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It’s been roughly five years since RPA was anointed to be the next best thing to a slice of IT bread. RPA was, to some extent, an IT dream — non-invasive as it sat unobtrusively outside our enterprise mission control systems ERPs, HRMS, and mainframes, quietly automating our legacy processes, asking for nothing more than access to our systems of record.

Expecting customers to automate all their processes within their company, early RPA vendors offered a full suite of bells and whistles. Now in the wake of the pandemic, clearly the market has expressed a bite-sized appetite for a change instead of the whole buffet.

The Next-Gen RPA

This is where RPA as a service (RPAaaS) comes to the forefront. Being a cloud-first resource, it has none of the transition issues that on-premise platforms have, making the service bite-sized, flexible and scalable. With no prohibitive license costs, no infrastructure costs and no restrictive lock-ins, RPAaaS has become a convenient tool of choice in an enterprise’s automation strategy.

A Bot Does Not A Process Make

The early RPAaaS services gave away free bots like confetti, as though a bot was all that was required to design an automated process. These early offerings lacked an appreciation of the complexities that developers tackle to design a new business service. A typical business service sits in the center of the enterprise’s IT landscape, fetching data from one system and routing data to another. A robust process also needs machine learning to be smart and natural language processing to understand certain nuances.

No Process Is An Island

We live in exciting times that are volatile and complex yet replete with wonderful technological possibilities. While business leaders do not need to understand the details in the codes and scripts that underlie automation, they do require enough knowledge to make informed decisions that convert to business value. Adopting a technology like RPAaaS can help teams experiment and prioritize candidate clusters in the enterprise amenable to automation. Being on the cloud, they can identify processes that, when automated, will lead to the greatest value for their departments and enterprises without committing to infrastructure or operating licenses.

When considering an RPAaaS solution, start small but think big. Focusing on routine tasks that are repetitive should always be the first port of call. Since 40% of help desk queries are related to password resets, automating these tasks would be a worthy candidate for a POC (proof of concept). For complex processes, it helps to partner with a company that has a track record of helping businesses in your market.

Typically, processes span many systems of record and numerous departments. Choosing an RPA platform that integrates with systems — both current and in the planned future — would expand the scope of the processes that could be automated across the enterprise. An intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) would eliminate the need for training required. It helps to be mindful of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the implementation. Many an RPA customer have been surprised by the quiet costs of integrations, consulting, maintenance and training that are all rolled up into an aggregate TCO.

Here are some additional things to consider before getting started with RPAaaS, as well as a look at how RPAaaS is able to take advantage of the shortcomings of RPA.

A Shoutout To All Processes And Workflows

Not all processes are equal, and some are easier to automate than others. Make sure to experiment with as many pilot candidate processes as possible to increase the chances of identifying opportunities to automate prior to investing in an RPAaaS solution. The key is to pilot as many processes as possible so that one can “fail & abort” quickly instead of investing months for results. The flexibility afforded by a cloud and the high availability of the internet come together to make this possible.

A Business That Never Sleeps

The high availability of the internet has allowed a business to be always on, enabling a business that never sleeps. Previously, IT staff would be left scrambling to buy servers to achieve the optimum load-balanced service, managing the peaks and troughs of business. IT never got it right. It was a bit like throwing a dart in the dark and missing every time. Make sure the RPAaaS offering you are researching can help users scale automation to meet the changing demands of your business.

No Unused Shelfware Left Behind

In the early days, no one had a sense of how many bot licenses would be required, so early RPA customers bought more licenses than required. Some firms bought one bot license for one user, while others purchased one for each process automated. Each bot with its associated license costs racked up huge unnecessary charges. A large part of these bills included unused bots or even bots that were just forgotten. With no tracking in place, the customer was left holding the bag on unutilized shelfware. A quality RPAaaS solution should be able to monitor and track unutilized shelfware.

Conclusion

RPAaaS has re-invigorated the RPA market, with more customers willing to take on RPAaaS due to the low-risk nature involved in trying it out in their own environments. Consider the tips outlined above when investing in an RPAaaS solution, which can be a great addition to an enterprise’s automation strategy.

By Uday Birajdar

CEO and co-founder at AutomationEdge

This article first published on Forbes here.

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