How to Speed Past RPA Roadblocks: An Analyst’s Perspective
And so began the keynote speech by Gartner analyst Tom Murphy at Tricentis Accelerate – a conference that deals with “Automation @ the Speed of Change”. Now that many companies are using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and getting quick results, we have reached a turning point. The focus has shifted to scaling RPA, and this carries the risk of the automation that you simply cannot control, moving at full speed.
So how do you avoid hitting this wall and bringing your newly automated processes to a standstill? Murphy made a number of recommendations that apply to both organizations just starting out with RPA and early adopters who have fallen into what is known as the trough of desperation.
Look beyond the “low hanging fruit” for long-term ROI
Repeated tasks that create a bottleneck in “human processes” are obviously the prime candidates for RPA. Although RPA use cases are typically demonstrated using features like HR and insurance, almost every professional is held back by nerve-wracking tasks that make them hate their job. For example, even a top analyst like Murphy has to spend a lot of time each day closing Siebel records after every customer interaction.
Murphy offered the following 4-step approach to maximizing the business impact of RPA:
- Identify: Look for high-volume, repetitive tasks that require a lot of key, have high error rates, and slow down critical processes.
- To confirm: Take into account the input and trigger events that you may want to look for. Where do you need validation? Are the associated processes and systems relatively stable? Of course, you need a way to identify and manage change (more on this below), but starting with your most dynamic processes can lead to an uphill battle from the start.
- Quantify: How do you quantify the value of automating this task? How do you explain the complexity and frequency of tasks? What are the current error rates and what is the value of reducing them? Typos when transcribing call notes are one thing; transposed digits in financial records is another.
- Prioritize: Do not start your most complicated process, even if it is stable. Aim for projects that are small, simple, and provide compelling evidence. Projects that push the boundaries of other approaches to automation are great candidates for demonstrating the value of RPA. As you prioritize, consider what matters most to your business (improving efficiency? Increasing capacity?) And how you will demonstrate business value.
According to Murphy, many companies have successfully used test automation as a bridge to RPA. There is a significant amount of overlap between RPA and software test automation. Companies that have already achieved mature, sustainable test automation processes are much better prepared for success with RPA. In many cases, they can use many of the same automation experts and even the same automation resources for both test automation and RPA.
On the flip side, brittle automation – the same core problem that has failed so many software test automation initiatives – has already emerged as the greatest enemy of RPA success and ROI. RPA users are realizing what testers learned years ago: If your automation can’t adapt to day-to-day changes in interfaces, data sources and formats, underlying business processes, and so on, maintaining the automation will quickly impact your ROI. In addition, with RPA, the effects of faulty automation are much more severe. A test that doesn’t run is one thing; A real business process that is not completed is another.
Test automation is arguably more difficult than RPA, and resilience is undeniably more critical with RPA. Find the people who are masters of test automation and you will be on a much smoother road to RPA success.
Quickly building and updating resilient UI automation and API automation is critical for both RPA and test automation. Even so, Murphy points out, there are some important differences. Test automation tools do not have the enterprise orchestration, high availability, and production focus required for RPA to be successful. On the other hand, RPA solutions do not offer many features that are essential to the success of test automation: test case design, service virtualization, test data management, etc.
Simply put, RPA tools are not suitable for enterprise software testing, just as software testing tools are not suitable for enterprise RPA. Nonetheless, if you want to take the quick path to RPA success, core automation skills and experts can (and should) be used in test automation and RPA.
Be committed to both short and long-term goals from the start
To conclude, Murphy recommended a very specific plan of action:
- Next weekClarify your company’s RPA position and partnerships.
- In the next 3 monthsExamine your processes, identify a core set of faster profits, then create an enterprise automation roadmap that focuses on business outcomes.
- Next yearPlan how to scale and extend RPA to lower total cost of ownership and increase business agility.
Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.