Approach to adopt new technologies is always a challenge for many organisations. Sometimes organisations are not early adopters of the new tech or are constrained by budgets considering multiple priorities they have or they do not simply understand how and where to start & have no full scale implementation roadmap. This is particularly a big challenge when companies are evaluating a tech software platform like RPA / BPM / Portals / Analytics. These technologies being platforms, provide software building blocks, tools & infrastructure, which further require significant efforts to build the required solution which end users can use. For example, in case of RPA, the platform consists of design time, run time and admin software infrastructure. Unlike packaged applications like CRM, tech platforms like RPA are not “plug & play”.
When organisations decide to purchase the tech platforms, mostly they have 1 or 2 functional areas, where users have sought the tech platform to address their challenges. Then sometimes the TCO is so high that unless the implementation footprint is big enough, the ROI or Pay Back period do not justify the purchase of the platform. And in emerging markets like India, the IT teams simply do not have time to carry out a detailed study to determine the overall organisational requirements, and formulate an implementation roadmap. In order to address above challenges, organisations mostly opt for “Pilot” approach to adopt the new tech. But then begins the next challenge to identify the right usecase or a set of initial usecases for the pilot implementation. As a sponsor or driver of the project, one doesnt really want the pilot to fail.
Since the BPM days, here is one approach that I have followed to decide not only the initial pilot but to formulate the complete implementation roadmap, which can be used for adoption of RPA. The only difference being, in BPM, one looked at the entire process, while in case of RPA, one needs to assess the tasks performed by human operators.
Repeatability – Complexity matrix:
This approach requires tasks desired to be RPA enabled mapped on 2 dimensions: Repeatability and Complexity. Repeatability is how repeatable is the task, that is when the task is performed, does the operator follow the exact same steps when the task is performed every time. And Complexity is how complex is the task to automate. In the RPA context complexity can be judged from whether the logic to perform the task or produce the output can be automated easily i.e. is there any ready library provided by the RPA platform to automate the logic or does it require AI/ML capabilities? For example, reading the data or comparing the data from text files / excel files is a low complexity task than say reading or extracting the data from handwritten form. The former can be quickly automated using the ready to use RPA libraries, where as the later may require AI/ML enabled ICR engine to perform the task. Following is a representation of Repeatability – Complexity Matrix. It is recommended that the RPA journey is started with RPA enablement of Tasks in Quadrant II (High Repeatability – Low Complexity) and then graduate to Quadrant IV (High Repeatability – High Complexity). For quadrant III (Low Repeatability – High Complexity), typically there are and there will be vendors offering specialised BOTs, as generic platforms may require huge amount of development efforts to build logic / algorithms necessary to perform the tasks and produce desired output.
There are other factors too, which may be considered while identifying tasks for RPA adoption approach. They are:
1. Whether the Tasks are Customer Facing: These tasks may be prioritised for implementation at the later stages of the initiative. If chosen for RPA enablement in the initial stages of the initiative, it may be advisable that such tasks may have some kind of manual checks built into the process.
2. Mission Criticality: Mission criticality, where in tasks may directly impact critical company KRAs such customer satisfaction / organisation goodwill & credibility can be kept for later stages of the initiative when the implementation team has much better understanding and grip on the capabilities of the RPA platform being implemented.
3. Volume of Tasks: Higher the volumes, better is the likelihood of ROI, so such tasks can be considered for initial phases of the implementation provided they fall in Quadrant II – i.e. High Repeatability Low Complexity.