Knowing where to start an automation journey with RPA Discovery

19 October 2018 3 min. read

Getting the most out of the implementation of robotics process automation (RPA) or a RPA centre of excellence (COE) can be a daunting task. The first hurdle that businesses need to overcome is knowing which processes to automate – where to start? Using a quality RPA Discovery can greatly assist businesses with answering the key questions of “which business areas are good candidates?”, “what does an automatable process look like?” and “what do I automate next?”

According to experts at First Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in business and technology, RPA Discovery can not only support planning and design, but also help avoid common pitfalls such as applying RPA to problems better solved in other ways. For Discovery to be truly effective, the consultants contest that two pre-requisites should be in place:

1) a strong methodology for assessing each process’s suitability and creating an overall business case;

2) an approach to process selection that is tailored to the needs and specific aims of the business. 

Discovery methodology

An effective discovery methodology needs to consider not just the automation potential of each process, but also the cost and effort of an implementation, the financial and non-financial benefits that will be gained, and the challenges that the development will likely face. A rigorous and wide-reaching approach is critical for producing an accurate business case.

Candidates for automation

Discovery approaches

Time and resource constraints mean that not every process can be individually assessed for automation potential. Therefore, First Consulting’s advisors recommend that businesses craft a shortlist on which their business case will be based. Three broad approaches to creating such a shortlist exist:

  • Benefits Targeting approach: the shortlist is composed of the highest FTE or most urgent automation case processes;
  • Representative Sample approach: the shortlist is created as a representative sample of a larger “longlist” group of processes. Following individual process assessments, a business case is produced that gives a view of both the shortlist and the whole scope;
  • Hybrid approach: the shortlist is partly focused on high FTE and urgent automation cases and partly a representative sample of a larger “longlist”. As with the Representative Sample approach, multiple views are produced within the final business case.

Picking the best approach

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Businesses new to RPA and mindful of initial COE costs may choose the Benefits Targeting approach because they want the strongest possible business case. Large organisations who need a wider view might choose the Representative Sample approach. Organisations with specialist needs, or those smaller in size might opt for the Hybrid approach. Whichever approach is selected, it will need to be tailored depending on the available data and the idiosyncrasies of an organisation and its processes.

Building on years of experience in robotics process automation, First Consulting offers support with all aspects of a Discovery phase, including helping with selecting and tailoring the approach. “Our consultants draw on industry and RPA expertise and work with clients to select processes, assess shortlists using our RPA Discovery Tool, build business cases, and upskill COE teams in performing their own RPA Discovery work,” explained Jon Nelmes, head of First Consulting in the UK.

Related: First Consulting: Is RPA implementation going in the right direction?