Many companies are still in the early phase of adopting robotic process automation (RPA), a technology changing the way routine business processes are handled. With RPA, a software robot replicates tasks of a human office worker, such as switching between desktop applications to gather and share structured data with other systems and other workers who need the information.
The technology holds great potential for eliminating the need for humans to handle repetitive, boring office work. An RPA robot can work practically error-free 24/7 without the need for salary and HR benefits. Humans can be freed to perform high-value, strategic tasks for the company.
But the market for RPA platforms remains crowded, with many vendors (and vendor partners) competing to make their solutions stand out. The evolution of the industry is still so new that vendors and consultants are still working to agree on a generally accepted definition of RPA. Case studies are still few and far between, which means customers will need to rely on vendors’ ability to deliver a proof of concept, or trial run before making an RPA purchasing decision.
To help buyers separate RPA hype from reality during the buying process, WorkFusion’s Vice President of Marketing Adam Devine recently offered some decision-making guidance in an article for Robotics & Automation News. WorkFusion is an RPA provider making waves in the market by offering a version of its enterprise product for free.
Devine’s three-step approach for deciding on an enterprise RPA solution includes:
- Creating a “center of excellence” (COE) within the enterprise that brings the RPA buying process under the umbrella of a centralized group. The COE conducts the initial research on the products available in the market while working with groups across the company to learn their operational requirements. This is also the opportunity to begin identifying processes that would make a good fit for RPA. The COE is tasked with developing the short list of RPA providers worthy of further engagement.
- Developing a proof of concept (POC) project. Short list in hand, work with one or more vendors to identify a business process that would be an ideal candidate for a POC. The vendor should understand that buyers are seeking significant cost reductions, i.e. a solution that can deliver ROI within a year. The POC should have support from the executive suite, with the understanding that the solution, if successful, could eventually be rolled out across the entire enterprise.
- Implementing the POC and “driving it hard and fast.” Devine says it’s not unreasonable to expect a new technology to prove its value within one quarter. Any longer, and it may be time to move on. The implementation also offers companies an opportunity to see if the deployment strategy works. Implementation offers the answers to the big questions that will help guide future decision-making, such as: Will the platform be deployed by the vendor, or will we need to work with a vendor partner? Is a cloud-based solution satisfactory? Does desktop deployment work well, or is better to run off a server? Implementation will tell the tale.