10 golden rules for RPA success, and RPA and test automation

New Forrester research digs deep into RPA and looks at its key philosophies as well as the similarities and differences of RPA and test automation.

RPA, Robotic Process Automation.

Image: Olivier Le Moal, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Two recent Forrester reports focus on two key robotic process automation (RPA) issues. The first identifies important RPA considerations, as it examines RPA's key philosophies, and the second outlines how RPA and test automation are more aligned than commonly assumed, with a specific difference: Test automation technology. 

Lasting automation value

When a discussion evolves about enterprise automation, robotic process automation (RPA) is unquestionably a conversation starter, even though some organizations have struggled with ramping up to stable, scaled automation. 

Chalk up RPA disappointments to the nature of RPA's inherent ups and downs, and the responsibility of stabilizing is dealt with by application development and delivery professionals (AD&D). It's easy to get caught up "in the weeds" of RPA's fickleness, so Forrester's latest research identifies essential RPA issues and offers up a top 10 list to help AD&D succeed.

Forrester's report asserts that while it's easy to get into RPA, it's difficult to master, notably when scaling an organization-wide RPA program. AD&D should initially thoroughly focus on aspects such as business case, change management, and bot security.

AD&D should always consider that automation is designed to make work life easier on staff, even though a human workforce can present a major obstacle. Turn that human workforce into the enterprise's greatest asset by building a strong automation culture in which you've included your people.

SEE: An IT pro's guide to robotic process automation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Enterprise struggles

"Robotic process automation started with a clear commercial proposition: Take costs out of repeatable, predictable tasks with software robots that execute the way a human would," the report said.  RPA is foundational to intelligent automation, but Forrester reminds AD&D professionals:

  • Be aware of the scale to be automated. Choosing complicated tasks to automate also halts the process. 
  • Enterprise investment in RPA stalled by trying to meet ROI targets.  AD&D must find and automate more tasks.
  • The most challenging issue is scale and finding enough jobs to automate. Justify the cost of building a bot with simple, repetitive, high-volume tasks, but finding those tasks is a challenge.

Forrester's  10 "golden rules" for RPA success

1. Organizations need to be sure RPA efforts are in alignment with larger-scope digital transformation objectives.

2. Forgo idealized business cases, build sensible RPA.

3. Consider RPA an enterprise platform, setting perspective for data privacy and resiliency.

4. Bots must be set with zero-trust principles, and treat as an IT asset.

5. Build a pipeline of processes Processes should be a pipeline, with DWA for simple and to dig deeper for complex processes.

6.  Determine ways to automate, improve and standardize that can be well documented; find success in RPA task automation with process mining.

7.  Artificial intelligence (AI) should be carefully examined and research, with data supporting human decision-making.

8. Find a unique and new view of intelligent automation, foster in-house automation skills

9. Create your model with the mindset of potential human error, make employees' well-being a priority, since automation will require a new approach to assess employee experience (EX).

10. Foster the proper automation mindset, refocus on the customer, build leadership, discuss proactively and transparently.

The report concludes: "RPA will not fuel the automation revolution unless and until it changes. As RPA aligns more closely with adjacent technologies such as AI, the opportunity for AD&D pros to leverage it for broader transformation will multiply. Use RPA as a stepping stone to a broader automation strategy, but don't drop the ball on the basics."

The second report compares and contrasts RPA and test automation. Even though test automation has been evolving for more than 30 years, its peak growth has been in the past five years. The RPA market is less than 10 years old. Key findings:

  • Testing is in the app dev world
  • RPA focuses on business efficiency

Lessons learned

Forrest asserts: Despite differences, however, AD&D leaders should learn common lessons from both, and these two technologies can work together to accelerate innovation and scale automation.

The report offered both explanations and advice for AD&D:

  • Lower maintenance costs for RPA, which needs bot resiliency
  • Forrester found areas of overlap, clear areas of depth, in RPA and automation tools, with many differences
  • Process mine automation and digital analysis opportunities: RPA requires management of a variety of use-cases
  • Testing, both automated and manual, is mostly robust for pre-production, bot design and development requires flexibility
  • They are aligned with commonalities: AI and ML integration, orchestrating automation, automating machine-human interactions
  • Both platforms help scale large-scale automation, test for expansion of Agile and united development
  • Both are key in the future of automation, don't use RPA tools instead of testing tools with testing applications
  • Don't look for mergers or imposition on each other with T&A and RPA 

Also see 

RPA, Robotic Process Automation.

Image: Olivier Le Moal, Getty Images/iStockphoto