Intelligent Automation Summit, Chicago, July 31 – August 2, 2017
by Michael Prokopis, VP of Strategy and Innovation, OnProcess Technology
After extensive research, an arduous vendor selection process, and comprehensive business & legal negotiations it might seem like a great time to congratulate yourself on a job well done. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is in the house; let’s fist bump, slap ourselves on the back…heck a job well done! However, as we shared at the Intelligent Automation Summit in Chicago on July 31 – August 2, the real work is just now beginning. In front of ~100 peers, from a wide range of industries, OnProcess shared its journey to select Nice Systems and the effort required to implement a robust and agile organization to support RPA. Several key areas really seemed to resonate with the audience:
The acronym soup and plethora of names surrounding RPA is deafening: Screen-scrapping, Tasks, Recorder, Cognition, AI just to name a few. However, knowing what problems you are trying to solve and then applying a strict process to understand capabilities, at a vendor by vendor level, will ensure you are moving in the correct direction. At OnProcess we used 4 months to assess 36 vendors across a broad spectrum of technologies. One member in the audience raised their hand and said: “really, there are 36 vendors…how do you get through that without being confused.” At OnProcess, we used a detailed RFI, covering a broad spectrum categories (e.g., finance, operations, IT, ease of use, roadmap/strategy) allowing us to down-select a semi-finalist list of 6. We then pushed each for a proof-of-concept further whittling our list down to a finalist list of 4. Oral boards were the final step allowing us to select Nice Systems.
Picking the First Project for Automation
Do not underestimate the importance of getting off to a great start. While that is easy to say, it becomes much harder to implement as various competing sources (both internal and external) ask for more and faster! At OnProcess we focused on 5 key questions to ensure we were staying true to our mission:
- Will this program benefit from increased efficiency & productivity…is there a ROI?
- Will this program benefit from ‘greater’ operational agility…and standardized best practices?
- Will this program achieve reduced operational risk?
- Will we be able to highlight to our customers improved governance and control?
- Does automating this program leverage technology and continue pushing OnProcess into the Digital Age?
We selected a manually intensive invoice process that included OCR as well as RPA. While we did our homework, the program ended up being very complex but by that point the horse was well out of the barn. All you can do is double-down, roll-up your sleeves and go to work. In the end we were able to automate 50, 000 monthly invoices achieving a reduction of ~40% in average handling time and we showed the video to prove it! The audience asked many questions and the keys to success are: 1) get a quick win; 2) prove it…video recordings are great internal marketing tools; 3) refine your selection criteria and move forward.
Getting Full Support of the Organization
While gaining the full support of Executive Management and then aligning with all the internal functions seems like a no-brainer, it ends up being a real task. You quickly find out that you are indeed in sales and you had better have your A+ game to be successful. Using a highly regarded framework, used to show the complexity of managing change, we worked diligently to ensure each box was properly assigned and managed using a RACI matrix. However, make no mistake: confusion, anxiety, resistance, frustration, and maybe a false start or two were in fact part of our journey. Messaging, consistent feedback to key stakeholders and salesmanship were mandatory parts to ensure our overall success. In the end over-communication and discussing even the smallest of details are important to the organization
So you have selected a vendor, implemented your first program and now you have to support it. At OnProcess we use a hybrid model of developers (Integration Analysts) and subject matter experts (Process Analysts) to work hand-in-hand. Together they scope the work, including change management, to build a development and implementation plan. Do not under-estimate the process and functions that will need to be identified, altered, and written (e.g., training, change management, failure analysis). Even something as simple as what do you do when the automation doesn’t work…for any reason…needs to be carefully thought out. Adding in enterprise redundancy, disaster recovery, password policies and many more highlight some of the key functions that will get involved to stand-up your first program and then to create many more!
In conclusion, we had a lively discussion about the many facets of selecting an automation vendor and then quickly followed up implementing an internal organization to support processes and new functions. In the end, it can look a lot like a changing the engine and transmission on a F-1 race car while still driving 100 mph. People will be excited and they will demand more and faster. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.