Organizations seated in all types of industries are determined to automate and streamline the time-intensive business processes critical to their business. It shouldn't come as a surprise to many that software sits at the heart of this -- nor that it will fall on architects, engineers, developers and other tech-based personnel to see these initiatives through.
In the simplest of definitions, the goal of business process automation (BPA) is to streamline different work functions in a company that, in turn, will help optimize overall operations. However, the sheer number of specific verticals that BPA targets, tooling options available and unique practices associated with managing things like robotic process automation (RPA) can make the idea of implementing these programs somewhat frightening for more than a few software teams.
In this piece, we'll review three ways software teams can prep for the introduction of BPA, and how businesses can help support those teams in their effort to do so.
Choose BPA tooling carefully
Once a company understands the business process automation market and the specific workflows they want to target, they'll need to choose the right supporting software and tooling.
BPA tooling can make or break enterprise-level optimization efforts. It's important for an organization to choose the platform best suited for the process, especially if teams want to prep them for intensive pursuits like hyperautomation. For example, some BPA software tools specifically optimize business rules engines, natural language processing and artificial intelligence.
Luckily, there is a lot of variety when it comes to BPA, including in-house software strategies that involve selection of tooling, chatbots, workflow engines and even citizen developers. Some organizations will want to work with large vendors, such as IBM or Microsoft, while others may prefer more specialized options such as AgilePoint or ServiceNow.
BPM vs. BPA: The differences in strategy and tooling
It's all too easy to confuse BPA with business process management (BPM) when discussing overall business optimization strategies, since both of these complementary concepts play integral roles in streamlining operations. However, it's important to understand the difference.
BPM standardizes and digitizes the workflows associated with complex, enterprise-wide processes. BPM software also enables enterprise leaders to monitor the overall performance of the process and, as a result, identify ways to further improve the workflow.
On the other hand, BPA is software that is deployed to automate repetitive tasks within a larger business process. The automated aspect of BPA improves speed and reliability of typically tedious manual tasks within a longer process. Enterprise leaders can automate tasks with BPA software, yet they will not see the full value and overall benefits of BPA unless the underlying processes are appropriately optimized.
Essential elements of an RPA strategy
RPA represents a massive segment of enterprise-level business process automation trends. According to Gartner, the RPA software market grew over 60% between 2018 and 2019, and it remains one of the most active segments of the overall global software economy.
But that's not to say every business that implemented RPA software in recent years was prepared to do so. It's far too common for organizations to try to adopt RPA technology without the proper preparation. However, there are a few fundamental aspects of RPA strategies all organizations should require before deployment.
First, create a clear strategic roadmap that outlines the overarching goals of an organization's RPA efforts. This roadmap should dictate a standardized way to identify, evaluate and prioritize the processes software teams select for automation. This will also require a strong partnership between the business and IT sides of the company: While IT teams know how to put RPA into action, it's the business personnel who know where automation is needed.
A second requirement for success with RPA is to institute a dedicated "RPA champion" to take responsibility for the program. Since it requires heavy cross-department collaboration, it can be helpful to appoint a single team or individual to coordinate RPA training and best practices across the enterprise. On that same note, organizations should govern their RPA programs by establishing clear development standards, security requirements, data privacy policies and access controls.
Finally, organizations should make sure they are willing to invest not only in the RPA software itself, but related monitoring tools. A good RPA strategy requires diligent monitoring and management, so do not implement an RPA program without the right tooling in place.
Find the right RPA developer
Because RPA is such a hot topic in IT, the role of RPA developer is a top concern for many hiring managers. Since RPA is, inherently, an interdepartmental initiative, it takes a business-savvy software expert to succeed in this type of position.
Candidates should check a couple key boxes when it comes to technical qualifications. For instance, most RPA platforms use the Microsoft .NET framework, making it beneficial to have experience with languages like C#, F# or, at least, Visual Basic. Since database integration is common in RPA, it's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with SQL and relational databases.
However, it's equally important that these developers can understand the business as a whole, the practices that drive it, and how either BPA or RPA fit into that picture. In addition to the skills above, look for candidates that can demonstrate knowledge related to things like business process workflow mapping, change management, data analytics, vendor evaluation and cross-business collaboration skills.