What are RPA services, and do you really need them? Part 1
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has become the standard technology used in process automation. It is a tool of strategic importance for many organizations. The technical capabilities of the leading RPA tools are already quite advanced, and vendors continue to race each other to meet more of their users’ demands.
However, from the implementing organization’s perspective, gaining value from RPA is less about selecting a particular technology and more about having the skills to know where and how to use it.
Forrester defines RPA services as “services that enable the robotic process automation (RPA) lifecycle, including consulting, solution architecture, governance and enablement services, bot design and development, bot management, and bots as a service, rendered either on-premises or as a service.”
But do you really need services to succeed with RPA?
This 2-part article discusses:
– Typical pitfalls when implementing and operating RPA
– When and why to utilize services
– How RPA services can help you achieve improved results
When getting started with RPA
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there are services which can help you before you even start with RPA. Blackbelt RPA experts can introduce you to the fundamentals of Intelligent Automation and RPA, helping you understand what Intelligent Automation is and how it can enable your strategy. Having access to senior experts and better data can also help you start a more constructive discussion with your management team about Intelligent Automation.
After initial evaluations have been undertaken, the basic first steps when getting started with RPA are:
1. Formalizing your RPA strategy such that the technology will be deployed where it serves your general strategic objectives.
See, for example, how RPA has been used to help beat the competition in customer service and to optimize production to ensure competitive pricing.
2. Agreeing success measures.
You can read about success measures and calculating RPA ROI here.
After establishing your ambition, it’s time to build a roadmap to success.
Setting up infrastructure
If the tools are useful and getting better all the time, why is the time to value often still quite slow? One part of the answer is related to the initial set-up time and cost.
The implementation of an automation solution can quickly become a sour journey if it is based on the time-consuming steps of traditional IT tool pre-selection: sourcing and setting up the path. It is difficult to sustain the initial excitement of robots coming to assist in daily tasks if it takes nine months just to get started. Further, the traditional pricing model of the RPA tools does not help.
A company buying RPA licenses needs to commit upfront to a number of licenses – each of which typically cost between 12-18K euros. This cost needs to be paid whether you are using the robots or just setting up.
Under these circumstances, it’s important to consider how a slow start might impact your ROI.
How can RPA services help?
To avoid the pitfalls of a slow and costly start to your RPA journey, it is important to ensure that you have a good overall understanding of the requirements of the initial set-up project. If you wish to set up your RPA on-premises, ensure you have experts at hand who have proven capability in delivering such a project quickly and skillfully.
Alternatively, organizations may consider implementing their RPA solution in a more modern, cloud-based architecture. Among other benefits, which we will discuss later, a cloud service enables organizations to get started very quickly – typically within days. You can also do a free trial of cloud-based RPA Platform to see, if it meets your needs.
Training and project kickstart
Running a pilot is often the first step that companies take on their RPA journey. Unfortunately, however, some organizations experience disappointment – even after a successful RPA pilot.
Usually, this is caused by a lack of targets or governance combined with poor scalability of the platforms. Missing operational models can also play a part. It could be argued that the more flexible the tool, the more thinking you need to put into its governance. It’s essential to consider how you are going to move forward. As early as the pilot stage, you should organize yourself around RPA and define your priorities and governance models.
Another important task you must undertake is to establish RPA responsibilities in a way that is sustainable as you scale up, including the delivery of sufficient training for your RPA team members. The need for training is clear enough when everyone is new to RPA. However, even if you have a few senior RPA developers that could help train others, doing so may be inefficient. If your developers have many conflicting responsibilities, such as advocacy and RPA maintenance, adding training to this list of responsibilities will interfere with their ability to deliver new automations.
You also need a healthy pipeline of processes to automate – ones that are aligned with your goals and where the business case for RPA has been correctly evaluated. Setting up and scaling your automation program requires you to train and educate people across your organization about the possibilities and limitations of RPA so they can be engaged in feeding the pipeline.
How can RPA services help?
The core task of a service provider is to ensure you get started and continue on the right path to reach your goals and avoid typical growth pains like inflating costs and slow development. One size doesn’t fit all, and support should be tailored to your particular needs. An experienced services provider, however, should be able to span all parts of RPA implementation – from piloting and setting up infrastructure to training and defining and establishing governance, operational models, and roles with both your current needs and long-term vision in mind.
An RPA service provider can, for example, get your project off the ground by establishing the foundations on which you can sustainably grow your RPA program and complete an agreed number of automations in a set amount of time. Particularly if you are purchasing your RPA on a traditional licensing model, time is of the essence because you pay for the technology whether you use it or not. Additionally, by working alongside senior RPA specialists, your team will gain expert knowledge about the automation requirements of your target processes.
On the other hand, many companies don’t aspire to run RPA in-house due to its related costs and operational demands. A lean model for RPA could mean outsourcing all operational parts of RPA to a service provider, enabling the client organization to focus on steering and internal engagement. This approach is particularly effective when the client’s goal is to accelerate RPA from 0 to 100 in a short amount of time. It is common for “cloud first” organizations to opt for an as-a-service approach to keep a lean, focused organization.
RPA services also include training. Digital Workforce Academy offers role-specific RPA training both online and on site to ensure each person receives training that is relevant to their particular job. Training can be tailored to the client’s demands; for example, to focus on a specific RPA tool or to include other complimentary technologies, like machine learning, optical character recognition and business process management that are used in combination with RPA.
In summary, the reasons to enlist RPA services in the beginning of your journey include:
– Quick ROI
– Fast project delivery – from idea to production
– Guarantee of quality – service provider carries the risks
– A solid foundation for future growth
– Predictable costs
– Allows client to focus on steering
– Expert training and support to build internal capabilities
In the next part of this article series, we discuss the role of services in optimizing technology costs, adjusting capacity to business needs, and running RPA in production.
Having these parts of your RPA program well thought out is critical to your success whether you are at the beginning of your journey or have hundreds of processes already in production. Surprisingly, even the most mature RPA users often encounter challenges like inflating technology and RPA maintenance costs.