Business Process Automation (BPA) vs Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

What is Robotic Process Automation or RPA?

Robotic Process Automation is a software application routine that mirrors the actions of a Human user within a process. It is very similar to traditional Workflow, in that a process is captured, the steps documented with all variables and pathways mapped. An RPA routine is created to exactly follow the human interaction within the process.

As an example, a user logs on to their Account, inputs the security credentials and finds a customer record. The user then presses edit for the address and inputs the customers address from a new data source ‘Change of address’ table. References the new address, checks it is the correct customer, inputs the new data, saves the edit and then checks the update. The address is then changed. All of these steps can be mapped as an RPA routine and continuously run against the organisation’s change of address queue.

As a result, mistakes are reduced, throughput is increased and productivity rises. Customer service improves through the faster turn around and fewer errors with longer operational times (Out of office hours or full 24*7).

This allows repetitive, low value or data-intensive tasks to be undertaken by the robot processor and followed as a routine just as a Human operator would do. However, unlike the human operator, the scheduled work can be undertaken at a higher speed or out of hours or for 24 hours a day with limited interaction with a human operator. The work tends to be more accurate and can be measured.

RPA will tend to adopt an already in-play process or routine and unless analysis of the process is undertaken a poorly executed process operated by a human will mirror an RPA routine so that the results could still be improved by changing the process flow.

Typically, Routines are created by RPA Software programs such as UiPath, Automation Anywhere, BluePrism and Kapow that need specialist skills and coding expertise. The market is very competitive with new entrants such as LEAPWORK RPA delivering user designed RPA without the need for coding and in-depth technical skills mean adoption rates for RPA should increase significantly.

What is Business Process Automation or BPA?

BPA or Business Process Optimisation is more of a framework to build around software solutions that serve a specific purpose such as workflow and RPA. BPA aims to rationalise processes, optimise how processes work in relation to the business function so that maximum efficiency and business value is achieved.

BPA uses detailed analysis to examine how processes are operating, identifying areas for improvement, and building solutions with a mixture or methods, processes and technology. BPA is about making sure your business processes add value and deliver against the defined business drivers and strategy of the host organisation.

Within BPA you could identify the need to use RPA to handle high frequency, low-value processes which had previously been performed by data administration staff. Once defined you could then optimise a process to enable the allocated staff to manage exceptions or more difficult customer interactions if the volume and throughput of the process increase by using RPA.

Don’t Try and Boil the Ocean dry

From our experience in document management and workflow, many organisations make the mistake of attempting to automate everything down to a finite level. Rather than do this organisations should adopt a Pareto’s principle (80/20) by recognising that to capture and automate 80% of a process, that can be implemented to give 80% of the benefit quickly and leave the difficult parts of the process (20%) to be left as exceptions to be handled by a human operator.

Measure Everything

One key aspect that is often over looked in BPA is that measurement should be used and metrics defined so that the output of the process can be measured effectively. Questions should be asked such as what the output of the process is, what can be used to show success or failure, when is a process slowing down or speeding up. Measure everything possible as data can be used to show a wide range of outcomes whether past, present or future.

If a process needs to be overhauled objective, factual data will provide the evidence that is needed to make decisions on the process in question. This is how improvements to processes are made. Once you can demonstrate why a process is good or bad you can either replicate it or remove it. With each improvement the organisation benefits.

Summary

Whilst many people will interchange RPA with BPA organisations need to define their processes first, optimise them second and then look to solutions that can help them automate the processes whether through RPA, Workflow, Automated Cloud Provisioning, Test Automation or DevOps.

Processes should be defined against business drivers and measured. Good processes will stand the test of time and changed when circumstance or evidence dictates change is required.

For a conversation and find out whether you can apply for a funded BPA Review or whether RPA is a suitable solution please contact ONQU using the form below or phone 0121 227 8201

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