Selecting the Right Process for Automation.
Without question, every revenue cycle manager appreciates the value that automation can deliver for their operation. When working towards automating processes that involve complex, time-sensitive, and highly regulated (by federal and state) activities, you need to make careful considerations before taking a leap on the automation journey. At times, projects fail or do not yield the expected results due to improper validation. Robotic process automation is not an exception to this.
Find Them First
Though there are tons of things that could be automated, start with the old school way of listing and categorizing them all first. Every department will have a minimal of four or five sub-processes that could be automated but it is important to identify them. Every organization will have one of two key leaders who understand the length and breadth of every process and every nuance involved in carrying them out successfully. The ideal way to find the right candidates for automation would be to have these subject matter experts list the overall process or simply sketch the workflow in each individual process.
For example, a typical process in loading accounts would involve downloading the listings from email, portal, or secure file transfer locations. Depending on the format of the file received (e.g., CSV, XML, PDF, or Direct API), users need to manipulate the available data in order to normalize them. Data normalization is a laborious process and might take hours depending on how it was delivered by the provider since it would involve selection of the required data set, omission of the unwanted ones, converting them to the desired format. There are also date formats, balance, debtor details, demographics, age of the debt, and other seemingly endless but necessary details. Once the data is prepared, before loading them to the host system for A/R processing, it needs to be reconciled to avoid duplication and error. Listing these sub-processes and qualifying them for automation will be the first and foremost important step.
Depending on the stage of the automation journey and the overall digitization strategy, the goals could be as simple as saving FTE costs or as big as revamping the overall customer service by implementing a fully automated self-servicing model. A better way to approach automation is by defining the goals in shorter periods as quick wins, especially if you are at the early stage of the automation journey. This approach would help in testing the bot’s efficiency against various processes and validating the benefits quickly.
For achieving greater digital transformation across organizational level through the automation continuum, there would be many operational areas and sub-processes that need to be automated first. RPA comes in handy to address these goals. In a step-up approach, goals should be to reduce the manual work before removing it 100% within every department. Every small step towards reducing or removing any mundane task from every employee desk should be a short-term goal. Hours saved through the automation efforts enhances the efficiency and enables the staff to focus more on their core function and such savings are considered as a key metric for measuring the success of the RPA projects.
Once the list of tasks and processes (also referred to as “candidates”) are identified by every department, assign an expert within each team to evaluate the shortlisted tasks and qualify them based on the four key parameters by asking these following questions in order to score them:
1. What is the average transactional volume carried out for the identified process?
2. How well is the process defined and is it rule-based to consider for automation?
3. Does the process have any exceptions? How are these exceptions handled?
4. Is the process matured and stable enough to automate? Is the process well-documented?
Once the candidates are scored, the ones with higher number can be considered as highly significant, whereas the least scored as non-significant.
While it is important to qualify the process through a point system, it is equally important to validate them in terms of the business value it would bring to the specific department and the organization as a whole. Here are the key questions to aid with the validation process:
1. What would the direct impact be in terms of FTE cost savings?
2. What is the qualifying score for the process?
3. Will the automation aid in any risk mitigation?
4. What are the benefits in terms of overall revenue?
5. Will the automation alleviate the challenges in handling the complexity of a given process?