Using the USA acronym to introduce Robotic Process Automation into workflow processes makes it an easy to remember business solution.
Many of us have seen the classic movie, Forrest Gump, with Tom Hanks. There were several memorable lines from the movie we still reference today, and this post is no different.
Putting on your best Forrest Gump impersonation, repeat to yourself, “Process is, as Process Does.” Of course, this was not the line from the movie, but you get what I am conveying. Why this quote? How does this apply to Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? Sit back, enjoy a box of chocolates, and let me explain.
Process Is, As Process Does
I can count the times where an organization spends limited time, if any, reviewing their current processes before deciding to automate. When that happens, all I can think about is Forrest whispering in my ear, “Process is, as process does.” Without making any attempts, or very few, to try and understand the process first, an organization puts itself in a position where, as one of my colleagues likes to say, “when you automate a bad process, you get the same bad results, faster.”
All that you are doing in that scenario is moving the initial work from a human actor to a digital worker, but in the end, the work ends up back with the human actor for cleanup. It’s not a very efficient use of your human or digital resources.
So, how can you fix that problem? How can you minimize those situations where you automate a bad process? We find this solution in repeating three simple letters: USA, USA, USA!
I first learned of this approach to process automation from a colleague I met at a speaking event. Our meeting happened months ago, but it is something I daily use as I speak with customers, prospects, and even our internal resources. Will it solve all your process and automation issues? Of course not, but it will help set the stage for more effective and efficient use of time and resources in your automation strategy.
Does anyone truly understand the intricacies of their processes? Probably not, and that is why it is so important to understand, as deeply as possible, how you execute your process, its touchpoints, its failings, and more. Without spending time with those users who live the process, day in and day out, you cannot make an informed decision as to whether a process is viable for automation.
Utilizing process discovery sessions with the ability to record not only the discussion but the work done on the user’s desktop, it’s easier to understand how you execute the process. And, in some cases, it reveals the potential exceptions. All of this is essential information as you move to the next step in the process—simplification.
Without a clear understanding of how a process works executed, it is nearly impossible to simplify and improve the process. You can make assumptions to attempt simplification, or you can collect more data.
With that said, don’t oversimplify a process and lose the overall quality of its output. Instead, get to where you achieve the same level of quality but in fewer or more refined steps. Once you reach that desired level, you can move to the final step—Automate.
Once you Understand and Simplify a process, it is time to Automate. Or is it?
Many organizations arrive at this point and jump into automation without further investigating if the process they simplified is still a viable candidate for automation. In some cases, the company improved the process to the point where they no longer require automation. I know of some situations where the organization repurposes current tools in use, forgoing the need for robotic automation.
If you are still unsure about automating the process you improved, take the following guidelines into account.
- There are no more than five decision points in the current process, and you easily define and provide objectives to those decisions.
- There are no more than five integrations or applications used as part of the process solution, i.e., internal applications, external websites, internal sites like SharePoint.
- There are no more than 50 clicks in the process (and based on my experiences, most simple processes don’t come close to that threshold).
Does this mean if a process does not fall into all three of the above guidelines, it’s not a good candidate? Absolutely not. It means you may need to take another look at the overall process to see if you can automate certain pieces of the process while keeping other parts of the process in the hands of human actors. I find for most processes, automation covers specific and straightforward tasks. This inclusion allows your non-digital staff to continue handling the more complex pieces.
RPA is a great way to make a difference in your organization by helping to reduce costs, reallocate resources to more value-added activities, enhance customer and employee experience. The list goes on, but it isn’t the solution. You need to evaluate each process for its merit, and in the process, pardon the pun, you may find a process improvement is all you need.
As Forrest so eloquently put it, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You’ll never know what you’ll get.” I believe we can say the same thing for processes. You truly do not know what you have until you take the time to dig a little deeper, and once you have done so, you will be in a better position to make an informed automation decision.
At the end of my own Forrest Gump movie, I quietly hear Lieutenant Dan whispering to me, “USA! USA! USA!”