How RPA and the Tesla Cybertruck(!!) can help your business emerge from COVID-19 stronger than ever.
April 21, 2020
While every country on earth is frantically trying to contain and manage the fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic, there’s not a business anywhere that hasn’t been thrown into a world of uncertainty almost overnight.
Many are struggling with revenue dropping off a cliff, the majority are trying to deal with a significant downturn while a lucky few are working around the clock as they try to scale their operations to support a surge in new business. All are struggling with disruption to supply chains and travel while trying to adapt to the realities of school closures, social distancing and remote working on a massive scale.
Projects are being cancelled, unemployment is skyrocketing, IT operations are drowning and everyone is battening down the hatches while we try to work out what all of this will mean for our businesses over the coming months and years. Almost every organisation has suddenly found themselves in a very challenging position, and these pressures have generated intense interest in finding ways to rapidly transform their business operations so that they can:
- reduce costs,
- run more efficiently, and;
- scale more effectively.
There are also some lessons that can be learned from Tesla, and I’m not simply referring to their unique COVID-19 busting air filtration system called Bioweapon Defence Mode.
Is RPA capable of generating the cost savings and efficiency improvements your business needs to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than before?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of today’s hottest technologies thanks to its ability to reduce costs and transform business operations through the automation of repetitive, routine processes. RPA can be applied across a company’s entire operations to automate hundreds of processes to bring immediate relief to functions such as customer support, finance, compliance, analytics & reporting, HR and service delivery.
While the concept of automation in business isn’t new, the traditional approaches are complex, slow to implement and expensive. RPA is a new approach that is agile, scalable and can be implemented rapidly at low cost. It works with almost every IT system – even older, legacy software – and it has very little need for IT integration which allows organisations to build and deploy RPA quickly.
There is one, quite significant catch, however. You need to have a solid understanding your existing business processes first.
RPA is primarily suited for processes where there is regular human involvement in large volumes of structured data entry, and straightforward processes with simple business rules that require switching between various applications.
Most organisations begin their RPA journey by running a proof of concept (POC) to ensure that the technology works and that it can deliver the high-impact outcomes expected of it. To increase the likelihood of success, you need to identify no more than two processes that are:
- Reasonably stable and well understood
- Rule-based and not dependent on human decision making
- Use at least two key systems
- Are repetitive, tedious and time consuming
- Cause the organisation pain through quality problems, wasted time and effort, frequent re-work or friction for customers
Your pilot should focus on a relatively simple task or process – picking on something that is overly complex is a sure-fire way to fail with your POC.
If you hate it, automate it.
- Start small. Select a relatively simple process that is well understood, and for which the success criteria are widely understood before you begin. The more painful the task or process, the better.
- Understand your metrics. Measure the current state before you begin. Once your bot is up and running there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to rant about the amazing improvements to anyone who’ll listen. Compare before and after data to demonstrate time saved, throughput and quality improvements, rework eliminated, happier customers and money saved.
- Optimise your process first. Applying RPA to a broken and inefficient process will not fix it. RPA is not a Business Process Management (BPM) solution and does not provide an end-to-end process view. Spending time mapping out, understanding and optimising your process(es) is an essential first step. Which brings me to the Cybertruck.
So what about the Cybertruck?
Failing to optimise your existing process(es) before automation can counteract any sustainable long-term savings, as it will layer on additional complexity and further entrench poor processes – problems that will have to be addressed down the line at greater expense.
As for the Tesla Cybertruck, love it or hate it, it’s a marvel of engineering. Tesla’s brave and revolutionary approach to its design results in some incredible benefits to the truck’s manufacturing processes, delivering a breakthrough in price and usability:
- Less tooling
- Easier build
- One-tenth the assembly cost
- Fewer components with more rigidity
- Less wind noise
- More interior Space
- Improved reliability; some 2000 fewer moving parts than a diesel/petrol vehicle
In a recent interview where he was discussing some of the design principles behind the Cybertruck, Elon Musk highlighted the need to simplify processes. He said:
“Complexity is the Devil… Over time, you’re able to take some of the manual steps and automate that or ideally delete the part, delete the process. Then you don’t need a robot or a person. I can’t emphasise that enough. That is the absolute thing to aim for. In fact, I would say the number one mistake of star engineers is optimising a thing that shouldn’t exist.”
RPA isn’t a magic bullet; success is reliant on first understanding and addressing the root causes of your process or technology inefficiencies, before applying RPA to maximise the benefits.
And the benefits of RPA are undeniable. Your organisation can significantly lower costs, enable greater agility, create service excellence and build scalable capacity into your operations.
You will likely see an 80% reduction in processing costs and can enable resilient 24×7 operation – free of any human error and increased scalability through a 24-hour virtual workforce dedicated to powering through your most repetitive, monotonous – yet essential – business processes. Your employees will be able to redirect their focus from the daily grind towards higher value work – activities more aligned with delivering improved customer outcomes.
Get in touch for a chat about running an RPA proof of concept. And don’t worry – you can start small. Think of it as keyhole surgery; we don’t need to learn everything there is to know about your business. We can solve a specific set of problems and leverage what your team already knows to remove bottlenecks, reduce errors, resolve conflicts, increase speed and leave you with streamlined, documented, and significantly improved automated processes.
Optimising and automating your key business processes lays the foundations for your organisation to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever.
Get in touch, we’d love to chat to you about how we can help your organisation not only survive this unprecedented time, but thrive.