This blog post includes the full Transcript of Ashling Partners Webinar Robotic Process Automation RPA Use Cases – Part 2 on May 19, 2019 and the YouTube video of the entire educational webinar: RPA Use Cases – Part 2

This video on Robotic Process Automation is the second part in a series on process automation and focuses on understanding the business value and KPIs per stakeholder of the organization and walkthrough of use cases for the entire organization.

Introduction: Transcript from original webinar recording

Hello, and welcome to part two of our series on Process Automation. Today, we’re going to go through a deeper dive on use cases for robotic process automation. So, first, quick walk through on the agenda, we’re going to start with aligning your use cases to business process outcomes, making sure that you have a good definition of success. We’re going to, as an example, go through a deeper dive on the source to pay activities and processes. We’re then going to compare that to some benchmark data from APQC, then we’ll take a step back out and go through broader examples across the entire organization. And then we’ll end with how to make it sustainable and how to use this going forward. Before we jump in, though, I wanted to give you a quick background on Ashling Partners. We really focus in three different areas for process automation. We do education, things like this webinar and other seminars for RPA awareness. We do process benchmarking, which we’ll get into in more detail in this presentation. We assist clients with business case development and proof of concepts. We also do the build for these automation activities, not just RPA, but the broader activities. And that really kind of leads into part three. The next part of this series will be expanding RPA with intelligent OCR, and machine learning. So please participate in that one as well. And we extend the solution out to full process automation, including BPA, OCR, etc. And then we help you make it sustainable. We work on continual process improvement, Center of Excellence, governance standards, organizational change management, and supporting it with RPA as a service. 

So now, back to the presentation. So aligning with business process outcomes. First and foremost, you always want to make sure that you have a strong definition of success for your automation. We encourage you to align to the corporate objectives, really making sure that if you think of a pyramid, the top of the pyramid is the organization’s objectives, the overall company’s objectives. And then you look at it from your departments within the organization and how you align to those overall corporate objectives. And then what processes or automations will do to align to your corporate objectives, which aligned with the overall corporate objectives. And so first, making sure that you understand the highest level of corporate objectives. That could be top line growth, that could be improving the customer experience. You know, upsell, cross sell type activities, that could be more efficiency and optimization of existing activities, reducing costs, improving efficiency, every organization has their own objectives. 

Then, as I said, once you have those corporate objectives, then it’s really important to understand where you are in that overview. And so you need to understand who your customer or your stakeholder is. If you’re in HR payroll benefits, your customer is the employee. If you are in the month end close process or doing some of the financial statements, then your customer may be the investor of the organization. It could be the end customer if you’re in sales, customer service, marketing, things like that. You could be working on suppliers, you could be working with partners if you’re in an alliances group or something like that. So understanding who your stakeholder is, is paramount to making sure that you have a true definition of success. Once you understand who your stakeholder is, then you identify the processes that you do for that stakeholder. So, if your customer is the end customer, then you’re probably focusing on things like buyer experience, your customer service, your idea to market which is how fast you’re getting products, how to market, the order to cash process, etc. Right? So really taking these processes and understanding how that aligns to who your customer is and understanding how that aligns to your corporate objectives. And each is a one way layer of the onion.

From there, you need to make sure that you have key performance indicators or KPIs on measuring objectives that you’re trying to achieve. So, as you’re looking at these, you would try to understand, okay, are we looking at customer experience, customer satisfaction ratings, employee engagement, employee turnover? So there’s many different KPIs, and we’ll go through some of them in a minute that you’ll want to make sure you have that align to your definition of success. From there, you want to understand the value categories as you’re breaking that down. So are we looking for productivity gains? Are we looking for cost savings? Are we looking for compliance risk management auditability? Are we trying to drive quicker activity for better product innovation. So doing things like regression testing, rolling out new technologies, rolling out new product offerings, and going through a series of tests and activities to ensure that is ready. You can do that faster and more effectively, through automation. Or better employee engagement: Are we trying to reduce the manual workload of employees to drive better employee engagement or provide better responsiveness to our employees for better employee engagement. Really defining your success is very important. 

As you’ve looked at where you are in the organization, and what the stakeholder is for you in the organization, we really break this down into different buckets. And so for the sake of speed, I’ll just call it core versus differentiated. If you are a shared services group or something like accounts payable as part of a shared services, you’re typically defined as what’s core. So that is not the reason why you are in business, you need it to be in business, but it is not why you are in business. So typically, core activities are non differentiated activities. And you really focus on the efficiency and total cost of ownership of those departments and of those activities. So you’re really trying to drive efficiency hours back to the business, reducing your costs, etc. In a differentiated area, that could be how you do your manufacturing process, it could be how you treat your customers, it could be how you treat your employees, this is the reason why you are in business. And so it may not be as much of a cost or efficiency play, as it may be about engagement, or it may be about how you do business. So all of those things are going to help drive the types of KPIs that you should have. So this, again, is very key, as you’re thinking about who your stakeholder is, and what your definition of success for your specific group is. 

As you start to think about how automation can help on that journey, you start to look at, okay, what are the things that you can automate? If you participated in the first part of this series, this is a little bit of a repeat for you. So these are the types of activities that automation is good at: certainly, highly repetitive, high volume of activity, rule based activity. So if you can write it down how the process should go, even with conditional logic, if then logic, but you can still write it down or process flow it out, then you can automate it. Things that typically have low exception rates, things that have very mature processes. So you understand that process. Areas where you can very much define what that automation savings is. So these are all examples of areas as you’re starting to define what you should be doing for your department, how you measure that, how automation can also participate in that. So when you think about KPIs, these are some example high level KPIs for your area for your department. These are some examples of cost reduction, improved service delivery. So again, going back to is it a differentiated or is it core would be cost reduction differentiated would be potentially improved service delivery/ Not that anybody, even your core can’t improve service delivery, but what your core KPIs are versus your differentiated KPIs.

Now, we’re going to go into taking everything that we just talked about, and doing a deeper dive on the supplier process or the source to pay process. So this is looking at suppliers as your key stakeholder. So the first thing you want to do, you want to create what’s called a Heatmap. And so you want to identify all of the milestones. That’s the Chevron’s across the top that you do, in this example source to pay, or all of the activities for your stakeholders. So we kind of did that at a higher level, we gave you some of the like source to pay or idea to market order to cash, all these are kind of your top level milestones. And then you want to break that out into sub milestones. And then you want to come up with every single activity that is underneath those milestones. And for us, we use APQC, for best in class, Process Management. And so these would be the steps, these would be the milestones for a source to pay for APQC, and these would be the steps underneath to show that activity. So then, once you have that, the list of the Chevron’s and all the activities per Chevron, then the next step is to identify, per activity, is that something that automation would help with? Is that something that we could truly improve via automation. And so you see in this example, one, and again, you need to do your own, don’t take this as gospel, there’s low, there’s medium, and there’s high color coded. So things like clarifying your purchasing requirements, developing an inventory strategy, that’s not something you can really automate. That takes a lot of analysis and a lot of thinking, to be able to do that. But as you start to certify and validate your suppliers on board, your suppliers create purchase orders, receive the invoices, do three way matching or two way matching. All of these things are very high value in automation. So really coming up with your Heatmap, and activities, and then the automations. And then the hyperlinks are just examples of use cases that we’ve created for some of our clients. 

Now going to that source to pay and really driving into very specific APQC recommended KPIs. If you’re in that procurement of goods, so tracking the amount of Maverick purchasing, you’re spending by buying channels of these kinds of ideas, if you’re receiving those goods, how many are you receiving on time? How many are you receiving complete and damage free? If you’re correct, if you’re collecting invoices, what’s the first time correct that you can process all the way through?  You can do a touchless, invoice touchless payment. These are all examples of items that you may want to be tracking as a continual process improvement. Cost Per invoice would be another example of how much it costs you to process an invoice. 

Now jumping into some of that benchmark data. So these are again, APQC open benchmark, portal standards. You see the sample size, you see the median, they have kind of best in class, which is top 25%. They have a median, and then they have bottom performers, which is your bottom 25%. And we work with our clients to go through this benchmarking, and help them understand the KPI process, what their definition of success is, what their business value is, making sure they have an efficient process. So don’t ever automate a bad process. First, make that process efficient. And then making sure that you have the right KPIs for continual process improvement. It’s not just a one time savings by doing automation. It’s continually trying to improve upon those metrics. So this is procuring goods and services, here’s receiving goods and services. Here’s managing the invoice process. 

That’s kind of our source to pay an example deeper dive on the supplier stakeholder. Now really bringing this back out a little bit and looking at it from a broader perspective across the entire organization. So depending on where you are, these are use cases for automation. And so if you look at the right side, we’ve kind of already focused on this group as part of our deeper dive. So now, going left to right, looking at some of the other areas and for the sake of speed, I’m just going to kind of call one or two of these out as we go into a deeper dive on some of them later. So automating journal entries, automating matching of processes, automating your Account Reconciliation and reporting. All of those are great areas for automation, payroll, doing transfers, doing your employee setup, all of these things are great areas for auditing, reporting, benefits, compliance, all of these things are items that you do over and over and over again, are repeatable and rule based. And so therefore great areas for automation. HR, you’re onboarding your offboarding. As you off board, somebody’s making sure that there’s a delegation of authority for all of the items that they may have responsibility for, in terms of approving or in terms of managing others. Recruiting compliance, offer letters, a lot of areas there. It regression testing is a huge one, password resets backup management are huge ones, that’s really where a lot of this automation started was in kind of that back office, IT monitoring and management, sales and marketing, updating kind of your CRM along with your order management system, or updating, and making sure your sales forecast matches your financial forecast. Brand monitoring, monitoring what’s going on in social media both on your brand as well as maybe competitors brands or doing web scraping of competitors, websites, and content for their product offerings and pricing, a lot of that occurs. Very common examples of customer service, having your kind of automated ticket response, creating an automated ticket, escalating tickets, closing tickets, updating tickets, SLA management, monitoring tickets for SLA, and then escalating a lot of areas for automation that are very common in that area. And then lastly, your operations. So going through and looking at fraud detection, compliance reporting, inventory management, facilities management, tracking company perks, we have a client that does company cars, company automobiles, and so tracking who has won when it’s due, all of that kind of compliance activity around company perks. That’s a great example for automation. And then, as we discussed the supply chain side. 

Going through some YouTube examples here, resume screening, lead processing, I’m not going to do it today, for the sake of this video. But these are UiPath videos, their marketing spend is much better than our marketing spend, although we do have a couple of YouTube automations out here as well. But if you’re looking for a very specific use case around resume screening, or around lead processing, I tried to find some short ones, kind of less than three minutes. There’s certainly ones out there that are 30 minutes, but these are short ones and pretty good ones. And then a couple other UiPath use cases to walk through three way matching. So again, great area where you’re taking the FTEs, in this example 1800 processes per month, three FTEs to do that across four applications. And that’s something that you can completely automate. So 100% of the effort automated ROI was two months. Now you’re automating all of your three way matches by just taking the data out of the various systems. In this example, they also used OCR.

Creation of bank accounts for mortgage customers. So basically, you may or may not be in the mortgage industry or banking, financial services industry, but thinking of in essence, an onboarding of your customer. All the standard documentation and the standard process to add a new customer to your systems. In that case, many different systems that can be fully automated. And something that in this example was a three month ROI, cost reduction by 70%. Cost calculation and release. So looking at all of your inventory items and updating your inventory items, making sure that those are always accurate and always up to date. We’ve had a number of companies that either have to re-cost their items on January 1st and so therefore people are coming in on the holiday to update their inventory items, or different examples. The cost, they’re in distribution, the cost has changed, but their cost to their end customer hasn’t changed. And so now you’ve squeezed your margin because of the timing of when you’ve updated your pricing versus when your suppliers have updated their pricing. So as soon as the supplier updates their pricing, immediately updating your pricing, so you’re not squeezed on that margin change. Again, creation of bank accounts, and then now walking through how to make this sustainable. So walking through, again, kind of a summary, tying your objectives to the overall company objectives, making sure that your department understands who your stakeholder is, the processes that you do to support that stakeholder, coming up with KPIs for that stakeholder and for your area for your processes, identifying where automation can help by creating a Heatmap and listing out all the activities you do within your processes, went through some use cases to kind of help you think of some value for automation, and then now we’re going to talk about how to make that sustainable. So kind of play on words, we talked about the new API for us, that’s Advanced Process Intelligence. And so you really want to make sure as you’re doing automation, you think of this in three different parts, there’s process discovery, you really have to make sure you understand your process. You’re going to do that, not only when you create your Chevron’s and your Heatmap and all the activities within each Chevron. but then you’re going to take that to another layer of detail and make sure that your process is indeed the most efficient process that it can be. And then understanding what your future state process will be with automation. And benchmarking where you are today, versus where you can be with a third party with third parties, or benchmarking data points. And so that’s really imperative to make sure that you have a good business case, on why you’re doing it. And then prioritizing those based on business cases for automation. Once you have that, then really doing that process automation phase and doing that build, and making sure that you understand that you may need more than one tool, and we’re gonna go into that in Step Three, or Part Three of our automation series here. They’re really kind of expanding the value by looking at things beyond potentially just RPA. And then making sure that you have a Center of Excellence for continual process improvement, that you’re using KPIs that are continual process improvement, not just like a headcount reduction, where once you’ve reduced the headcount, you’ve reduced that headcount. And that’s a one time cost savings, we’re really talking about making sure that you have something that you can continually drive. Cost per invoice, as an example, is something that you can continually drive down to drive more efficiency in your invoice generation. And just making sure that it’s sustainable. And this leads to those business process outcomes, the new BPO. So we believe that automation allows you to start to insure some of your activities, maybe even bring things back in house that you’ve outsourced. And now the BPO is really the business process outcomes. 

So we look at that in 10 steps. The first row there being current state, second row being future state. So

just kind of repeating again, for sake of visual here, making sure you understand your corporate objectives, aligning those KPIs and metrics, doing process discovery, benchmarking that data both where you are as a benchmark and comparing to where benchmarks are developing that future state. Then comparing yourselves again to where you can be the best in class making sure you align to where you are and what the value is. The measurable business value in moving from current state to future state, quantifying that level of effort as well as benefits, in essence, building your business case in ROI, prioritizing the automation list based on that business case in ROI, doing that build, and then rinse and repeat. Keep, keep focusing, adding layers on. As you’ve done your automation, then go back and see how you can extend that automation, how you can add more value, how you can start to add in some of the exception handling to be more touchless. We really support that in more of an agile manner and suggest that you do that in more of an agile manner where you’re not trying to, in the old term, boil the ocean, you’re not trying to do the whole thing all at once. really look for quick wins, and then add on add on add on. So mapping current state processes, we have what’s called the Ashling Automation Analyzer where we map out a process kind of looks like Vizio, but Vizio on steroids, where each one of those boxes that you would see in Vizio, each activity stores about 50 points of metadata. So who’s doing the activity? What systems are used in that activity? What are the inputs? What are the outputs? What are the risks? Attaching any documentation, listing any problems with that activity? Is it manual? How much time does that activity take? Once you’ve done that, then you can run it through the analyzer. And in this example, we did it by participants. So in this procure to pay process, you’ll see procurement touches the same data, five times. The business touches the same data four times the AP touches the data three times. So why do the users need to repeat touching the data? Is there something that we can do in that process flow that allows them to touch that process, or participate in that process less frequently? And maybe do it all upfront? Or maybe do it only and instead of five touch points, maybe two touch points, or maybe one beginning one, middle one, and you know, whatever makes sense. We’re looking at trying to drive efficiency in touch the same data less? Because you probably have heard this term before. But really, this future of work is less about data entry and data manipulation and more about data analysis. So what can we do to automate some of those touch points, remove the data entry and data manipulation, and really just insert where you need to be inserted to analyze that data and react to that data. 

A couple other links for future investigation as you’re looking for use cases for your own organization, Deloitte article about HR processes, McKinsey article about finance and accounting, our own article about creating governance success factors, and an article that we wrote that’s informed about creating win-win scenarios for process automation. 

And so with that, I’d like to thank you for your time. If you do have any questions or any follow up, please feel free to reach out. We thank you for participating in our second of four processes on an education series for RPA and process automation in general. And we look forward to hopefully having you participate in the third one, which again will be around extending your RPA to more of an intelligent Process Automation by looking at additional tools, and more specifically around OCR and content IQ. All right, thank you for your time. appreciate all of your support.

Length of Webinar: 28 Minutes

Originally Presented: May 29, 2019

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) increases efficiency and automates processes using bots. A bot is software that repeatedly executes scripts, learning over time, to free up bandwidth and resources for employees to do more impactful work. Any high volume, business-rules-driven, repeatable process qualifies for RPA.

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