How do you go from idea to RPA? Step-by-step is the way to go

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RPA seems to be everywhere these days. Automating processes sounds like music to many organizations’ ears. However, it is a pretty fundamental change for the employees and the organization as a whole. So a good strategy is very important. We sat down and had a chat with Asher Lake of Unlocking Digital on this topic.

Lake is a refreshing presence with a refreshing message, especially if you compare it to the standard messaging in the industry as a whole. Many people we speak to still tend to downplay the impact of new technology on organizations. If you buy a certain product or service from them, you will reach nirvana, is the message they often send. Lake also certainly adheres to the latter part of that statement when it comes to RPA, or intelligent automation, as it is often called these days. That is, he is convinced that it can really bring a lot to many organizations. However, he does not claim that it is just a matter of acquiring the right technology. You also (and especially) have to initiate change within the organization.

When it comes down to it, automation is about a fundamental change. This change is not always fun for everyone at first. “Change is a beautiful mess,” Lake quotes one of his own coaches from the past during our conversation. Lake should know, because he has been doing this for many years. Until last year, he worked at KLM, where he contributed to the success of the KLM Digital Studio, KLM’s Innovation Hub. There he was involved in RPA, among other things. Today he has his own company, Unlocking Digital, and has Daimler/Mercedes-Benz as his biggest client.

Change is a step-by-step process

You can’t expect the fundamental changes that are part of the movement toward RPA and automation to happen all at once. It’s important to take a step-by-step approach, Lake indicates. He divides the approach into four short and powerful statements:

  1. Be a leader with guts;
  2. Be easy to follow;
  3. Ignite the spark, embrace followers;
  4. Find momentum and scale.

The leader’s role in change is obviously very important. It’s not just a matter of being a pioneer and seeing it all for yourself, you have to be able to convince others. That is, you have to make it tangible. In principle, this is not very difficult with RPA, because you can visualize it very quickly for employees by means of demos. However, this is mainly the technical piece, you also have to think about things like employee satisfaction. In addition, it is important to link the changes that automation brings with it to the goal of the organization as a whole. You actually have to be an entrepreneur within your organization.

With the first two steps, you have the basics down. However, you can’t do it all yourself from start to finish. In fact, if you are really a leader with balls, then you will see that someone else within the organization is more suitable to lead this particular project than you. Furthermore, you must ensure that you find ambassadors within the organization. They must further fuel the fire. You are successful if, in step four above, you have reached the point that you no longer have to go to the people, but that the people come to you with ideas for automation. “They need to know where the party is at,” as Lake describes it.

Is RPA the way to go for your organization?

An important question, of course, is whether it’s a good idea for your organization to go down the road of RPA/automation in the first place. Again, Lake is very honest. “It’s certainly not the holy grail, if you can solve automation within your existing application landscape, then you should do it,” he indicates. To determine if RPA is right for your organization, Lake has a so-called automation model. It consists of eight steps, in the first few of which you can already see whether RPA is the best method. However, the central question is always the same: “Do I have repetitive work with a certain volume on which I can make a profit?” The profit then does not have to be only in ROI or ROE, but can also be in other things, such as compliance.

Once you have decided that RPA is the right direction for your organization, of course, the work really begins. With the tools we discussed with Lake, you should be able to get started. Mind you, Lake does not promise a smooth transition. You will always have people who want to come along and those who don’t, for example. But you shouldn’t let that stop you. For that, the end goal is too important to the organization.

This article was originally intended as a preview of Asher Lake’s session at UiPath Together Amsterdam, which would have taken place on 24 November. However, the developments around the coronavirus made UiPath decide to postpone the event. We wanted to publish this article anyway, because we think it is interesting and relevant enough for our readers.