RPA-Automation Anywhere Use case implementation — a case study.
(Madhav is an experienced Solution Architect working with Oracle ERP , BPM, third party software and related integrations around ERP software)
I had a recent opportunity to implement Automation Anywhere Pilot Use case.
Below are some experiences & takeaways:
During a large ERP implementation, our team consisting of internal resources & IT technology partner were challenged with coming up with Use cases for Automation & implementing a feasible Use case pilot to gain experience for future bigger Use cases with Business & IT processes.
We brainstormed and came up with short list. The use case selected for pilot was loading configuration data from Excel spreadsheets into ERP applications for multiple environments like Acceptance testing, Integration testing, User Acceptance testing and Production, so that Business Analysts can save some time on repetitive activities & maintain focus on other important tasks for the implementation.
In the process, we used services of a technology partner, who had experience with multiple RPA tools like UiPath, Blue Prism & Automation Anywhere.
Automation Anywhere tool was selected due to the simplicity of Use case & scale of implementation (15 data load scripts).
We started with the technology partner creating a quick proof of concept (POC) for Business Entity data loads where an automation script was created to input Excel data with about 20 rows (15 columns each) to be entered in ERP application. Based on the POC results analysis, next steps were taken to finalize a contract with the technology partner to purchase required Run-time and development licenses and also use a mixed resource team model for implementation with one lead resource on-site vs rest of the development team offshore.
The scripts were built and delivered in about seven to eight months.
Below are a few lessons learnt:
- Automation continues to load records faster than humans unless the underlying hardware becomes unavailable due to network / other issues or the ERP system becomes unavailable while the records are being loaded. The primary reason for the speed is that unlike humans, no coffee / lunch breaks and restriction of business hours applies to automation script.
- Based on how the script is coded an interrupted automation can continue where it stopped earlier once system becomes available (assuming there is no intervention with the input file).
- If the process needs to be 100% automated, then we need to finalize governance processes upfront. For example, a Virtual User equivalent to every bot (run-time robot) will need to be approved with Security and Audit teams so Risk and Control issues are addressed based on organizational policies. In our case, we did not go that route due to this phase being a Pilot phase. We requested individual Users sign on to ERP system on the Run-time Virtual machine and kick-off automation application after ensuring that correct Excel input file is placed in the appropriate Virtual machine folder structure.
- While selecting Use case to automate, it is important to optimize the process first. An automation designed around an inefficient process is as inefficient as prior manual process.
- Since the automation software is periodically upgraded with newer features, it is important to check if the next version and any critical new features are going to be available in short term. This will affect the project timeline as well as pricing of the software in addition to estimated efficiency.
- Since most automation scripts are designed to mimic repetitive User actions, it is important to request Users to take responsibility of manual data entry in the event the Automation Virtual machines become unavailable.
- If any Use cases involve change in the software or an upgrade of software in short term, then it is beneficial to develop the automation post-upgrade so duplicate effort in automation scripting is minimized.
- Like any other software platform, a sound SDLC structure needs to be designed for successful RPA implementation.
- When the organization decides to move from Pilot to Program phase by planning multiple Automation scripts business-wide, is important to budget additional run-time licenses for Change management processes like User acceptance testing. Also, important considerations to be addressed at the start of Program Phase are governance, assigning support owner ships within the organization. Business Users may be able to take up run time support so that IT spends time with development, enhancements, bug fixes.
- In some organizations, business super users may take up basic development tasks as long as a good governance and SDLC structure is in place.
In summary, Automation efforts can succeed where organizations want to automate repetitive or even want to take out partial repetitive tasks of individual team members that need to be assigned more responsible judgement tasks. It is important to design Governance, SDLC, version control processes and improve them to suit the scale of implementation. Some measures of scale of implementation are number of bots, number & types of tasks being automated.
Shared Services, Legal, Accounting and Reconciliation could be the first areas to be automated while other areas can be considered for later implementations depending on use cases. Generally, most structured / repetitive tasks can be automated with RPA software feature availability being an important limitation.
Even though Automation tools have most usage currently in Financial, Telecommunication, Cable services and Life sciences sectors, the opportunities are great in other sectors too.
Additional information or reference material can be found using links below: