Category Archives: RPA

Robotic Process Automation as an Accelerator to Enhance Jobs

One of today’s hottest topics in business is the impending displacement of human employees due to the introduction of technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). While it is true that rules-based, “copy-and-paste” jobs are susceptible to being eliminated by the advent of these technologies, business executives have a unique opportunity to utilize these tools to improve operations from multiple perspectives.

The first thing that Fission likes to (click here for the Fission RPA approach) do on a new RPA engagement is understand the client’s goals and expectations. In our experience, most companies undertake RPA initiatives for two reasons:

1). To increase productivity and capacity by improving the accuracy and speed of completing both revenue-generating and support tasks (e.g., automating the retrieval of sales data from Fulfillment by Amazon, ensuring data transformation activities, and sales data entry into NetSuite so that an order can be quickly processed)

2). To decrease costs by eliminating FTEs or reallocating workers to value-generating responsibilities (e.g., automating the tedious copy-and-pasting of invoice data into an Accounting and Finance system by the lead accountant)

Examining the business case for RPA alone presents a strong argument for the introduction of these tools into the enterprise. However, an often-overlooked opportunity comes in the form of utilizing RPA as an accelerator to enhance jobs – resulting in financial and HR improvements. Before delving too far into this topic, let’s examine a typical RPA engagement – which is comprised of an assessment phase and a subsequent implementation phase.

Assessment:

RPA assessments involve multiple discovery sessions with employees performing the manual processes that have been tagged for evaluation. After asking the typical questions to gauge the feasibility of automation and the impact of an RPA implementation on financial metrics, developers generally have an idea of the processes that are a fit for RPA and work on creating a robust business case for automation. Developers are also quick to dismiss automation candidates due to either a lack of rules and consistency or because of a weak business case backing. However, further discovery can lead to opportunities for process re-engineering, enabling the implementation of RPA as a tool to automate the standardized steps of the process. Exceptions can then be flagged for manual work after RPA execution has ended.

There are several benefits to this approach to automation which businesses are leaving on the table. Financial metrics such as ROI, Payback Period, and NPV must be considered, but these deployments can also do wonders for intangible metrics such as employee engagement and team morale.

 

Implementation:

On a recent client engagement, Fission was tasked with evaluating seven processes across three different business units and subsequently configuring and deploying UiPath workflows to reallocate 3 – 4 FTEs to other value-added responsibilities. Many of the processes that made the assessment shortlist for an RPA Proof of Concept involved a lack of clear-cut rules that RPA developers require to make enterprise-wide deployments accurate and scalable. After our assessments, we were only able to find one end-to-end process that was able to be fully automated; meaning we were forced to get creative to meet the terms of the SOW.

Fission designed and deployed multiple RPA accelerators (automation that the end-user interacts with) to standardize process workflows and eliminate a majority of the workload of the employees whose processes could not be traditionally automated. These tasks involved a lot of what we coined, “investigative auditing”, which meant visually parsing relevant client documents (unstructured contracts) to analyze data and make decisions. Quotes from our assessments included, “We have to use our best judgement on most of these cases”, and, “We don’t know what we’re looking for until we get in the contract”. Couple this with Citrix access to green-screen technology and you have an RPA developer’s worst nightmare. Multiple sub-processes then ensued depending on this contract discovery. Even though these sub-processes were similar, they involved many exceptions and discretionary decision-making in the middle of the process as well.

Results:

As Sun Tzu once said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”. Fission collaborated with employees to sequence all the manual and cognitive portions of the process upfront (where applicable). After re-engineering, we created workflows to automate the standard and repeatable portions of each process based on the rules that did exist. If it was discovered in the middle of automation that the current case was not going to be straightforward, we included a “Manual” button that the employee could click to flag the case for manual completion after UiPath finished executing.

The RPA accelerator approach enabled one employee with no previous exposure to RPA to reduce her workload by 95%, while also learning the inner workings of UiPath and increasing company productivity. She also was very adamant about the mental benefits to this “job enhancement”, saying that she used to be “drowning in manual work and each day looked the same”. By deploying RPA accelerators, we were able to “make her life easier”, allow her to take more ownership of the process that she was responsible for, and increase her overall engagement.

Thus, our call to action for RPA developers and businesses considering an RPA deployment:

Developers: It’s acceptable to say no to a process if it just cannot be automated. However, always take a moment to reconsider how you could make this employee’s life easier by utilizing process re-engineering and deploying an RPA accelerator. You may be able to generate client buy-in and get a sense of satisfaction at improving someone’s day-to-day life at the same time.

Businesses: While utilizing RPA to increase productivity and cut costs is great for top and bottom-line improvement, RPA can be used to enhance much more than financial performance. Benefits to Human Resources include: Increasing the general morale of your workforce, standardizing process workflows to streamline training and onboarding, and improving company culture by giving employees more ownership of their work. As we approach the threshold of the digital workforce, it is important to get creative in the way that “robots” and humans can work together. Utilizing RPA as an accelerator is one such way to do that.

About Fission

Fission assists buy-side and sell-side clients with TSA negotiations, IT carve-out planning and execution, and post-separation optimization. Please reach out to us with comments or questions at learn@fissionconsulting.com.

 

 

Utilizing RPA to optimize your Portfolio Company

Introduction

Congratulations, you just completed a successful carve-out! Months of hard work culminated in an important milestone for your new portfolio company, but it only marks the beginning of a long journey to generating a high return on investment. A recently carved-out company may need additional improvements to operate at full efficiency. With shifting work responsibilities, open job positions, and new management in place, it will take time to solidify current operations and grow the business. There are many approaches to optimizing current processes in order to meet strategic objectives, but one of the quickest and least disruptive ways to achieve that is by deploying Robotic Process Automation.

After a successful carve-out, the IT advisors involved have the necessary understanding of your business and its technical landscape to be able to identify improvement opportunities through RPA.  The initial months after a carve-out provide the optimal time window for an RPA implementation, as business processes are not yet solidified and there may be resource gaps that exist in the organization. RPA implementations are agile projects that can quickly add long-term value through process standardization and productivity improvements, while offsetting potential hiring needs. This blog will serve as an introduction to RPA and outline our approach to RPA implementation services.

RPA Overview

RPA has rapidly evolved over the last two decades. It began as a simple form of “screen scraping”; the software would simply follow recorded mouse movements, clicks and keyboard inputs. Screen scraping use was limited, as it didn’t integrate with software or website user interface well.  Nowadays, RPA is much more advanced and is quickly growing in adoption rate among businesses of all sizes. RPA software is deployed directly within a client’s IT environment and can integrate with Microsoft Office products, web browsers, and VM/Citrix environments. RPA can be used for simple tasks such as sending emails or reading Excel tables, or complex jobs like manipulating ERP or CRM data using multiple robots that trigger logic-based actions. Additionally, modern RPA software doesn’t rely on writing code, but rather using built-in drag-and-drop features. This makes RPA very accessible, as internal maintenance does not require advanced expertise.

The benefits of integrating RPA into your business are substantial. Automation has the ability to decrease staffing and training costs, while eliminating human error. According to The National Association of Software and Services Companies, RPA implementations can result in 35%-65% of cost reduction in onshore operations and 10%-30% of cost reduction in offshore operations. The return time window of the investment is usually less than one year. For example, in one of our previous RPA implementations, Fission helped the client strategically reallocate 5 employees and reduce the Order-to-Cash cycle by 45 days, resulting in ~$300,000 in annual cost savings and a 5.7x ROI multiple.

In the post-separation phase of a portfolio company, RPA’s drawbacks become its advantages. Normally, the deployment of RPA would require redistribution of the workforce and result in adjustments to internal management and HR departments. However, during an unstable period where employees have been pre-exposed to change, RPA becomes an asset that can improve productivity and make employees’ lives easier by decreasing workload. For this reason, Robotic Process Automation is an effective way to optimize a business after a large-scale transformation.

Fission Approach

1. Assess
The first step in any RPA project is an RPA suitability assessment. Fission consultants begin by meeting with client sponsors to understand the goals and expectations for undertaking an RPA initiative. This helps to generate the shortlist of processes to target in evaluations. Next, interviews are conducted with the employees responsible for each process. We take the information gathered in these interviews and utilize our RPA scoring matrix to compare processes and determine suitability for automation. Not every process is a candidate for automation due to a lack of standardization. RPA cannot replace human logic and problem solving, but it excels in automating repeatable, rules-based tasks. Once the business signs off on the RPA implementation candidates, the next phase begins.

2. Design
The Design phase is crucial for a successful and on-time delivery of the robot. Taking an additional week to identify all the necessary steps and possible exceptions ensures the build phase is efficient and allows for a robust error-handling process to be implemented. During this phase, Fission will create a future state process map to review with the appropriate stakeholders and will utilize this output to configure RPA workflows during the Build phase.

3. Build
The Build phase is the bulk of an RPA project. Fission consultants utilize the chosen RPA software and build the initial workflow to validate that the future state process design is suitable for full-scale implementation. We then implement exceptions handling and event logging to manage errors and track metrics. The detailed design sessions previously conducted ensure that minimal client resources are needed during the Build phase. After the build is finalized, Fission holds three rounds of User Acceptance Testing to ensure that the workflow is ready for deployment.

4. Deploy
The first step of the Deploy phase consists of acquiring the necessary software licensing for the client. An RPA workflow can either be attended (meaning that a human is needed to begin RPA execution) or unattended (the workflow is scheduled and processes on its own). Different license types are required depending on the chosen deployment strategy and Fission can assist with obtaining the proper licensing for compliance. Fission will then create training documentation and hold workshops for key client resources to explain the logic behind the workflow if maintenance is needed. Finally, when final signoff has been given, the robot is provisioned in the client’s IT environment.

Conclusion

Leveraging RPA after a large-scale transformation project is a great way to further optimize a portfolio company. Since carve-outs are highly disruptive and result in many unknowns, they create the ideal time window for additional improvements to be made. Potential benefits of RPA deployments include business process optimization, productivity improvements, error reduction, workflow standardization, cost cutting, efficient resource allocation, and many others. As part of our Portfolio Company Optimization services, Fission can assist clients in implementing RPA to maximize return on investment.

 

 

About Fission

Fission assists buy-side and sell-side clients with TSA negotiations, IT carve-out planning and execution, and post-separation optimization. Please reach out to us with comments or questions at learn@fissionconsulting.com.

 

 

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