Let's simplify, and then automate!

"When you automate filthy processes, you have filthy automated processes!

(Translation of a statement in German by Thorsten Dirks, CEO of Telefònica Deutschland AG)

 There is currently a buzz in the financial industry to automate as much as possible. The buzzword is called "RPA", (Robotic Process Automation). While RPA is a very powerful tool of both cost and error reduction, decision makers should be careful with automation. It is important to stick to this sequence: Simplification before automation.

RPA should never be deployed strategically. Instead, RPA should be deployed as a tactical and therefore intermediary tool. For instance, an IT department has not enough resources to program all necessary interfaces. Still, the head of Operations wants to reduce tedious and unsatisfactory work for his employees. Thus, RPA is introduced for tactical and practical reasons. Some of the RPA tools have been designed for people that are not fully trained programmers. Even though programming skills are really helpful, extensive business process understanding is even more important.


We must check whether the process is as straight forward as possible.

I propose simple questions to simplify processes before automating them.


What is the value to the customer, or is this really needed?

Whether a report or a process is designed to fit the customer's needs is not always clear. Let's ask the question whether the customer would be willing to pay for a process (just theoretically). I understand customer in the broad sense, meaning that another department can be a customer, too. If the conclusion is that neither the customer nor the regulator has sore need of this process, just stop doing it.


Are there redundancies?

Most organisations have grown processes. There is always the chance of having redundant parts within processes. Let's ask the question whether the process or parts of it are really necessary or even executed in the right department. If the logical answer is that another department should be doing this, it can be surprising to discover that the other department is already doing it.


Can the required data be reduced?

Some of the data sets sent to down the stream departments have grown over time. It helps to ask the receiving department what data of the set is really being used. If some input data is not needed, the output data can be reduced.


Can the automation be done within the application?

Sometimes, the applications have built-in automation capabilities. These capabilities should be used before a robot fills in Graphic User Interfaces (GUI).


With these questions in mind, the robotic process automation journey is very powerful and invigorating. People can begin to do work that only humans can do. What is your experience with RPA?


16.08.2019/ Roland Kurath, Senior Consultant, Merkpunkt GmbH