The term Robotic Process Automation (RPA) first originated in 2000. By now, you’d think we would have eliminated manual processes completely however, much like the flying cars predicted to take off by 2016 in the movie “Back to the Future,” we’re not quite there yet. To be sure, large enterprises are adopting RPA at a rapid pace and are quickly realizing promising ROIs. But how can mid-market companies benefit from RPA?

Below are five guidelines for mid-market companies looking to explore RPA.

  1. Look around. Every company we see has manual, error-prone processes. Maybe you receive customer orders via email, check inventory on a supplier’s web portal, and combine that information to determine when you can schedule that new order within your system. Or maybe you take data feeds from two disconnected systems, combine and manipulate the data, and feed the output back into another system. Often, these are highly repetitive tasks, they are performed by several employees across different departments, and the risk of manual error is significant. Perhaps more importantly, these manual and error-prone processes typically cause disruptions in the quality and speed with which you serve your customers.
  2. Start small. This can be a big change for your employees, and successfully implementing RPA takes some coordination and change management. Start with a pilot process or process area to understand how RPA works and how to best integrate it into your organization. Evaluate that pilot, learn from it, and modify your larger implementation.
  3. Don’t automate bad processes. Once you understand how to implement RPA and the benefits it can provide, it’s tempting to apply it everywhere. However, there are a number of processes that can be streamlined before they’re automated. That streamlining can reduce the number of “bots” you need, which reduces your cost and further increases your ROI. Implementing RPA provides a perfect opportunity to think critically about each process or process area and look for ways to drive efficiency throughout your organization.
  4. Find the right platform. There are a number of RPA software platforms in the market today. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each package and choose the one that best fits your organization and your needs. Make sure you understand the pricing model; as you automate more processes and deploy more “bots,” how does the pricing change? Is that scalable for you?
  5. Find the right partner. Most RPA platform providers work through implementation partners whose job is to work with your IT department to help you understand the software and most effectively integrate RPA in your organization. Often, once a company starts down the RPA path, they quickly identify their own “champions” who can lead and manage additional automation, but those champions need to be trained in order to be effective. A small investment in the right partner – a partner who understands your industry and your business – will pay dividends down the road as you accelerate your RPA implementation and the benefits it brings.

RPA is a realistic concept for mid-market companies, but it takes planning and coordination to make an effective implementation happen. Flying cars? Not yet. But “Back to the Future” DID predict the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, proving that all things are possible. To learn more about how RSM can assist you with your other business needs, contact RSM’s management consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us.