How we use software robots to turn SMEs into lean, mean, fighting machines

We often think of waste and low productivity as something that infects larger organisations – behemoths like multi-nationals and governments with unwieldy management structures, antiquated processes and legacy business systems.

If you have worked at one of these places, you’ll know they take an age to make decisions, change comes at a glacial pace, and many employees are left wondering how are they making an impact to their organisation.

Smaller organisations – I am thinking of Small to Medium Sized Enterprises and Mid-Market companies with 100 to 2,500 employees who cannot afford such luxuries. They need to be lean, mean, and battle-hardened.

So you’d be surprised, when we go into these types of companies, just how much waste we always find: Bloated and manual processes; systems that don’t talk to one another; people copy pasting data from one place to another; paper or Excel-based processes; duplication of effort.

RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is fundamentally about hunting down the “handbrake” holding your business back from being as efficient as it could be. The way we chase these down is by reviewing your current business processes, which we call the Discovery Process. Upon actioning the recommendations found in the Discovery Report we build, implement and support software robots, to release the handbrake.

Allow me to explain.

Step One – Handbrake Hunting

When we first start work with a new client, our job is to identify things could be done better, faster, or more efficiently. We then need to look at those and decide which of them it is possible to automate using RPA software.

There is a lot of hype around RPA, but it essentially just means teaching a software robot to perform some sequence of tasks in other pieces of software that normally a human would do. For example, a robot might be instructed to perform this relatively simple sequence of tasks: copy this data from the order system, paste it into an email, send the email to the customer, then update the CRM to say the email has been sent.

If you work at or run an SME you probably have colleagues or employees who perform that kind of routine yet tedious, time consuming and laborious task hundreds of times a day. Imagine the time and cost savings if a robot that never got tired and never made a mistake could take over some of those jobs.

So our starting point when reviewing an organisation to uncover inefficiencies is always to get as close as we can to the people doing these kinds of jobs and ask them a simple question: What stuff do you really hate doing? It usually gets right to the point.

While managers and leaders set priorities and objectives, the higher up the structure they are the less they usually know about the day-to-day minutiae of how processes work. They may understand the order-taking and fulfilment process, even be able to draw a flowchart of it, but have they experienced it? Usually not.

When we present our findings one of the most common responses of senior managers is disbelief at how clunky, manual, and bloated their beautifully designed processes are. “They do what?” is a frequent lament.

Our aim with the Discovery Report is to find a minimum of $100,000 per year worth of work that RPA robots could take over and perform.

Step Two – Release the Handbrake

Once the employees and leadership team understand the simple truth that RPA is there to take over tedious tasks, not take their jobs, it is like a light goes on. They start to imagine what more creative, worthwhile, and interesting things they could be focusing on if much of the boring parts of their job could be eliminated.

For the company’s leaders it is not about reducing headcount but reducing costs, while freeing up valuable human brains to focus on the things they do best – being creative, solving problems, and creating value.

So, the biggest question then becomes not whether to implement RPA, but which tasks should be automated first. (Answer: it is often the CEO who gets to choose).

Our job is to make that as simple as possible for our clients. There are two reasons clients use us, as an accredited UiPath Partner – the world’s leader in RPA software – instead of trying to do it themselves. Firstly, UiPath is geared up primarily to work with large enterprise-scale corporations, and less so smaller organisations. Secondly, it is super expensive to build your own internal RPA program, making the cost prohibitive for small businesses. We have the business knowledge to identify opportunities for automation, and the technical skills to bring to life our clients automation aspirations, by building and then supporting their software robots.

We go into the process of automating tasks with RPA in much more detail in other posts but let us cover it quickly. Usually we will work with the people on the frontline who are currently performing the process that needs to be automated. After reassuring them that the robot is here to free them up for more rewarding work, and not replace them, we get them to demonstrate the process to us so that we can break it down into a sequence of actions such as mouse movements, mouse clicks, and keyboard inputs. We then train the RPA software to perform that sequence.

There is a lot more to it of course, mostly around security, access to applications, and how to manage exceptions and failures, but that is the gist of it. Once the robot is tested and deployed, we monitor its performance, and retrain the bot when required.

The SME Advantage

The great thing about smaller organisations is that it is possible to automate across every touch point across your organisation. With the support of the CEO or Business Owner behind an PRA program coupled with the opportunity to review business processes across your entire business – the result is an Enterprise wide engagement.

Ultimately what we are looking to do for a smaller business is nothing less than enterprise-wide transformation. That may sound like a bold claim when all we are talking about is eliminating tedious, manual tasks, but the cumulative effect can be astounding.

If you want to release the handbrake holding back your business, please do not hesitate to make contact for a no obligation discussion. https://calendly.com/david-barlow/exploratory-online-meeting

About the Author: David Barlow, Co-Founder and Commercial Director, Sherpa Works, is passionate about helping SMEs and Mid-market companies experience outrageous success with their Bot workforce.

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