How to successfully conduct an RPA Opportunity Assessment!

Even if a high level business case for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been built and approved in an organization, and a core team has been designated for initiating RPA, building a pipeline for automation remains a challenge. Selecting the best candidate processes for RPA after evaluating them on certain criterion will actually make sure the RPA pipeline is strong and sustainable and the initial RPA adoption has been fruitful in terms of the Return on Investment (ROI).

There has been an effort to standardize the process selection procedure wherein those processes that fulfil certain predefined rules should be considered as the best candidates for automation. The processes that are repetitive and manual with a high transaction volume, processes with a standard readable electronic input type, processes that are well defined in terms of rules they follow and those processes that are mature and stable in an organization are best suited for automation. But identifying such processes can be a challenge for a Business Analyst, especially in an Outsourced or a Hybrid CoE model. It generally becomes imperative to consult the organization’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to understand the details of the processes that have the potential of automation.

Some of the processes to start with are HR Services, Supply Chain, Finance and Accounting and IT Services. Although there are many processes in an organization that can be automated but these are a good starting point. It becomes extremely necessary to put a solid framework in place to fetch all the details regarding the processes to be analyzed for automation. We can use the proprietary data collection sheet template to collect the information needed to evaluate a process. 

In the data collection sheet a Business Analyst on consultation with an SME can fill in the No. of FTEs, Transaction Processing Time, Process Frequency, Nature of the process (whether the process is rules based or changes with input), Input related details (Standard vs Non-Standard) and so on to determine the process complexity. Along with the complexity of the process the BA can analyze the total FTE savings and overall benefits of automating each process. The analysis puts each process in its respective quadrant of automation with the following values:

  1. Quick Win
  2. Low Hanging Fruit
  3. Must Do Improvement
  4. Long Term Improvement

Ideally processes that qualify for Quick Wins should be automated first followed by the ones in the Low Hanging Fruit category. Must do improvement processes should be automated later in the automation journey while the Long Term Improvement processes should be the last to be automated. This type of categorization enables to put the processes enables you to put the processes into different automation waves and ensure that the RPA implementation flows smoothly. A Business Analyst can make use of many tools available to send emails to different SMEs or stakeholders asking them certain questions about the processes and then record the responses to calculate the process complexity and benefits of automation.

During the process inventory its recommended to include all the processes available with a minimum information that can be collected through the template. This process evaluation phase happens early in the RPA journey. So it is not relevant to document every detail of the processes. Just keep the scope to a minimum and ensure that no process is excluded at this stage regardless of the internal business considerations or assumptions since some of these processes may later be proved to be a good RPA candidates.

In some organizations it is a challenge to analyze processes that span multiple geographies. In this case it is best to start the analysis in one country and then map the differences for the rest of the geographies. If in some cases the process is executed differently by different people then the SME should bring in the necessary clarifications. Unless these clarifications are available it is better to put working on the process on hold rather than working on assumptions. Process SMEs are instrumental for process evaluation. If they don’t have a clear understanding of the scope of the exercise, what type of information is needed, the level of detail needed etc. they might not provide the complete or correct data. It is a best practice to organize an RPA awareness sessions with business teams in order to discuss scope of RPA and how the process assessment works, what are the criteria and the goal of the exercise. The quality of the data collected is very important which is why identifying the proper stakeholders and the process SMEs will prove critical. The experts need to be specifically assigned to the project. Sometimes the SMEs are caught up in their daily operations that it is difficult for them to devote time to provide process data. In this case a Top-Down approach should be preferred.

Gathering the overall company processes and their metrics before kickstarting the RPA implementation is the key to assess the opportunity in the RPA journey. It is important to have this exercise beforehand to allow the RPA to scale and to be sustainable in the future of the organization.