In the 1970s, the advent of the microprocessor revolution revolutionized the way production was carried out and was considered the third industrial revolution. As a result of the development of IT production tools, the industrial sector continues to modernize its production lines, to the point of talking about an "intelligent factory".
Support functions within large or small structures, deeply impacted by the entry into the IT era, have industrialized their production lines, particularly accounting, automated certain tasks and are beginning to look for a solution to automate their processes.
Let's take the example of inventory valuation. The value of a stock is the result of multiplying the volume of stocks present in the storage spaces (stores, warehouses, etc.) by the unit price of each type of product. The amount is obtained through different channels: inventory on one or more products, accounting for stock entries and exits upon receipt and sale of the goods, etc. If we simplify to the extreme (one type of data = one database), there are at least four databases that feed this calculation. The multitude of bases, under the responsibility of different actors (e.g. procurement, finance, etc.), often leads to discrepancies which, in turn, will impact the nature of the tasks of the process. The time that could be devoted to the analysis will shift to the time-consuming resolution of discrepancies. However, this analysis is essential to understand the business a posteriori a posteriori and anticipate its evolutions (examples of seasonality or the geography of a product), but also to manage its performance effectively.
Such a process cannot be automated without "communicating" the databases with each other, failing which there is only one database to centralize the data collected. This also means clearly redefining the roles and responsibilities of everyone in the production chain.
Automating means first of all eliminating the sources of errors that generate manual tasks in order to significantly improve data quality. Strictly speaking, it is limiting the manual action to the initial impulse that allows the object to perform the movement in its entirety. This is not a question of imitating manual tasks but of performing them differently, thus reviewing and redesigning processes.
In this moment of transition between the existence of manual and automated tasks and the emergence of automated or automatic processes made possible by Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools, the key factor for the success of process automation is deeply dependent on the project's ability to integrate the new RPA tool into the existing one.
Develop an effective process based on the existing process
The concept of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) corresponds to the automation of processes by tools, called "robots", capable of performing a series of tasks. The user's action is no longer in the execution of the task but is limited to the initial configuration of the robot as well as the exception management (tasks that cannot be performed automatically).
The principle of automation implies first of all to draw up an inventory of the process to be automated. From a Lean Management perspective, it is necessary to identify duplicate tasks, those with low added value, those responsible for each task, upstream and downstream tasks, etc. But other points need to be evaluated:
- Data quality at the beginning of the process and at the end of the chain can have an impact on the performance of tasks. For example, erroneous data and/or data from two different databases and/or at different meshes require a reconciliation and gap analysis process to ensure the reliability of the data, which can be lengthy
- A census and an evaluation of the tools used are also necessary: do I know all the tools involved in my process? Do they allow me to guarantee the integrity and quality of the data? Do they help users to perform their tasks? What is the appropriation rate of the tools available to users? Do these tools take into account the specificities of the business and/or organization concerned?
Once the inventory of the existing system (roles and responsibilities, organization, tools and processes) is complete, it is advisable to design a target process with its implementation roadmap, without forgetting to take into account the evolutionary aspect of the structures with which we collaborate. If consultants are involved in a high-growth structure with issues related to an exploding volume, the new process will have to support this growth in both senses of the word: support and resist it. This necessarily involves drawing so-called "scalable" processes and an RPA tool can guarantee this "scalability" of the process.
Choose your RPA tool to ensure the efficiency of the automated process
This choice must be based on:
- Evaluation of the response to the user's need provided by the tool
- The ability of the RPA tool to interface with the entire existing Informatique System (IS) by not limiting the evaluation of this interfacing capability to the tools currently used in the process under study
- The ability of the RPA tool to support the company's growth and strategy
- Integration of tool costs, including maintenance and licensing, into the Information Systems Department's budget strategy.
As it can be deployed transversely, it is important to avoid distorting the process to adapt it to the tool. If the latter is used in a process that takes into account automation aspects, it becomes possible to exploit all the technical capabilities of the RPA tool.
Today, an RPA tool does not limit its contributions to an automation of tasks, a sequencing of tasks or a process. Since it can be integrated across business lines, it can allow a more global supervision of processes. It also provides a user-friendly dimension that optimizes the rate of appropriation of the tool by users. Finally, from a business management perspective, in addition to the time available for analysis, RPA tools often offer a customizable reporting application that can be accessed on any type of device.
An automated process: what changes in an organization?
An RPA tool implemented cross-functionally or on a single process (financial, HR or IT) will provide gains on several aspects that will, in fine, provide time for performance analysis and monitoring: in fine, apporter du temps pour l’analyse et le pilotage de la performance :
- Reducing the time spent by the user of the RPA tool on completing tasks. Its role is now limited to exception management and the development of business rules to configure the tool
- A user, occupying a steering / supervision role, who can know in real time the progress of the process, which limits the often time-consuming generation of sometimes irreconcilable reports
- A collaborative work tool that allows everyone, in real time, to know the progress of the process and to exchange comments on the attached documents
- A common repository that improves communication through the ability to formalize and document the entire process in the tool, including everyone's roles and responsibilities
- A common repository for all users of the tool-based process(es), regardless of their role, improving data quality by limiting the impacts due to the multiplicity of databases, such as reconciliation actions.
Izem Feknous, Managing Director, Inferensia