A robot hand reaching through a computer monitor
Robotic Process Automation in the Digital Workplace PHOTO: Shutterstock

So you’ve made the decision, robotics process automation (RPA) is for your business. You’ve winnowed down a list of suitable vendors and are ready to start some serious shopping. Great. But before you plunge right in, there are some final things to consider. 

The following is a list of questions for would-be buyers to which they should give serious thought to before moving forward. They range from the existential — what role will your employees play as RPA expands within your organization? — to the practical, such as training time frames.

RPA Tool Selection is Less Important Than You Think

The actual tool itself is not that important for most companies, especially those that are just starting with RPA. What is more important is the methodology that the tool uses and how it guides the user to select the right processes to automate. It is underpinnings such as those that will result in a successful project, according to Rod Dunlap, senior director – RPA for Insurance at Capgemini.

Dunlap shared an example of a large bank that retained Capgemini to spend a month going through a very detailed assessment of several RPA tools. “We came back and recommended one along with four others that were also good potentials for the bank. But what I really wanted to tell them was that it was a waste of time to look at the tools in that level of detail.” 

His advice, he continued, is to pick one of the good tools and get started. “You’ll learn a lot from experimenting. Also recognize that switching to another tool in 60 or 90 days, even six months, is not an expensive proposition.” All of this is to say: just get started with RPA and then focus on the tool once you understand your requirements a little bit better.

Different Tools Fit Different Industries and Businesses

It is common sense to pick a tool that has a vertical focus if you are an insurance company, for example, or a general tool if you are just getting started and so on. It also makes sense to have a general understanding of your IT ecosystem as well, according to Dunlap. Although, he says, hopefully you already have that. 

Ask yourself, what is your company’s IT code management style, what is your change management style? What is your security setup and your data requirements? Is your data structured so it can be easily used?

Who is a Good Candidate for RPA?

Any company with two or more people doing a repetitive task that has structured data is a good candidate for RPA, Dunlap says. According to him, a two-person operation will realize an ROI from an RPA tool in three years. For three people, the ROI window narrows to two years. “If you have 50, 60, 100 or 200 people doing the same repetitive task, it’s not unusual to see a triple or quadruple ROI,” says Dunlap.

Understand the Scope of What RPA Can Do For Your Business

Most business have an idea about what RPA is and they have an idea about where it can drive value for them, according to Emma McGuigan, CTO of Accenture’s Communications, Media and Technology Group. “What many haven’t done is look exhaustively as to how they can leverage RPA and other automation tools across their entire landscape to drive a different outcome,” she says.

It is important to realize that RPA will surely be enhanced by other tools as they become more mature, she continued. “We are seeing some of this already — a certain level of sophistication using machine learning engines or virtual agents being back-ended by RPA. I think we will start to see that scale in the next 12 to eighteen months.”

What is Your Time Frame for Training?

How important is it to you to train your people, in say two weeks? That is a key consideration if you are planning on rolling this out through your line of business because some level of training will be necessary, Dunlap said. “It’s not so important if you’re just going to have a handful of experienced developers build the bots for you,” he says.

Speed of Deployment

Some businesses are happy to move RPA throughout their enterprise as fast as they can, McGuigan said. Their motivation is to realize cost savings as quickly as possible. “Other businesses are implementing RPA in a slightly more cautious manner — they want to make sure they don’t adopt RPA at such a pace that it brings on unexpected consequences,” she says.

Think about the role your employees will play

“Many of us feel slightly uncomfortable about the level of automation and related disintermediation that is going on. But the attitude that businesses are starting to take is that things will be disrupted no matter what and that you might as well be part of the change.”

She said that companies that are able to impart that attitude to employees often find their employees adapt, then become fully engaged in this process by being in a constant learning mode. “No matter how sophisticated the automation becomes, you still need people who really understand the original process, who can help continually thinking about automation some piece of the process,” McGuigan said.