Start Small, but Don’t Think Small

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It’s 2019. I think it’s quite likely that every global enterprise has deployed or experimented with RPA in some form at this point. But, few have achieved significant scale. And there’s a reason for that. They started small, and thought small.

What do I mean by that? Let me paint you a picture.

For many early adopters of RPA, the beginning of their journey started when a manager came back from a conference, having just heard about RPA. This manager calls up her operational lead, and says, “I just learned about RPA. We need it. Go figure it out.”

The operational lead, having never heard of RPA before, hits Google to figure out what to do next. With the knowledge they gleaned, they pick a tool. They then find a quick process to automate, one that’s really close to them, and they hope can deliver an easy win.

What ends up happening is that the RPA solution is hosted on their desktop, because that’s the simplest way to get it up and running. The initiative is probably hidden from IT this whole time, because who wants to jump through all the technical hoops just to get a simple automation running?

In addition, the team skips process documentation and just automates what they initially found as the SME dictates it to them, hoping for the best. After the process is hopefully up and running, a “technical person” in the group is assigned to take care of it in their free time. And that’s how the company’s first RPA solution is created - without regard for future improvements, maintenance, or ongoing upkeep.

The result - they got RPA. But very small amounts of it, because they thought small. So how do you avoid this and think big?

There are several items to consider on your checklist: First, you take time to match the features and capabilities of RPA tools to your needs, before simply picking one. You’ll want something with robust capabilities and a good track record, that can last well into the future.

Then, you pick a process that matters to the goals your business has set out to achieve. One that is not only assessed to be ripe for automation, but also impactful. While doing this, you involve IT and ask them for support in hosting the solution in accordance with enterprise standards, on their infrastructure. This way, IT has your back as you test and scale your automation.

As you go, you document the process thoroughly, not being afraid to transform it where possible and where necessary. Finally, plan for long-term maintenance and support for the automation. Be prepared to accommodate changes down the line to keep things running smoothly.

In both scenarios, you’ve created a small test deployment. And in both scenarios, you may well have proved the value of RPA to the organization. But one set you up for success, and the other forces you to redesign every step if you hope to scale in the future. So start small, but please don’t think small.

This blog is adapted from a lesson in Introducing Robotic Process Automation, a LinkedIn Learning Course authored by Ian Barkin.

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