What do you need to do to start automating?
The process of implementing robots into your company can look differently, depending on the implementation model you choose. The most common model on the market is to purchase robots. A company automates its processes in-house and the preparations before automation are much more complex than when you decide to opt for the Rent-a-Robot model described below. When considering in-house automation, you need to take in account:
choosing RPA software and buying a licence – most vendors offer licences that need to be acquired for at least 1 year and usually there is a set minimum of licences that have to be bought. It is worth noting here how many robots can be maintained within a selected licence and what scale the project needs to achieve to be viable; creating or
developing IT structure for in-house robot maintenance; investing in an
IT Centre of Excellence team which will maintain the infrastructure, platform and automation tools;
building a team of RPA developers who will develop robots, test them and, when needed, reconfigure them after the deployment.
You can also reach out to external consultants for help in developing RPA projects, but that significantly raises an already high investment right at the start of the project. A new technological project definitely requires some engagement from your IT team and it’s important to identify the people who will
support the RPA Centre of Excellence and the infrastructure needed to maintain robots.
To achieve a scale where you can deem an in-house implementation a success, you need
RPA experts and a separate Centre of Excellence. If you decide against hiring specialists, you will still need extra training and courses for people in your organisation who would like to learn new skills. That definitely means additional costs and time dedicated to the project. Because RPA is an area on the edge of technology and business, not all employees want to develop in that direction. When they do decide to learn RPA, the reskilling process needs additional support from your HR department.
Once you have the necessary teams, licences, skills and infrastructure, you can go on to
select processes to automate which are right for this technology and fit its logic. RPA developers will start designing robots on the basis of documentation that’s usually prepared by the person in charge of the process.
Due to the required resources, from its very start in-house automation calls for reorganisation, hiring of new talents or the creation of a dedicated reskilling program, and significant investments in IT. There is, however,
an alternative that doesn’t force you to build internal competences and reduces the time needed to deliver first robots.
Such an opportunity is offered by the Rent-a-Robot model (Robot as a Service). With this model, the most important aspect you need to focus on is
the selection of the first process to automate. You don’t have to spend time choosing software, preparing the infrastructure or assembling a team of specialists. Once the process is selected along with the applications it’s based on, the robot vendor only needs application access for robots to start developing them.
In this model there is
no need for detailed mapping of processes, documentation or any other sophisticated preparation to start automation. All you have to do is to show specialists what your employees do. Usually, a workshop that takes a few hours are a good and sufficient start though a fully functioning robot – digital teammate – can be developed even on the basis of a recording that shows how the process is done.
The initial stage of the project can be shortened as much as possible in this particular model. Due to this
first robots are deployed in the production environment within a few weeks. This process makes identifying other process to automate more natural because the growing experience in working with robots lets employees thoroughly discover the benefits of robots.
How is automation typically implemented?
As mentioned earlier, in the case of in-house automation the implementation process starts with selecting RPA software, building a team with relevant skills, and preparing the infrastructure. Next, you have to
choose processes to automate, which is usually done by analysts who assess the automation potential.
The selected processes should meet certain conditions. What’s important here: not every processes has to be automated from start to end. You can also benefit from automating just a section of a more complex procedure. After a process is selected, you have to
prepare documentation, which developers can use to create a robot.
After the development stage
testing starts to ensure that the robot functions correctly. Any mistakes should be detected and fixed at this stage. Only when the robots passes all the tests, it can be introduced to the production environment.
You have to remember, though, that even after a successful implementation processes and applications can change, which might interrupt or disrupt the robots’ work. When that happens, specialists have to reconfigure robots accordingly so that they can function correctly and the process can keep running smoothly.
In a typical implementation process it’s you and your company who are in charge of each stage of automation. However, in the Rent-a-Robot model (Robot as a Service) we usually begin with
identifying the automation potential. Next, our analysts choose the most promising ideas which will be implemented by Robo Shepherds. Before robots, digital teammates, are deployed in production, we conduct careful testing whose results is then accepted by the Client. Each running process is strictly monitored both with automated tools and by Robo Shepherds. This cycle is repeated continuously as long as there is still some automation potential to explore. Each cycle takes from 2 to 6 weeks and always results in deploying robots to do actual work.
How much does automation cost?
When you decide on in-house automation, you have to take in account the following costs:
a complete, professional RPA team, developers included, creating and maintaining
an IT infrastructure, purchasing
One of the very important factors of estimating costs of automation in this setup are the resources spent on the
Centre of Excellence. That is particularly crucial for international organisations which tend to have R&D and IT competences located in more developed countries and back office operations outsourced to places with lower employment costs. Such a setup increases the pressure on automation and requires an even larger scale as development of robots is more expensive than the costs of back office. Achieving economic benefits is even more challenging, then.
Typical smaller automation projects take between 6 and 12 months and
consists of a strategy, process analysis, process optimisation, and identifying the automation potential. This approach is made even more complex because further automation and the maintenance of robots requires having RPA developers and a part of Centre of Excellence on board. That means that without careful prior planning automation in such a mode might not meet the initial economic analysis.
This is why in-house automation is recommended for larger organisations whose automation potential could optimise hundreds of FTE. Given significant investments and preparations, in larger organisations the benefits of automation can bring a return of investment and actually meet expected targets. For companies with smaller potential such an investment is simply not justified economically and automation can be particularly
difficult to implement.
An alternative solution that, in contrast to in-house automation, is
within the grasp of medium-sized and smaller businesses is the Rent-a-Robot. With this business model you don’t have to invest in acquiring internal RPA skills, licences or special infrastructure to have a team of robots that function in a production environment. You start paying for automation only when robots developed by the vendor (for Rent-a-Robot, that would be Digital Teammates) start doing actual work.
The salary of the rented robots
is a fraction of the cost of an employee who did the same work before automation. With Rent-a-Robot you don’t bear the costs if creating and maintaining a team that would develop and maintain robots, which usually translates into many months and resources spent on recruitment, onboarding or reskilling employees, and later ensuring they have growth opportunities. When you rent robots, the only costs you have to consider are the renumeration paid for the work the robots did in a specified timeframe. Automation in this case is considered financial saving from the very start of the project.
Typically, robots start their work 3-6 weeks since the start of cooperation. What is even more important, in Rent-a-Robot mode Clients do not need to invest in RPA competences in order to have fully functional team of robots on board. In such mode robotization is considered as a straightforward saving from day one rather than a cost.
How much time does automation typically take?
In the traditional model of in-house automation the process of delivering the first robots can take even
several months. You also have to add the time needed for preparations – creating the Centre of Excellence, preparing the infrastructure, choosing software and process, to name a few aspects – which can several months more. As your company acquires internal skills and experience, the time needed to develop robots might be reduced, though that depends on how complex the process to automate is.
When you decide to rent robot, it typically
just takes weeks to implement automation. For the simplest processes it can be even as little as a few days. For complex processes building robots can take up to a few weeks. It usually takes from 3 to 6 weeks from identifying a process to deploying a robot. The timeframe depends on the complexity of the processes, the scope of work which is to be redirected to robots, and the creation and assignment of all the accounts and accesses to applications.
The robot development stage needs to be preceded by the infrastructure setup. This varies in length from organization to organization. It can be, however, very quick and seamless if digital teammates can
operate from a public cloud. Such a setup can take as little as a day.
Since our Robo Shepherd team can
work on many robots at the same time, we are typically capable of automating an operations team of 100 people in 3 months, given that the typical automation potential ranges from 20% to 30%.
Do I have to hire automation specialists on my own?
If you want to implement automation in-house,
you need a team that will develop and maintain robots. RPA platform are often advertised as “low-code” or “no-code,” giving the impression that automation does not require a lot of IT skills. Automation can seem quite easy when you only have to deal with one or two robots, but scaling up to bigger numbers can be challenging and costly for a typical organisation.
Usually automation cannot be done as a part-time job and automation team members have to
share their knowledge to replace each other in ordinary situations such as vacations or any other days off, especially when a company starts to rely on robots for doing the day-to-day job without interruptions. A typical automation team is similar to a software factory with complex engineering processes. Real cost efficiency with robots can be achieved through the effect of scale, which means that in most situations your organisation should aim to have hundreds of robots to cover the cost of the automation team.
There are also intermediate solutions on the market where consulting companies train employees for RPA skills or hire their own RPA teams for as long as you need to develop your own skills. Still, the goal here is to
create your own robotics team, which is usually viable only to larger organisations which aim to automate hundreds FTEs.
The Rent-a-Robot model, however, lets you implement automation into your company
without having to acquire RPA skills. It is the vendor who takes full responsibility for developing and maintaining robots, which is done by the vendor’s specialist teams. It’s a solution recommended for companies which can’t afford or don’t want to make large up-front investments in a new technology. This solution is also recommended for organisation whose automation potential doesn’t total hundreds FTEs, but it is still high enough that automation can bring significant benefits. When you rent robots, you can focus on your core business while still supporting it with a new technology.
What do I need for in-house automation?
Setting up a robotics team is very similar to building a software factory, even if the robotic platform you chose is “low-code” or “no-code.”
Selection and assessment of the platform that meets your requirements best can be a quite difficult and time-consuming process, so you should probably consult specialists to help you with this. After you made your choice, you have to start thinking about filling some key roles in the process of robot development and – what is even more important – maintenance, which is necessary once robots are deployed to do the actual work.
These roles don’t have to be performed by different people and can be combined in most cases, but in general people work best when they can
specialise in their chosen fields. What is even more important, once you start relying on robots doing day-to-day work, you have to make sure that there is always some human support available at work to solve potential problems.
In a typical automation process there are
9 different functions which need to assigned to create your own professional Centre of Excellence:
Automation Analyst – analyses the automation potential, which beings a typical automation process;
Automation Integration Engineer – ensures that special technical requirements are met as these usually go hand in hand with business requirements;
Automation Developer – develops robots;
Automation Tester – tests robots;
Automation Reviewer – a more experienced developer who evaluates the work done by other developers to ensure appropriate quality levels.
Automation Platform Technical Architect – takes care of the different work environments and their correct settings throughout the automation process;
Automation Release Manager – secures the deployment of robots in a production environment;
Automation Administrators – manage the deployed robots and monitor their work;
Team Manager – manages the whole team and monitors their progress.
To what extent does my IT team have to get involved to start automation?
If you implement RPA in-house, your IT team has to
set up the infrastructure which is necessary to maintain working robots. Depending on how you are going to acquire skills needed to build robots, you might also need to get a part of your IT team involved in developing and testing robots. However, you have to remember that IT’s involvement doesn’t end when automation is implemented. You will need a Centre of Excellence which will maintain the infrastructure, RPA platform and necessary tools.
When you rent robots, automation requires
minimal effort from your IT. Robots attach to applications that your employees use, so no configuration or development changes are needed. IT is essential to establish a safe connection between robots and your working environment, as well as granting the robots access to your applications, similarly as when IT prepares the working environment for a human employee.
What kind of infrastructure do I need?
In the case of in-house automation, you have to
make sure you have the right infrastructure. How you’re going to set it up depends on various aspects, including selected RPA software, the license you purchase and regulations that apply to your company and industry.
When you decide to rent robots, you
don’t need any additional infrastructure on your part. With Rent-a-Robot the vendor (Digital Teammates) provides robots with any resources they need to do their tasks.
There are also the rare cases when due to specific regulatory requirements the solution has to be
deployed within the Client’s infrastructure. Such an arrangement is fully supported and can be delivered in different operating models according to specific requirements. Clients can, then, manage only the physical infrastructure and operating system which allows the vendor to manage robots and take the full responsibility over the entire deployed solution.
Why automate business processes?
Challenges around automation