?
  • Which processes require hiring of additional staff during seasonal spikes in workload

2. Complexity

Complex processes that have critical functions in your company's day-to-day business operations have more to achieve with RPA and usually result in greater gains and ROI.  But keep in mind that, in general, the automation scenarios for these processes will also take longer to develop and involve more commitment. The best way to approach this step is to speak to the people who perform the process day in and day out to gather the requirements first hand so you have a clear picture of the scope and time required. 

Consider the following:

  • How many steps are involved in the process (both user steps and integration steps)?
  • Does it include critical functions?
  • How many different applications does the process use end-to-end?
  • Are there decision-points within the process that require human intervention?
  • What is the estimated delivery time to develop the automation scenario?

3. Stability

The third factor to consider is whether the process is stable enough to automate. A process that changes frequently or has significant unplanned change is a poor candidate for automation.

Consider the following:

  • How often does the process get changed?
  • How much does it change?
  • What is the lead time for change?

Choosing which processes to automate isn't easy; however, the closer you get to understanding your processes, the sooner you can create the ideal automation scenario for achieving success.  To find out more about Robotic Process Automation and how it can benefit your company, please download our eBook: Choosing the Best Processes for Robotic Process Automation.


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