RPA tools should be viewed from the lens of automating repetitive and non-value add tasks to allow a greater focus on value-add activities. Based on the current business environment navigating through waves of disruption that are at once building upon and extending previous disruptions. All businesses require a tool that is flexible and extendable to help in reacting to these waves of disruption quickly and efficiently. As a result of the current market landscape, the greatest business value can be achieved from automation in two key areas: non-value add repetitive manual processes and automation of testing activities to speed the delivery of quality business solutions.
You must maintain your focus on the value proposition of these tools and not be distracted by potential capabilities that do not move you forward in your long term strategy. You will gain a great deal of value through the automation of repetitive and mundane manual tasks in legacy applications.
Digital enablement is a key strategic initiative for many organizations. Digital enablement is quickly becoming a critical and foundational capability that supports the flexibility of applications necessary to quickly sense and respond to disruption. While digital enablement is a key strategy for many organizations, they also discuss a 5 year horizon to increase spend and focus. This presents a risk to the business as we have seen from reaction to the pandemic disruption. One key challenge is while you are thinking about and beginning to plan the digital enablement strategic initiative the market is hitting you with waves of disruption to which you must react in order to survive. This is where a robust RPA tool can bridge the gap and increase your ability to react.
The best RPA tool would support repetitive business process automation that allows you to react to the waves of disruption and at the same time support end to end process testing automation necessary to speed the delivery of digital enablement.
The most common RPA marketing initiatives are now focused on automation of repetitive manual processes, most times across legacy applications. It seems you can’t open a newsletter without some report of how another business used RPA to eliminate manual tasks to support disruption resulting from the pandemic. What you don’t really hear is the value achieved when a company delivers a strategic initiative (such as digital enablement) quicker and with high quality.
Basic lean principles show over and over - the way to improve process and increase value is to eliminate repetitive and non-value-add tasks. Automating process flows is easy to see and easy to demonstrate as producing value. As a comparison, It is a much lower focus and priority to automate the testing process. I believe this is because generally speaking testing is buried in the strategic initiative as an ‘art’ to deliver a quality product. It is important to remember that testing is also a process and can also deliver improvements through a lean evaluation. The right RPA tool can automate the test processes that are not adding value in the same way as other business and customer facing processes.
This is why I suggest that the RPA tool evaluation should include both business/customer facing process automation and testing automation. The value proposition is the ability to address short term demands while at the same time speeding the delivery of strategic initiatives that move your business forward. This is where it gets a bit tricky though because all RPA tool vendors will claim support of both capabilities. This means that you must focus on the ‘ilities’ (flexibility, extendability, supportability, etc.) in order to identify the best tool for your needs. It is also best to work with someone that can first help you to define your strategy (the what) and then you can select the tools to deliver the strategy (the how).
Tom Brouillette discusses supply chain trends and provides strategic business & technology advice to his followers and companies.