RPA PROJECT END-TO-END PROCESS REVEALED: From RPA Planning to Deployment, Here’s Everything You Need to Know

“It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame,” says Marshall McLuhan.

With the advent of the new wave of Robotic Process Automation, not only has the picture within the frame of the 21st Century world changed tremendously, but along with it, a systematic framework of planning, developing and applying the same has also been developed. Undoubtedly, the idea of developing and applying bots to various sectors and domains sounds exciting and interesting. However, is it feasible to apply RPA to every area, and for every task? More importantly, even if one were to correctly figure out the specific domains where RPA can prove beneficial, is it possible to directly begin the process? Are there any steps involved before and after the bot is designed and applied?
We are back with a blog once again; and this time, we shall discuss the ‘behind the scenes’ of automation – the amount of extensive planning and process that goes (and should always go) into the making of your brilliant bot:

1. Chase the plan! Umm…sure; but plan the chase first?
Benjamin Franklin rightly said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
The same definitely holds good for RPA as well. When an RPA project is intended to be taken up, its purpose and potential benefits need to be defined very clearly. Automation is advisable only when the task in question is repetitive and rule-based, and hence, a thorough evaluation of the nature of the concerned task is crucial right at the start.
Detailed end-to-end processes may sound extravagant and exciting, but these might end up causing a hole in your pocket if the budget is not estimated prior. Besides the rationale and budget estimation, one also needs to plan the time-frame within which the project needs to be completed; conduct a review with stakeholders regarding the scope of the project; and produce project charters, handbooks, a project scope template, and estimation template. Last but not the least, there has to be a formal intent between the clients and the RPA company that seals the deal between the two parties, taking the decided scope and budget estimate into consideration. Phew! Quite some work even before the work begins.

2. A good process is the way to progress
When there is a process in place, there is a framework you can always fall back on during times of doubt and uncertainty. Again, the same is the case with RPA. When the detailed plan of the RPA process is established, and the contract is approved, the Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP, which is a methodical sequence that breaks down and explains complex rule-based operations step by step, is established in order to ensure easy programming of the bot. The infrastructure necessary for the potential bot development is established, thus creating a conducive environment for the bot-to-be. It is also important to conduct business process workshops, and capture control points and handoffs in order to ensure that the results of the procedure can be clearly defined and set. In addition, the process calls for validating the business process map, as well as any exceptions to the same. One also needs to design the process capture template, modeling standards and process maps, before the actual development procedures commence.

3. Gathering the data
The next step is to extensively gather information that can be crucial during the development stages. One also needs to capture the attributes in data collection, including volume, processing time etc. Another important stage is process standardization, which involves the establishment of certain technical criteria or standard, based on the ideas and opinions of different concerned individuals or institutions. Process standardization ensures validity and consistency of the RPA development strategy. A gap analysis, concerning an analysis of the discrepancy between the stage in which the plan currently is, versus the ultimate desired goal of the project, is carried out at this stage. This data should be further validated in order to ensure credibility and authenticity of the same. Templates and databases concerning best practices should be formulated and analyzed; and the questionnaires and templates used to gather data, as well as the cost analysis template must be presented.

4. Recommendations
Here, the specific processes to be used in the RPA development project are earmarked, and the possible elimination of unnecessary procedures are carried out. One identifies the activities within the concerned domain that need to be automated, and detailed analyses of cost benefits, technical and general feasibility, and complexity; as well as prioritized and automation roadmap recommendations are carried out at this stage. Towards the end of the stage, an automation roadmap sign-off takes place, which is an agreement between the concerned parties regarding the mutually discussed plans and processes. Recommendation report templates and transformation roadmap templates are also carried out here.

5. And let the games begin!
The RPA development process begins once the recommendation report templates and transformation roadmap templates have been approved. The Target Operating Model, intended at providing a vision to the RPA project; as well as a Technical Design Document, designed by the solutions architect, consisting of the detailed technical process to be followed in developing the bot, is conducted at this stage. The Knowledge Management System (KMS), and Configuration Management Database (CMDB) are updated in accordance with the current RPA plan, so that any changes may be successfully documented for future reference. The bot report and KMS & CMDB updated should be validated, and the coding documentation is reviewed. Lastly, templates regarding TDD, coding documentation and KMS are created.

6. The proof of the pudding…is in its eating!
And for this reason, it is important to carry out User Acceptance Testing, where a person with expertise in the concerned domain applies the bot to perform the repetitive task, and gauges the benefits of the same. A ‘mock’ environment is created, and the test procedure is captured on a video. This is followed by exit criteria and reporting, and test closure. Next, a test suite, as well as an incident closure report and UAT report are prepared and validated. Lastly, templates on test-case, handover and incident report are prepared to culminate the stage.

7. And the bot can see light of the day!
With the validation of these templates, our bot is now ready to face the real world, where it is put to work, and allowed to contribute effectively to the workforce. Post this, the TDD and coding documents are handed over to the client, and constant back-and-forth communication between the clients and developers takes place in order for any faults in the bot to be reported instantly. A back-up of the bot is preserved on the CMDB for future reference. Feedback and Return-On-Investment report are carried out in order to measure the relative efficiency of the newborn bot, and customer satisfaction is also gauged. Lastly, the ROI template and customer satisfaction report are prepared.

The making of a process robot involves extensive planning and analysis, and the continuous contribution of a number of individuals and groups from different areas. This collaborative, intensive process is surely not cake-walk. But when the entire process is carried out with utmost care and enthusiasm, it surely helps to make some tasks a cake-wal

9 REASONS WHY YOUR RPA PROJECT MAY FAIL: Automation isn’t Always Perfect!

As more and more industries and sectors across the globe have begun to delegate repetitive computer-based tasks to process robots, the world is now extensively placing its trust on the efficiency and infallibility of these ‘software magicians’. While the same chore done by two different humans, or even done at different times by the same individual can lead to different results, a bot is often perceived to be (and rightly so!) an unmistakably consistent, faultless, almost utopian entity.
Having said that, can RPA bots be so unbelievably perfect as to surpass their imperfect human-creators? Can your process robot ever goof up? And if so, what are the possible reasons for these errors? And how can they be rectified? So we’re back with a blog, and all set to present to you the top reasons for the failure of RPA:

1. Have you designed your design correctly?
“Good design is good business,” says Thomas Watson Jr. And when it comes to RPA, good design makes sensible bots. In order to create good bots, it is important to visualize how and where your bot should function, and what purpose it serves in its domain of concern. When the end-to-end process of design and development, the change-management processes, and the desired end-result is etched out accurately, your process robot can then take birth as a perfect entity.

2. Are you missing the woods for the trees?
The Gestalt theory states that while the comprising parts are important to form the larger picture, the whole is much more than just a sum of its parts. The same holds good for your RPA development process. While it is important to ensure that every stage of the bot development is taken into account with equal importance, your RPA project can turn out to be lopsided and faulty if all other processes are overlooked for the sake of that one step performed to perfection.

3. Phew! Just created my awesome bot. My duty is now over. Err…is it?
Wait! Is it enough to simply create your bot and ensure it functions in the concerned domain? The world is evolving every day, and with the unstoppable changes constantly taking place around us, our bots cannot afford to be old-fashioned. For this reason, it is important to keep track of your bot even after it has been successfully implemented, and modify it whenever required, in accordance with changes in data systems, security aspects, or any other important facet that calls for an update of your process robot. Also, regular maintenance of the bot ensures that it continues to function effectively.

4. Are we all equally supportive of our bots?
More often than not, our innocent bots are feared and shunned by individuals or departments that can significantly contribute to its development and application. A lot of professionals, including accountants, do not provide extensive internal support in their fear of losing their jobs to process robots. It is important to bust these unemployment myths surrounding RPA, and garner their support for the development of bots.

5. Mentally ‘process’ your process. Too simple? Too complex?
The process to achieving the end-result should be microscopically examined before implementation. If your plan is too simple, you probably need to push the boundaries a little further. But don’t push it so far ahead that you have much more in your plate than you can chew! It is important to select a practical, manageable process for designing your bot.

6. On your marks, get-set…not going?
How efficient is your bot? While bots do not have mood-swings and Monday blues, it is possible that they might not be as efficient as you had intended them to be; for the simple reason that there have been errors in coding and designing of the same. With repeated verification and second opinions, nothing is impossible…including your bot’s perfection.

7. Time and tide…you know the rest!
There are always enough instances around us that constantly teach us effective time management. Yes, RPA is a lengthy and time-consuming process. And yes, you would have to exert efforts. And…yes. It’s extremely rewarding. Since end-to-end processes may be exhausting and time-consuming, these must be carried out only when you’re assured of the resources of time and effort.

8. Scale ‘up’ your bot today.
Efficient development of consistent as well as flexible bots is the need of the hour. That’s where scalability comes in. When you make your bot scalable, additional bots can be developed in a cost-effective manner. Plus, new features may be added to the same bot with little inconvenience.

9. Automation for efficiency, or automation for laziness?
“Everything that can be automated, will be automated,” says Robert Cannon, internet law and policy expert. However, it often happens that everything that need not be automated also ends up being assigned to bots. In order to avoid this malpractice, it is important to clearly define the purpose of the RPA development process, and the nature of the task to be performed by the potential bot. Lastly, one must not forget that while bots can be made to perform a few monotonous tasks for humans, they are the result of the human intellect, and can never replace humans in any field.
While the idea of perfection seems utopian in itself, it is still possible to attain a perfect bot if a rational and valid purpose, a systematic process outlined from start to end, and the right amount of time and effort, are all taken care of prior to, during and post its development. A perfectly automated bot can significantly contribute to developing a monotony-free and dynamic future for the world, while faulty automation can pose obstacles to the economy. In the words of W.L.W. Borowiecki:

If you automate a process that has errors, all you’ve done is automate the generation of those errors.

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