SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program graduate Tom Conti shares the four crucial areas to turn your tactical RPA initiative into a strategic Intelligent Process Automation program.
While an organization's digital transformation journey may include Intelligent Process Automation, it is only one of the components necessary to influence disruptive organizational change. But what is Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)? At its core, Intelligent Process Automation is the tactical or strategic application of technology to automate a process. This might include loading data, orchestrating different areas of work, or automating repetitive tasks. When properly implemented, an organization can achieve many benefits by using IPA, such as reducing operating costs, enhancing the customer experience, reducing risk, or improving compliance adherence.
The Four Areas for RPA Definition
There are four central areas to consider when defining the objective of the transformation program to evoke disruptive change. These areas include Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the automation technologies available, process excellence, and change management. When executed together, these techniques offer the greatest return on investment when implementing an IPA program to address the defined business objective.
First, Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is a tactical approach to beginning a transformative intelligent automation journey. RPA is best suited where productivity is the primary driver, where simple, rules-based processes can be applied. Often, digital and structured inputs are utilized in RPA processes as little variation is observed within the process where it would make RPA a disagreeable approach.
Next, automation technologies greatly influence ushering strategic transformation potential to a digitization strategy. More complex technologies, such as the ability to deploy multiple tools, orchestrate multiple RPA processes, or process unstructured data, can help achieve the transformational benefits sought when implementing an IPA program. Machine learning and Natural Language Processing are additional examples of advanced automation technologies that go beyond the capabilities of basic RPA.
Process excellence is the next area to consider on the transformation journey. A common detractor an organization faces when defining process excellence is not going far enough when determining the scope of automation opportunities. This limited view may be addressed by thoroughly reviewing the upstream and downstream influences on a process. The review will help to assign responsibility within the process and help identify further automation opportunities.
When applying process excellence techniques, ensure that the core of the problem is solved before automation is implemented for maximum benefit. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is an excellent method to find the source of process inefficiency. Subsequently, addressing the cause, not the symptoms, will lead to automation of exception prevention, instead of automating exception handling. Also, the application of process excellence should support the initial assessment with analytical data in the form of value stream maps, Pareto analysis, and measuring the duration the process takes to complete.
Finally, change management and stakeholder buy-in are absolutely critical when implementing any transformational objective. Only with executive management level backing, along with strong employee support, can strategic organizational change occur. The culture within the organization should foster precedence to reimagine how work can be performed, as opposed to how it is currently being executed, with a continuous improvement mindset.
Plan for Success
Organizations that seek success along the digital path should plan and prepare to implement incremental or stepped restructuring due to changes to the process. Timely and prudent communication within the group is also necessary when implementing digital transformation. Often, confusion and many queries arise when changes to an existing process occur. A good change management roadmap will anticipate these concerns and have a plan to address them in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
Combining these four crucial areas will assist in turning your tactical RPA initiative into a strategic Intelligent Process Automation program that includes cognitive process excellence to achieve the objective defined when the program was initiated. While transformation through automation may take longer to implement and impact teams within the organization, a greater benefit is realized over projects that do not include automation. IPA enables the organization to not only benefit by being more productive but provide the tools and framework to achieve
The Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) Program is a 10-week course that focuses on the hard and soft skills of sourcing, including strategic sourcing and outsourcing methodologies, as well as best practices in negotiations.
Over the past 15 years, Tom has assisted many organizations optimize processes and technologies to deliver operational excellence. Tom has a diverse background including verticals such as Legal, Finance, Supply Chain, Healthcare, and BPO enterprises.
A Pennsylvania State University graduate, Tom is currently working with Canon to deliver Source to Pay optimization and process management consulting. He is also a Certified Sourcing Professional through SIG University.