#61 The Automation guys on How to start your RPA journey


#61 The Automation guys on How to start your RPA journey

The Automation Guys are sharing advice from their own professional experiences on how to start your RPA journey and how to ensure you end up in a great place with your project. How do you really move forward? Where can your automation journey take you and your business? How to discover the benefits of a RPA initiative? You will find the answers to these questions in this episode.

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Sascha: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Process and Automation Podcast with The Automation Guys. Yeah, as always, I’m here together with Arno, and today we will talk about one of our favourite topics RPA. And for many of our listeners, RPA is still quite new and more and more of you are starting right now and like to get the most out of robotic process automation, and that’s why we are sharing more on that today. And more specifically on how to start your RPA journey and make sure you end up in a great place. So, uh, yeah, some of you already know using robotic process automation can help your business to be more efficient, agile, and profitable.

And, uh, it can make the customer’s experiences of your business richer by letting you serve them quickly, flexibly, and responsibly and put more joy in each employee’ workday by taking repetitive work or the mundane tasks, um, uh, out of, out of the workday. Yeah. So basically take the robot really out of the, out of the human that’s basically what it’s about. And yeah, RPA technology is already transforming businesses of all kinds. Um, uh, all sorts of companies in the world have become convinced of automation, its  power and make it central to, to their strategies. And yeah, they, they embark on their automation journey and now it’s I guess your time.

Um, it’s. It’s, it’s out there, get going, uh, but how do you really move forward? Where can your automation journey, um, take you and your business? And we doing this day in, day out and we can tell you, um, good news – there is no need to reinvent the, the wheel, uh, as such, um, working with thousands of customers to scale and implement RPA, we have seen what works and what doesn’t. Yeah. And, um, while some of the, the actual, uh, details may be different and vary, we found that the most successful companies, um, follow, um, a three stage path. And, uh, yeah, for the first stage of that, I’d like to hand over to Arno.

Arno: Thanks, Sascha. Yeah, thanks for the, the, the good intro. So, stage one really is all about getting started and what we want to do is later a foundation of a transformative RPA initiative. Uh, we want to discover the benefits through pilot projects and quick wins. So the first thing we want to do is, is to complete a successful proof of concept of proof of value or what they called, uh, poc, uh, to get started.

Uh, you know, again, a good way to demonstrate the power of automation is to complete such a POC could be various sizes, um, you know, make sure the POC focuses on specific processes and pain points you have within these inside your business and clearly demonstrate how RPA or robotic process automation can improve efficiency, uh, through put and, you know, overall process performance.

And then go out and tell everybody, you know, uh, particularly senior management, C-suite management. Um, tell them about the great POC results. Um, And that will allow you to, you know, secure, um, the, the commitments you, you need to establish your initial automation centre of excellence and move forward, um, you know, with additional projects.

The next thing you want to do is, is build out teams and governing frameworks. Now in this program we have talked a lot about governance and in stage one, you want to lay the groundwork for a, a scaled automation effort. And again, you want to start by setting up the centre of excellence. So stage one is where many organizations, uh, establish the COE or centre of excellence to take responsibility for developing, deploying, managing and measuring automation projects across the enterprise.

And of course what you need to do as well is you need to create a core team around you. So get started with a small number of skilled RPA developers and perhaps, uh, implementation manager. And as your successful track record grows, uh, you know, so will your team and, you know and expanding your team will, uh, include more RPA developers and implementation managers, plus solution architects, business analysts and additional kind of SMEs or subject matter experts. Um, also we want to look at establishing, uh, processes and roles. Now that, that’s the time to clearly define who does what with inside your RPA program, um, the way automations get done and delivered to the business.

Um, the selection criteria, perhaps you’ll use to build your project pipeline, your RPA project pipeline, and of course the documentation you need, you know, to move things forward so it’s visible to everybody who does what and what’s going. And also, um, you want to sit down and, and, and take time to set out your plan for maintaining quality and the measuring of the impacts of these projects across the business.

So again, sort of stage one is sort of this initial ramp up, the delivery of a POC, get the governance frameworks ready, spin up our centre of excellence. It doesn’t have to be too complicated. We, of course, need to have a start-up core team, and we want to build on that team. we want to broadcast throughout the business and promote our RPA successes.

And then as we mature, we want to formalize, um, you know, the roles and responsibilities of people and that lays a really good, solid foundation for what we call stage two. Yeah.

Sascha: Great. Thank you, Arno. Um, yeah, stage two is what we consider as scaling across the enterprise after the foundation is in place, uh, as Arno mentioned, um, it’s now about, um, scaling the automation by focusing first, um, first on top down, uh, cross enterprise, uh, and, um, opportunities to have a big impact.

Um, so in that stage two you typically will focus on capturing the value of top-down, uh, across the enterprise initiatives as you transform how major processes are executed, and you will extend the capabilities, um, and the throughput of the automation function. Yeah. And uh, yeah, expand the types of processes you can automate.

Yeah, basically, uh, as part of that, it is, um, really focusing on what is the ripest pipeline opportunity. So, um, uh, easy to implement automations with the web, very high, um, return of investment ROI. And, um, and then you will take on bigger a complex cross enterprise processes and start developing a bigger, more complex automations, of course. Um, you will be generally touching more core systems, important functional areas and other, um, yeah, enterprise activities, key enterprise activities. Um, that’s, that’s very important. Um, yeah. And you will embrace sort of the notion of continuous process improvement and enhance generally the abilities to launch, manage, and monitor and measure, uh, uh, really larger digital workforce ongoing, uh, executing, uh, more and more critical processes. So, so this is, this is really scale. And yeah, your work probably will, uh, will affect the work of really hundreds of thousands of employees.

Um, if you think about really cross enterprise across departments, lots of employees, um, yeah. Uh, and, and of course, um, uh, on the other side, customers and suppliers. Yeah. And, um, and doing more automation really across the business, uh, that ideally should have an impact also on the bottom line.

So the next part of that scaling means really as well, um, uh, yeah, the extending, um, extending the, the RPA skillset and capabilities within the organization. Um, we just mentioned earlier, complex cross enterprise automations. In order to handle that, you will need really a team that understands business processes, first of all, and, and knows how to architect really elegant solutions.

And, uh, yeah. Also understands how to integrate these automations into, uh, existence operations. Yeah. So yeah, cross enterprise, it is complex. You need a great team for that. So that, that means you will need to start hiring and expand your team. Um, you need business analysts, infrastructure and engineers and, uh, and of course, managers overlooking the implementation of these larger process solutions and.

Yeah, so bringing developers, solution architects in there who can then build these intelligent automations, um, um, architects and developers who understand also AI and machine learning because intelligent automations require OCR and the natural language processing elements of that, so chatbot technologies.

So it’s, it’s really more than just simple clicking on a, on a screen with a robot. So, um, so yeah, it really is that extending the, the skillset in the company focusing on really transformative projects. And yeah, that’s what we consider as a stage two and that brings us. To stage number three, Arno.

Arno: Yeah, so that nicely leads into stage three. So again, stage two is all about this scaling across your enterprise. And once you reach that point, stage three really is when you start transforming the business. And that’s what we deem to be when you become a sort of a, a fully automated company or as close as possible, as fully automated by, you know, capturing automation opportunities across the enterprise.

So all of these different, uh, blocks will be in place. Um, and again, most people would love to get rid of all of their tedious, everyday tasks and, and only focus really on the good parts of their work. I mean, you know that, as we said in previous podcasts, that brings sort of very high levels of employee satisfaction, low levels of attrition.

And, and really that’s, that’s what this is all about. You know, stage three is to help them do that, you know, to, to really focus on, on the good part of their work. And this is why a key element of this is really to provide automation to every person or to provide every person access to automation.

So again, uh, until now, you might have mainly focused on capturing big top-down opportunities, uh, to use automation to, you know, transform across enterprise, uh, processes, you know, that connects to your enterprise level systems and enterprise processes. But there’s also a, a sort of what we call a long tail of opportunities that needs to be addressed to use automation, um, to improve, you know, the way thousands and thousands of these day-to-day activities are performed by employees.

Um, and again, separately, uh, I guess these, um, processes might not seem like much, but if you take them all together, it really, really adds up. And that’s why I guess, you know, most automation forward thinking companies or progressive thinking companies that uses automation, um, provide their employees access to, to their own software robots.

Um, and this is why, one of the reasons why we encourage people to do that as well, to provide, uh, robotic process to a person to have a digital assistant that they can train to perhaps, take advantage of these long tail opportunities that can sometimes be very hard to identify. When you look at sort of a enterprise level, and you know this is a new technology for most people.

Um, so the key here is to plan a campaign to introduce them to it and, and to get people enthusiastic, you know, about using robots. Um, you know, and, and there’s many sort of internal marketing events that you can create, um, like, um, you know, sponsored events, uh, sort of sponsoring events, for example, internal events, uh, providing training and also, um, just providing people with access to ongoing support, uh, guidance, uh, reference resources, case studies with inside the business, you know, everything that just keep people, um, engaged and interested in actually utilizing automation as part of their day-to-day job to get rid of, of those mundane activities. We are speaking about, uh, technology today and RPA technologies, uh, uh, specific, but, you know, you, you want to make sure, um, that what you provide to people, um, is, is very friendly and easy to use, especially to non-technical business user. Um, it should be very simple to launch a robot, you know, from your desktop. Um, you know, as easy as opening your outlook, for example. Um, so that that should be really easy and accessible and, and, and people should know how to access their robots, you know?

And, um, and it just sort of becomes second nature that people, um, think about perhaps desktop automation first when, when they see a problem. Um, and then it kind of brings us to the final point where we talk about unleashing the power of the citizen developer and, and really, um, citizen development is something that we have addressed in, in some of our podcasts. But essentially what it means is that we provide a set of tools to, um, perhaps business stakeholders, uh, to enable them to build automations that, um, makes a difference to their, to their day-to-day life. Um, so it could be automation where, um, there’s something coming to an inbox, there’s a robot that actually grabs that attachment, grabs the data, the unstructured data tends into structured data and, and do something with it rather than the employee actually keying it in. Now, it could be something very simple like just, uh, taking the, the data and keying it into a spreadsheet, or could be something a bit more sophisticated, like, um, taking the attachment and going to a third party system in submitting a document.

So, a citizen developer is typically somebody that could, um, you know, assemble a simple automation like that. Now, if you look at, uh, the, the, you know, so across organization there must be thousands of these little processes that, so if you give people access to the tools, they can become this sort of proud source citizen developers to build out these automations with insider governance framework.

Of course, you know, you, we talked about governance and we want to make sure that, uh, there’s proper control and, uh, security around things and you know, that that’s all covered by a centre of excellence and, and, and the way people do this. So again, to capture the long tail of op automation opportunities, you need to increase your development capacity. You can’t just rely on your technical development in your RPA team. You want to dip into, um, as lot as possible of, of your business, um, uh, you know, community and, and, and allow them also to express themselves in their creativity and problem solving skills using these tools.

And again, this is exactly where citizen developers come in and in a future podcast we will cover that a bit more in, in depth on the, you know, the era of the citizen developer. But essentially what, what I said, uh, earlier, um, in a different ways, these are non-technical people who are eager to learn how automation work, and I want to use their skills to automate everyday problems.

You know, like downloading a spreadsheet from a email and putting it somewhere. Grabbing the data and putting that in a different system. That’s a very simple example. And of course, citizen developers will need training, encouragement and mentorship. You know, so those are the things that, that we need to provide, uh, for them.

Um, and also, you know, we want to present to them very easy to use low-code built platforms. Between myself and Sascha, the stuff we do, you know, you look at the likes of, um, you know, Blue Prism, UiPath, RPA, Microsoft Power Automate, all of those are low-code platforms.

So, um, usually if people can build something or use Excel I would say that they qualify to be a citizen developer using these tools because it is easy to get used to them. Um, and it’s easy to get started, uh, with automation, so that’s the sort of the stage trees in a nutshell.

And I think that that’s when you will start to see some of the transformative, um, uh, outcomes or transformative, uh, uh, behaviours with inside your business that, that will come to light, um, when you on this, this, um, automation journey, using RPA.

Sascha: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you. Arno. Yeah, you, you mentioned, uh, uh, something, uh, really, really exciting there.

So, um, we need more citizen developers in these larger organizations or in general to look at these, um, long tail automation opportunities. That’s why as well, why we, um, put the, The Automation Guys community together. Um, and, um, for everyone who wants to become a citizen developer, um, especially, uh, around the topic RPA to start with.

Um, yeah, we, we have a sandbox available for, for our community members, where it’s, uh, super easy to get started on it. So maybe you already think about a problem in your department, like Arno mentioned, there’s a supplier portal and I always have to download something and it really takes me 50 minutes every day, and lots of other things, why not automate it? And, um, you know, within our community in the sandbox, um, you can experiment with those things and, um, bring that knowledge back into your organization and maybe raise, um, uh, sort of an opportunity in, in, in the systems at the centre of excellence and say, Hey, look at this, this is really working. Or ideally, really implement that straightaway in your company, but have your own sandbox to fiddle around and learn the things. So this is why, exactly why we put the, the community together for, for all, for, for all people out there, for all professionals out there, within organizations or, um, maybe not in organizations yet, but very interested on a topic. That’s why we put the community in there to learn these, these, uh, these skills to get started.

Arno: And I think that it’s your opportunity to show off, show off your skill, show off your creativity. Um, the sandbox is a very safe environment. It got all of the low code tools to build a robot, uh, preloaded, there’s, good examples on it as well. Um, you’ve got basically a fully functional desktop with a robot development studio that you can develop your robot and you can also test it there just to really understand what’s the sort of interesting things you can build. Like Sascha said, you know, it might be something that, uh, you could put yourself in the limelight, you know, show that to your manager, show that to somebody in finance that you work with and say, listen, I’ve heard about these robots.

I’ve actually tinkered around with this thing and look, it can actually do some number crunching for me and save me a couple of hours a day. Imagine if we have 10 of these processes, how many hours that this can save me a week or a month. Um, so like Sascha said, we have it on our webpage, theautomationguys.net, there’s a subscription offer, please subscribe to that. Um, it’ll automatically provision your environment for you and, um, that will get you started on your RPA journey. And again, you know, if there’s any questions, uh, you have, um, you know, to me and Sascha, we’ve got collectively over 40 years automation experience. I’m pretty sure there’s, uh, between us we’ll be able to provide a answer or if we can’t, we’ll be able to get you an answer.

Um, and, and try these things out. And hopefully today’s podcast as well will, um, you know, encourage people out there that wants to get started with automation and not really sure how to do it, the key concept is start small, show something off, and you know, just build on top of that success. Um, showcase it internally, um, you know, make sure the right people see it.

Um, and again, you know, work, work out the benefit it can provide your business. You know, if you save an hour a day here and there, it soon adds up. Um, and these are the times that could be spent to be more productive and other things. And also the savings in these times are usually enough to pay for these projects and also the software investment.

So RPA specifically has got a very, very big return of investment that you realize very quickly, and that’s why a lot of businesses are taking advantage of it. And if you haven’t done so, you should be looking into it because a lot of people out there, is doing it. And of course what they’re doing is they’re moving to the next level where they’re augmenting it now with artificial intelligence and, you know, artificial chatbots, low-code tools, sophisticated data mining.

But again, it’s never too late to start.

Sascha: Amazing. Thank you very much. Thanks a lot for listening to today’s episode and we will be back very soon and until then, let’s automate it.

Unfortunately that’s it again with this episode of the Process and Automation Podcast. If you like this episode, please give us a five-star rating and don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss any upcoming episode. We hope you will tune in next time and until then, Let’s automate it.

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