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By James Hall, CEO,Genfour
With the rise of automation in the workplace showing no signs of slowing down, many CIOs are evaluating the application of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for increased productivity across various use cases. RPA offers businesses an improved Profit and Loss statement (P&L), allowing the organization to avoid capital spend and reduce cost. It allows businesses to achieve operational excellence, improve quality and increase the velocity of transactions, allowing CIOs to leverage their organization’s talent.
But while the benefits of RPA are numerous, many CIOs have concerns surrounding its implementation, and whether existing IT led implementation approaches can achieve efficiencies within reasonable timescales.
"As a CIO implementing a robotic solution, you have to engage with multiple departments and stakeholders in business if it is to be successful."
As partner to some of these enterprises, we’ve supported the organizational journey as businesses’ embark on a digital journey. Here are just some of the questions and considerations CIOs should consider as the robots enter our workforce.
Ahead of Automation
Firstly, as a CIO considering robotics, you will need to consider some testing of corporate policy around risk and security before embarking on the automation journey.
This starts at its simplest level, with the need to generate IDs for robots – all the way through to understanding that this is not going to be a closed software deployment project – the whole business will need to be engaged in this process, for a whole host of reasons.
At the initial planning stage, you will need to consider and map out how many environments are involved or connected to the processes that you want to automate, before progressing to the testing, and eventually live stages. Policies will need to apply to not just the desktop, but system access rights and other processes such as system updates, as these may throw a robot off its path.
Where Will the Robots Live?
Consider where you will be hosting the robots – it is not by any means necessary for you to host them inside your organization. You may already have an infrastructure partner that will deploy them for you.
The alternative option is to consider CloudBots, something that Genfour provides for 30 percent of its customers. The primary concern for CIOs here, which needs offsetting, involves the question of security in the cloud, which raises quite a different stream of considerations and compliance issues.
In the world of CloudBots, there is also a hybrid solution to be considered – one where the bots live on-site but the management server and administration processes are hosted by the partner at an offsite location.
No Pressure – Just Have a Back-up Plan
A good question that the CIO should ask is: is this going to put extra pressure on the network? You would think so, however the answer is – not necessarily. The great thing about robots is that you can schedule them to run over periods of time, and of course, extended robot hours mean that there is less pressure at key business times. If you think about robots as another 24/7 user, that you can pace accordingly - that is probably a fair assessment.
Remember there is a huge difference between setting up a proof of concept and carrying that concept into full production. The concept phase may be lengthy and often is with our customers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it enables you to evaluate and develop the relevant business cases for each process to ensure that it will promote value and efficiency within the business. However, once the robots are in production, they become business-critical very quickly. Consider a fail-safe business continuity plan – the robots, if working correctly, will be doing a lot of work for you – so you need to make sure you have back up and continuity solutions in place should system failure happen.
Robots, Not Just IT - They Are About Business
As a CIO implementing a robotic solution, you have to engage with multiple departments and stakeholders in business if it is to be successful. These parties will include risk, security, infrastructure, IT architects, and those managers of process or business systems and applications. You may also need to engage with your third party to do it, if you have an existing infrastructure provider.
Threat or Opportunity?
CIOs should remember that the pressures and challenges associated with implementing RPA are not insurmountable, they can just create delay and prevent agility (what robots were invented for) if not considered thoroughly at the outset of a project.
In an ideal world, and frequently the case, the implementation of robots will be business led, and not about changing systems. If anything, you want RPA to be deployed where change is not already underway; it may not be the right time for the robots if the process is in re-design. Equally, in terms of change control, RPA needs a seat at the management table to address the impact on processes that are being built or re-designed.
The First Question is the Most Important
If the business is putting robotics forward for the CIO agenda, then the first question to ask is, why is that? If it is agility or cost, then it is difficult to compete with anything other than RPA. RPA is the solution which will support the business on its digital journey and allows your organization to innovate – there is little doubt about that.
RPA is one of the many tools in the CIO toolbox, which some people refer to as “the strategic tool for tactical change”. An understanding of the gap that robotics is being used to plug and the drivers for it will alleviate operational stress later on the journey. Implementing a secure and considered robotics plan should enable CIOs and businesses to see a return on their investment in no time at all, and prove the business case for RPA.