The best approach to identify the processes for automation is to use a funnel concept.
The objective is to first capture most of the processes in the organization across business lines. We then filter them out till we have processes with maximum automation potential and returns maximum benefits.
I suggest taking a 3-step approach to identify the processes. Once the processes are identified, we can prioritize and build them out.
The suggested three steps to identify the best opportunities for automation include functional analysis followed by process analysis and then finally filtering them for the benefits. Let us Look at each step in detail.
The first step is to uncover all possible automation opportunities within the organization at a very high level. We can go about identifying opportunities across the organization in multiple ways – Lines of business, geography or business function. The approach we have taken in the past is to go at it based on the business functions. So let us take that as an example approach here.
For each area (Business function here), it is advisable to identify a champion to help us coordinate with the group and their sub-groups. I have seen it it’s best to start by improving the digital or bot fluency of the different groups. This can be achieved by setting up sessions with the group through the champion.
The sessions are then followed by questionnaires to the group to identify the processes and provide data on the same. Once the information is received from each of the groups, you can do a first level analysis for automation. At this stage, we are largely looking for processes that are largely manual and have high volumes. Based on this high-level analysis and based on past experience on RPA, flag the automation opportunities within each of the business function.
You can then come up with a heat map like the one below:
- Customer service
As part of functional analysis, we took a first-level look at the automation opportunities throughout the organization. We now have a prioritized list of Business functions that we like to start with.
Now in the next step, we will dive another level deeper into the processes for the business functions that we prioritized. For eg., if we prioritized Finance as an area to automate, we will analyze the Finance and Accounting processes further.
This next level of assessment is usually conducted through workshops with the sub-groups of the identified business functions. During these workshops, the identified processes are analyzed for the following:
Along with the group champion, assess which of the individual processes for the function are ripe for automation. These processes are usually assessed for:
- Manual tasks where considerable time is spent on repetitive tasks
- Process maturity – Processes that are clear and is usually well documented
- Manual hand-offs: Processes where information is entered repeatedly in the same or disparate systems
- Processes that involve searching, collating or updating information
- Processes that require the matching or comparing of data
This should give you a list of processes that are suitable for automation.
Ease of Implementation
Next, look for the ease of implementing the automation based on the technologies that we are looking to use to automate. All the tools have areas that they are strong at and areas they are not so good at. For eg. If the process has handwritten documents, this would be hard to implement automation using RPA.
For understanding ease of implementation, look for:
- Number of Exceptions. Processes with lesser exception paths obviously are easier
- Level of Digitization. More the digitization, easier it is to implement
- Security needs. More the levels of security, the harder it could be
- Compliance. Too many compliance requirements can make it harder to automate
- Process stability. It is better to automate when the process is more stable
- Change readiness. If the team is amenable to change, it is easier
At the end of the above two steps of process analysis, we have a list of automatable processes for the business functions we like to target. These are generally the processes that we now look forward to automating and moving to production.
Before that though, we should ideally be ensuring that the processes meet our benefit objectives.
In the final stage of Process identification, we want to filter the processes based on the likelihood of meeting your strategic objectives.
Some of the common criteria to be considered for this include:
- Revenue Generation
- Customer Satisfaction
- Risk Mitigation
After this final identification step, generally, about 20 to 30% of the potential processes come through the filters and would be ideal automation opportunities.
You can then prioritize the processes and select the ones most suited for a pilot program and subsequent sprints.
You now take the processes that we identified and maintain a running log along with a priority to implement them. This can be tracked in a spreadsheet or any system that you and team are comfortable with.
It is best to use a template to log the processes and rank them based on a scorecard. This scorecard is used to rank, prioritize and build the processes one by one. A sample process prioritization scoreboard could look like this:
You can have more criteria like Productivity, Risk mitigation, Impact, Compliance, etc.
Process prioritization and management enables effective management of the automation pipeline. This sheet can also be used to report the progress of the automation initiative to identified stakeholders.
We now have a list of prioritized processes or use cases to build our bots from.
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