Robotics and RPA are some of the most used buzzwords and discussed technologies in context of digital transformation. But in fact, RPA is more than just a buzzword. However, many companies react with skepticism or denial instead of curiosity when it comes to implementing the technology. This seems quite paradox, as introducing robotic software to automate standardized and high-volume processes has the power to help all companies and create immediate value for money.

Luckily, RPA combines two convincing strengths, it can be applied easily and step by step. Therefore companies can experience Robotics in real life instead of through a power point slide. Basically, every company has certain processes which could be robotized within two weeks (or even less). With a minimum of time and money spend, you get transparency, what RPA really means for your company and where it can be applied. This blog article gives you best practices for such a quick RPA-Proof of Concept (PoC). In 7 easy steps it explains how a PoC should be performed to gain experience through practical realization of process automation.

Step 1 Process validation & preparation workshop (onsite with RPA expert)
As RPA is foremost a process and business driven technology, it is essential to know which process is most suitable to be automated with RPA. A successful showcase for promotion within the company contains relevant automation criteria (structured data, repetitive tasks, multiple interfaces) and respective business impact (mass process, high workload, peak times). Based on a RPA use-case repository and some explanation, companies are easily able to prepare first ideas on potential processes. A workshop with an RPA expert is an effective mode to prioritize and select a target process.

Step 2 Process documentation (homework)
The desired robot acts as virtual worker or employee on systems and applications like any other employee does. Therefore, usual process documentation is not sufficient, a detailed documentation of steps (“click-basis”) and clear ruleset to perform the process is required. This needs to be elaborated by relevant process owners as a homework after the selection workshop. Examples or video documentation may be little helpers to support this critical task.

Step 3 Software installation (homework, eventually with remote support of RPA expert)
The PoC can be easily implemented on RPA software test-licenses. However, the hardware availability (e.g. company laptop), installation and access to underlying systems is of crucial nature. Experience from many PoCs with different clients across multiple industries have shown that this must be addressed early or even before the start of a RPA initiative. Administrative rights, access to systems and test environments should be ensured. Lacking system availability is a real showstopper for the technical implementation. So, involvement of IT administrative staff is essential.

Step 4 Development concept (onsite with RPA expert)
The development concept is the handover from the business and administrative side towards the RPA developer. Process documentation, system access and step by step development plan (includes programming, testing and user acceptance test) need to be closely aligned.

Step 5 Recording and tuning of artefact (onsite by RPA expert)
The PoC implementation is mostly driven by the RPA developer and based on input from the process expert. During a PoC, regular pit stops to validate process flow and correct data processing have proven to be supportive. So, key personnel must be available.

Step 6 Test and sign off (onsite with RPA expert)
A final User Acceptance Test and a sign off ensure that targeted goals are and compliance standards are met. Project outcomes are evaluated and edited to create a comprehensive delivery package (incl. video of the robot for internal marketing purposes).

Step 7 Ready for immediate benefit realization (continuously)
A roll out into production normally happens in a subsequent initiative. Besides proper IT environment, it requires a set up that enables the process owner and related parties to maintain and support the robot, so the assumptions and environment specifications for the case set up should be carefully stated and documented. This will benefit in a quick start for a broader RPA initiative.

Following these 7 steps, the PoC ideally offers a real-world glimpse into the structure and benefits of RPA, its concepts, methods and tools related to process identification, documentation and implementation. It is an effective method to familiarize with the core concept of RPA. It enables the visualization of key benefits and improves the ability to further assess its business value. This may result in the gain of sponsorship and commitment from a wide audience in an extend, that would not be possible through other communication methods.

Despite all enthusiasm, two things need to be kept in mind:

  • The business case of the PoC highly depends on the process and software chosen, but also the client contribution. Capgemini consultants recently implemented a fast PoC which was also moved to production and is now replacing 30-35 hours of monthly effort – immediate value for money.
  • Rolling out large scale requires a supportive structure and setting up a RPA factory and Operating Model, which also impacts the overall RPA business case (see also Part 1 of our RPA-blog series).

So, start small, chose your processes wisely and let your RPA environment grow step-by-step.

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About the Author:

Christian Komp advises clients in topics around finance and process optimization in corporate functions with the focus on Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

He is part of the Corporate Excellence and Transformation Team in Germany and the Netherlands. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the author Christian Komp.