The Journey of a 1000 Processes – RPA and Beyond

Over the past couple of years there has been a lot of talk about Robotic Process Automation (RPA).  We have certainly contributed our fair share of content on the topic.

There is no doubt that RPA is, can, and will be a major contributor to improving efficiency of the workforce over the next several years. The problem is however that most people are talking about RPA like it is the end game or goal.  “Hey, we automated a process” or “we have implemented RPA”.  (Cue climatic hero music) Yay Us!

When the music fades, it’s crucial to remember that RPA is in fact only a step in our transformation journey.  Some will call it Business Transformation, others Digital Transformation.  I would argue it’s both. How so?  What does this journey actually look like? 

Step 1 – Capture and Understand Processes

This means not only documenting your processes, but truly understanding them.  And to truly understand, you must have all the who, what, when, why, where and how captured.

  • Who Performs it
  • What Capability does it provide
  • When is it performed
  • Why do we do it, as in what business strategy or goal does it support
  • Where is it stored
  • How is it measured (i.e. Is it even being measured or performing the way it should)

For audit we needs:

  • Who Owns it
  • What issues (risks) could arise or What mitigations (controls) are in place
  • When was it last reviewed / updated
  • Why was that done
  • Where is it stored
  • How was that review / change completed and approved

For Privacy:

  • Who has access to the process or its data
  • What data or information do they need, capture, view, etc.
  • When do they access it
  • Why do they access it
  • Where is stored
  • How do you control that access

For Change Management:

  • Who needs to be notified (performers, owners, dependent business groups, etc.)
  • What will they be notified of
  • When should they be notified
  • Why will they be notified (do they need to approve or just be told)
  • Where will it be stored
  • How will they be notified (email, Change Advisory Board (CAB), dept meeting)

The Challenge – Step one is quite detailed.  And this is just to capture the process.  It requires backing from the executive level as most of this may be a fundamental shift in thinking (i.e. embedded in the company culture).  Before we can think about moving on with our journey, Step 1 – the capture and more importantly the understanding of our process, must be solid.  This is where the transformation begins. 

Step 2 – Bring on the Bots

Now with our process captured, defined, refined, and stable we can start thinking about RPA.  Just to be clear, RPA is software that runs on a computer and “replicates” the actions of a person.  This is why the process must first be stable and have defined rules for engagement.  These might include (but are not limited too) tasks like moving files, making “if/then” decisions, and entering, extracting or reviewing data. 

This should start with an assessment of your processes to identify candidates.  This assessment will review the complexity, the rules, the systems, and stability of the process to determine possible savings.  It should also allow you to align that process to strategy and owners to ensure you are embarking on a project that will actually have visibility and funding.

Once the assessment is complete, you will have a list of candidates.  But take caution, do not charge ahead tackling the biggest target.  As our friend Ian Hawkins of the PEX Network stated, “Think Small”.

This Pilot will be a low risk, low cost way of validating the concept and gain buy-in for the larger initiatives to come.  Do not skip this stage.

The Challenge – Many people get to this point and check their box as completed.  “We have implemented RPA and are Digitally Transformed.” You may even be seeing some excellent ROI.  But now that you have shown the value of automation, people will start to get excited and want to be a part of what is being built.  Do not be fooled.  This is not the end. 

Keep in mind that while it may be called Robotic “Process” Automation, to this point you have really only automated tasks.  Now we can start to really transform and think bigger. 

Step 3 – Automate More Than Tasks

Process Automation.  We are no longer focused on tasks but on our core business objectives.  We can identify ways to automate the process to achieve business outcomes.  Process Automation will work through silos and cause the organization to view the requests / transactions / work end to end. 
Understand that this does not mean that people are completely removed from the process.  In some instances, activities may be performed by systems then sent to humans to perform tasks before the system resumes.  We call this Human Workflow Automation.  It provides:

  • Transparency of status
  • Notification of work
  • Improved Customer Experience
  • Greater Process & Resource Efficiency

As an example, human workflow automation was used to automate the travel planning of a company.

The Challenge – Many people want to start here.  They want to solve big problems and try to gain big rewards. DO NOT start here.  Doing so will not permit you the ability to capture and stabilize your processes, show successes, or gather the support you will need for the long term.  Take your time in Steps 1 and 2 to ensure you have a good foundation on which to build and think in slices not layers.

Step 4 – Be Transformed

Finally, whether you call it Business or Digital, Transformation now occurs within the organization. Automation is now a core capability.  It is used to not just improve process efficiency, but to enable new business capabilities and innovation. 

Regardless of where you are, the iGrafx RPA Accelerator provides all the components necessary to help you document, assess, prioritize, and govern your Automation journey.

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