Top 6 Steps to Identify Processes to Automate with RPA in 2024

If you‘re looking to streamline operations and reduce costs through automation, robotic process automation (RPA) offers huge potential. Implementing RPA enables your organization to configure software bots to mimic human actions and complete repetitive, manual workflows across applications. But where do you start?

Selecting the right processes to automate is critical for RPA success. Based on my experience guiding large enterprises through automation journeys, I‘ve outlined a proven, step-by-step methodology to identify your top automation opportunities.

In this comprehensive guide, you‘ll learn:

  • What makes a process well-suited for RPA automation
  • Tips for discovering and mapping your current processes
  • How to identify quick win automation opportunities
  • Best practices for prioritizing mission critical processes to automate
  • Key factors to consider around existing systems and change management
  • Steps to analyze hard cost reduction opportunities through RPA

Let‘s get started!

What is RPA and What Processes Should You Automate?

First, a quick RPA primer. Robotic process automation utilizes software bots to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks across applications just as a human would. RPA bots log into systems, move files, copy/paste data, fill in forms and complete many other manual processes to take work off your employees‘ plates.

RPA is best suited for processes that have these characteristics:

  • Rules-based – can be configured through predefined steps
  • Repetitive – performed repeatedly in a consistent way
  • Manual – rely on manual human effort
  • Prone to errors – when completed manually

Let‘s compare RPA to some other popular automation technologies:

Automation TypeBest Use Cases
RPAStructured digital processes with repetitive data tasks
BPMLong workflows crossing multiple systems
OCRExtracting data from scanned documents
MacrosSimple automation on a single software program

Based on these criteria, some top processes to consider automating with RPA include:

  • Data entry from paper/PDF forms into systems
  • Copying and pasting data between applications
  • Web scraping data from portals into spreadsheets
  • Producing reports by compiling data from multiple systems
  • Processing invoices for approvals and payment
  • Logging and transferring customer service requests

Now that you know the ideal processes for RPA bots, let‘s walk through how to identify specific opportunities across your business.

Step 1: Discover and Map Current Processes

The first step is getting complete visibility into all processes across your company. This allows you to pinpoint the best automation opportunities.

Process discovery tools are invaluable here – they automatically record user actions and analyze screen captures to identify processes. Process discovery tools can model process variants, processing times, volumes, and tasks.

Leading options include:

  • Celonis – Offers automated process mapping and intelligence to identify bottlenecks.
  • UiPath Process Mining – Provides visualization of processes with process mining algorithms.
  • Minit – Maps processes and workloads to uncover automation potential.

With an objective view of your processes, you can start prioritizing ones to automate based on volume, complexity, and other factors we‘ll discuss.

Step 2: Identify Quick Win Automation Opportunities

Once you‘ve mapped your processes, a good next step is to identify some quick win automation opportunities.

What makes a process a good quick win candidate?

Quick wins have these attributes:

  • High volume – A large number of repetitive tasks completed each day
  • Prone to errors – Automation would increase quality/accuracy
  • Fast ROI – Relatively simple RPA bot can be built with big time savings

Let‘s look at some examples of good quick win processes to consider:

  • Automating IT password resets – High volume task done repeatedly
  • New employee onboarding data entry – Prone to manual errors
  • Copying data between business systems – Fast bot development time
  • Populating forms/templates – Easy rules for bots, big productivity gain

The benefit of quick wins is they can establish ROI for RPA quickly and build confidence before tackling complex mission critical processes. Even automating a few repetitive tasks can free up employees to do more strategic work.

Step 3: Prioritize Mission Critical Processes

After identifying some quick win automation opportunities, turn your focus to mission critical processes that can be transformed end-to-end with RPA bots.

Ideal mission critical processes to automate have these attributes:

  • Revenue impact – Order-to-cash, procurement, quote generation processes
  • Operations impact – Recording transactions, data reconciliation
  • High manual effort currently – Logging into apps, transferring data between systems

Though automating mission critical processes requires more upfront investment, the long-term benefits are substantial. Processes that impact customer experience, revenues, and operations should be high on your RPA priority list.

When evaluating processes, be sure to break them down into automation opportunities. For example, you may not automate an entire order-to-cash workflow initially but automate payment approvals as a start.

Step 4: Review Technology Roadmaps

Take into account your technology roadmap as you evaluate processes to automate.

  • Are you planning an ERP overhaul in 12-18 months that will eliminate some legacy processes?
  • Are new tools being implemented soon that will digitize paper processes?

If major upgrades on your roadmap will remove some manual processes shortly, investing in RPA may not make sense. Focus your automation efforts on processes that will remain post-upgrade.

Step 5: Assess Change Management Needs

Too often organizations underestimate the change management aspect of RPA adoption. Don‘t just look at the technology – consider the human impact.

  • Employee training – Upskill your team to work effectively alongside bots. Provide support to adapt to new roles.
  • Stakeholder communications – Clearly share automation benefits and strategy across the organization. Get buy-in.
  • IT protocols – Establish monitoring processes, access controls, and management of bots. Treat them like virtual employees.

For each process, assess the internal change management and training required pre-automation. Without proper organizational support, even flawless RPA bots will fail.

Step 6: Analyze Cost Reduction Opportunities

In building your automation roadmap, be sure to analyze hard cost reduction opportunities with RPA.

  • Could automating certain processes minimize outsourcing or temporary labor costs?
  • Where could automation help avoid costs associated with manual errors?
  • Can RPA support accelerated growth without proportional headcount increases?

Quantifying cost reduction opportunities helps justify automation investments and build your business case.

Key Takeaways and Recommendations

Let‘s recap the key steps to identify your top RPA automation opportunities:

  • Leverage process discovery tools to gain visibility into workflows across your organization.
  • Look for quick wins to establish ROI then tackle mission critical processes.
  • Review your technology roadmap and focus on automating lasting processes.
  • Analyze change management needs – don‘t underestimate the human element!
  • Quantify hard cost reductions from automating each process.

By systematically evaluating your processes against these criteria, you can create an automation roadmap tailored to your organization‘s needs and priorities.

To sum up, successful RPA requires:

  • Selecting the right processes (high volume, rules-based)
  • Executive sponsorship and change management
  • Starting small to prove value
  • Building competency in process discovery, RPA development, and automation governance

If you‘d like guidance on your RPA journey, I‘m happy to provide tailored advice based on my experience – feel free to get in touch! I wish you the best in your automation efforts. The rewards are well worth the effort.

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