Getting started with RPA – Lessons Learnt

Getting started with RPA – Lessons Learnt

Taking initial curiosity in Automation through to a working production RPA solution can be a journey for any organisation and often involves more people that initially expected.

Hindsight is often considered wonderful.

For those businesses which have completed the journey there is an opportunity to review the experience and document lessons learnt.

By using the experience of Ether Solutions consultants who have assisted many clients along this journey the 90 Day Automation programme was developed.

This edition of “Beyond Automation” considers key points in the journey.

The starting line questions

As the curiosity sparks occur on Automation, initial web research begins and questions quickly emerge.

The 5 Ws (What, Where, Why, When, Who) and the How, drive the list of questions.

These need to be addressed from a number of perspectives for example, the individual business user (Will it really help?), the technical developer (Will it be good for my Skills?), the business manager (Will it deliver the potential benefits?), etc.

Like most technology, jargon will be apparent, for a start RPA – Robotic Process Automation.

As RPA is an established technology there are FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) resources available that can really assist with the initial knowledge acquisition on the technology.

The Business Case

For a business to commit resources to an automation project, some form of business case will need to be developed and submitted to management

 for approval.

The business case will set out the Goals for project, the Benefits that are projected to be delivered which will include the appropriate estimates, assumptions, resources, risks and the forecast ROI

A key aspect for the project will be Selecting a process to be automated.

The detailed implementation plan will probably only be developed once the project has gained approval.

The business case will need to resolve any myths about RPA that could prevent the proposal being viewed correctly. 

To put the automation in context, there will be a need to look externally at Competitors activity with automation.

When it is the first automation being considered by a business, there will be a need to educate the company Directors about the technology through the use of briefing documents and explainer videos.

The Implementation Team

Automation can be treated like any IT project and in most respects that is appropriate, the one big difference is that in a normal IT project it will include activities to train users on how to utilise the new facilities but in an automation project users will stop doing some activities.

Of course, there will be a need to learn how to interact with the automation in order to deal with errors, exceptions, etc. but this is usually small in comparison to the learning associated with the original process.As with any Project, a named sponsor and a Project owner will need to be identified.

Being an IT related project there will need to be involvement from IT operations, IT Security, IT Developers and IT Support.

HR will need to be involved for the change in Skills that the business will require and for the policy impacts that arise from the automation.

Depending upon the scope of the project, there is usually one business process that is being automated which will mean that the staff involved in currently performing that process will need to be engaged.

General common sense says that getting people on the team who have completed similar projects will reduce risks and make the outcome more certain. Recognising this situation will typically mean that experienced Consultants are engaged to work on some of the technical aspects of the first project.

Looking Back once the Automation is deployed

Lessons Learnt for future Automations and for projects in general, can be considered using the experience of the staff involved in the project plus the early days of its operation.

The live operation of the automation will have tested the monitoring of the production environment and potentially the handling of incidents that have occurred.

A comparison on the actual resources used during the project and the operation of the automation with the figures used in the business case will deliver feedback on the assumptions and estimates used. The numbers will also provide context to consider future budgets for the on-going operation of the automation and a baseline for any future additional automations.

The experience of the automation will also highlight how staff are interacting with the automation and handling any business exceptions that are not within the capabilities of the automation.

This can feed into the selection criteria for any future automation deployments.

One focus of the review will be whether the predicted Savings in manual effort for the processing are being achieved and another will be the change in on-going skills required to keep the automation operating. The values discovered in these areas usually determine whether further automations for the business are a high priority.


Article Author

David Martin

Managing Director, Ether Solutions

About The Author


WORKSMARTPA – NEW IDEAS, NEW FRONTIERS The year 2021 sees our business celebrate 21 years of - a community supporting office professionals since our very first newsletter way back in May 2000. As we look forward to greet a new world of change beyond the pandemic, we are extremely excited to announce a new brand; a new look; and some new directions for our much loved, long-standing web site and communities to explore. It is time for change. To better reflect now what we do best for you, we have a new brand, web site and activities – a new name and web site that will be full of new ideas for a new business age and new working trends as we all seek to grow, expand and explore new frontiers.

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