RPA: an opportunity (also) to align processes and strategy

The expiry date of an organizational strategy has already been longer than it is today. There was a time when we admired the ability to think of the strategy that large Japanese companies revealed but the reality that we have experienced in recent years, and that the effects of the pandemic crisis that we are experiencing reinforce, is that in a world in constant change, where not only companies but business models themselves disappear at a glance, strategic planning cycles are necessarily shorter and shorter. In this context, Business Process Management takes on the mission of transforming and adapting processes, more and more frequently, so that they maintain their alignment and contribution to the acquisition of the goals defined in strategic planning. We can even say, based on the growing pace of this evolution, that more and more transformation plans, as such, should give way to sequential cycles of continuous improvement in Processes.

RPA and Processes

Many of the Processes targeted for robotization reside at a purely operational level and are identified by criteria that are very focused on immediate, short-term savings and resources that, once released, can be used in other Processes. It is not disputed that this focus on immediate return is an important criterion in the choice of processes to be automated and that the investment required to do so can only be largely justified by the release of resources that these initiatives allow to obtain. There is, however, a substantial part of the return that is indirect and often neglected in the business cases that serve as a basis for the implementation of these initiatives and investment decisions in these technologies: the framing of the process transformation, via automation, in the organization’s effort to achieve its strategic goals. A bottom-up approach would make it possible to understand the impact of the transformation of a certain process on the tactical and strategic levels, on the macro-processes of the organisation, as well as on the upstream and downstream processes, as a way of ensuring that the transformation operated contributes to the alignment with the strategy, and also allowing better decisions to be taken and preventing changes operated in one process from eventually generating negative effects on other processes. This is a case where knowing the “whole picture” allows decisions to be taken, even at an operational level, where the processes to be automated are usually located, maximizing the return, either direct or indirect.

Naturally, any of these approaches, top-down or bottom-up, presupposes the existence in the organisation of a set of documents already drawn up with regard to the processes and their management (these constituting a real asset of the Organisation) and their strategy. For example, a value chain analysis as a starting point, a fairly complete SWOT analysis and a document where the strategic guidelines are spilled out.

Only with this approach to the design of process robotization programs will it be possible to obtain the maximum return from these and also to have a very clear perception of this potential return, making informed decisions about the initiatives and their prioritization, based on an end-to-end vision that allows the assessment of their real value for the organization.