by Abe Magalong,
Business Analysis (BAPL) Consultant
In an increasingly competitive environment where businesses are changing their internal operations to engage faster and become more personalised to their customers how can the introduction of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) assist this and what exactly is it? Robotic Process Automation is fast becoming an interesting software solution to routine, laborious, data intensive tasks (Boulton, 2018). This blog will describe RPA and apply business analysis techniques to increase the value of implementing an RPA solution within businesses.
The use of RPA is being adopted across multiple business sectors (Boulton, 2018). At its core, RPA is the use of a software application which governed by business logic and structured inputs is designed to automate manual business processes that involve data entry and processing (Boulton, 2018). The impact of using such technology is that a business can configure RPA software to read data from an application and process a simple transaction which otherwise would be the responsibility of an human actor.
To help facilitate implementing an RPA solution, a Business Analyst can undertake a scoping exercise to identify which areas of the business can benefit from the adoption of RPA. Lessons learnt indicate that a more refined RPA scope that targets simple information is more effective than interpreting complex information derived from multiple scenarios as the human element will inevitably need to intervene (Smith, 2017).
An approach of identifying and refining scope is by choosing a business department with data intensive tasks and documenting which smaller processes can benefit from an RPA. By taking first a broad outlook and then focusing on the detail businesses can therefore quickly identify a scope to implement RPA. The use of a simple Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers (SIPOC) framework, BPMN modelling and creating test scenarios from the processes can help facilitate analysis and design of an RPA solution
By starting at the highest level, the use of SIPOC can frame key characteristics of a bigger process, enabling a Business Analyst to quickly trace and highlight which tasks of a process are labour intensive. Once a task in the process is identified to be labour and data intensive the use of BPMN modelling can validate whether an RPA solution can be of best fit.
Modelling individual activities of a task allows a Business Analyst to validate what data entry steps in the process are repeatable and identifies which data attributes is consumed and outputted to an associated system. By going in to this detail a Business Analyst can further test whether their hypothesis of replacing a manual data entry task can benefit from an RPA solution as it shows low level task dependencies between data and associated consuming systems. Documenting the process again but in a to-be state whereby each manual data entry step is replaced by the RPA solution can therefore visually depict how the new process will work in the future state.
Finally, to confirm whether the to-be model of implementing an RPA solution will achieve the intended outcome, the development of test plans which can easily be documented using the to-be model as a reference point can help facilitate this. The use of a test plan that details individual steps traced back from a to-be model allows a Business Analyst to meticulously plan how the new human removed data entry process achieves the same outcome. By doing this a Business Analyst can therefore record and analyse any test results and report any unexpected or unsatisfactory outcomes.
To capture which areas of the business is suitable for an RPA roll out a focused analysis which begins by looking broad and focusing in on the individual data entry steps can help identify which specific manual data entry processes can best leverage an RPA solution.
Boulton, C (2018). What is RPA? A revolution in business process automation. Retrieved from https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/641674/what-rpa-revolution-business-process-automation/
Smith, P (2017). Robotic process automation on demand as consultants get disrupted. Retrieved from https://www.afr.com/technology/robotic-process-automation-on-demand-as-consultants-get-disrupted-20170816-gxx6b0