The Automation Opportunity
In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, organizations are constantly seeking ways to improve efficiency, streamline operations, and drive growth. Process automation has emerged as a transformative solution, offering the potential to achieve these goals and more. However, many companies struggle to embark on their automation journey or fail to maximize its potential. Some take initial steps but struggle to progress beyond the first project, while others limit successful automations to specific individuals or departments without a broader organizational vision. To overcome these challenges, an effective remedy is to create an automation roadmap.
Importance of an RPA Roadmap: Creating Vision and Driving Success
By identifying automation opportunities, quantifying the return on investment (ROI) for each project, and establishing an implementation schedule, you can create vision and generate energy for a comprehensive automation initiative. A well-defined roadmap creates clarity and purpose, ensuring that all stakeholders understand the value and benefits of automation.
- Ensure Strategic Alignment & Stakeholder Visibility: An automation roadmap offers a clear view of progress to the employees and leaders involved in the processes. It ensures alignment with strategic objectives and provides visibility to key stakeholders, fostering support and engagement across the organization.
- Guarantee Effective Implementation & Scaling: A well-structured automation program that aligns with business initiatives and goals enables effective implementation and scaling of automation solutions across the organization. By outlining the necessary steps and resources, a roadmap ensures that the automation initiative is implemented in a consistent and efficient manner.
Building Your Automation Roadmap and Backlog
Step 1: Identify a Starting Point for Automation
To kickstart your automation journey, select a department or team that would benefit significantly from process automation. Common starting points include operations, HR, finance, and accounting. Choosing the right starting point is crucial for maximizing the impact of automation within your organization. Each of these usually contains good process automation candidates due to each having time-sensitive and highly repetitive processes. Once you’ve identified your starting point...let’s move onto step 2.
Step 2: Collect the Low-Hanging Fruit
To determine which processes are suitable candidates for automation, ask the following questions:
- How many people are involved in the process? When first starting to automate, processes involving fewer individuals are more suitable for automation as they minimize complexity and dependencies. Note that this will change over time given your organization’s experience with automation and ability to handle more complex processes via automation.
- What types of tasks are involved in the process? Web-based, repetitive, and easy-to-explain tasks are ideal candidates for automation. These tasks are often rule-based and can be easily executed by RPA bots.
- How defined is the process? Processes with fewer exceptions and well-defined rules are preferable for automation. Clear guidelines and standardized procedures make it easier to automate and replicate the process.
- How repetitive is the process? Processes with high-volume repetition offer better potential for cost savings and efficiency gains through automation. Identifying processes that consume a significant amount of time and resources due to repetition is a strategic approach.
- Is the process rules-driven? Bots work best with well-defined rules. Processes that involve structured and rule-based activities are more suitable for automation as they can be programmed to follow specific instructions accurately.
Step 3: Dig Deeper with a Value Chain Map: Identify Hidden Automation Opportunities
Once you’ve collected the low-hanging fruit, a value chain mapping exercise will help you identify less obvious (but highly impactful) automation opportunities. A value chain map provides a visual, diagrammatic representation of the processes involved in your organization, its activities, and information flows. It shows how value is created, captured, and delivered to your clients. The value chain map helps identify opportunities for automation and allows for a comprehensive understanding of the workflow. Here's how you can create a value chain map:
- Diagram the processes visually: Use flowcharts or process diagrams to represent each process visually. This visual representation helps stakeholders understand the workflow and identify automation opportunities. Visio is a common and user-friendly solution to begin your value chain map.
- Organize processes based on logic: Group related processes together based on logical categories or business functions. This structure enables better organization and facilitates targeted automation efforts.
- Evaluate each diagrammed process with stakeholders: Collaborate with process owners, subject matter experts, and IT representatives to evaluate each process. Consider factors such as process complexity, potential benefits, and feasibility of automation. This evaluation ensures that the selected processes align with strategic goals and have the potential to deliver substantial returns on investment.
Step 4: Identify and Document Your Organization's Prioritization Criteria
Evaluate the potential impact of automation on various aspects such as time savings, cost savings, improved quality, enhanced customer experience, and increased operational efficiency. Document your criteria for prioritization, which may include factors such as workforce involvement, business impact, technical feasibility, process complexity, and potential risks associated with automation. Here are just a few of those examples.
- Workforce involvement: Consider the number of individuals or departments involved in the process. Processes that require significant manual effort and involve multiple stakeholders may yield higher returns when automated.
- Business impact: Assess the impact of automation on daily operations, such as time savings, cost reductions, improved accuracy, and increased productivity. Prioritize projects that offer substantial benefits to the organization.
- Variability and potential problems: Identify potential edge cases and exceptions that may arise during the automated process. Evaluate the risks involved and assess the feasibility of handling these situations through automation.
Step 5: Extend the Approach Across Your Organization
Once you have successfully implemented automation in a specific department or area, it's time to expand it further. Follow these steps:
- Apply the process to other functional areas: Identify other departments or areas where automation can yield significant benefits. Conduct a similar assessment and evaluation process to determine the potential impact and feasibility of automation.
- Identify the next focus area: Prioritize projects based on their alignment with strategic objectives. Consider factors such as process complexity, resource availability, and dependencies on other systems or processes.
- Prioritize projects based on potential ROI: Evaluate the expected benefits, costs, and risks associated with each project. Focus on projects that offer the highest potential return on investment and align with the organization's overall goals and priorities.
Unlocking the Power of Automation
Process automation presents an immense opportunity for organizations to enhance efficiency, streamline operations, and achieve strategic goals. However, without a clear roadmap, many companies fail to fully leverage its potential. By following the five-step process outlined in this article, you can create an effective RPA roadmap that aligns with your business objectives, ensures strategic alignment, stakeholder visibility, and maximizes the potential of automation.
One Last Thing – R-Path: Your Automation Roadmap Partner
At R-Path, we understand the importance of building an effective automation roadmap. That's why we provide a one-day, onsite road mapping service, 100% free of charge, to qualifying organizations. If you need assistance in creating your roadmap or want expert guidance, schedule a 20-minute consultation with one of our engagement managers to see if you qualify. Unlock the power of automation and propel your organization toward a future of increased productivity, cost savings, and success.