To Build or Buy: How to Approach RPA
We know how this process works. You’ve watched the demos. You’ve read the articles. You’ve listened to vendor pitches. You’ve had team meetings about it. But at the end of the day, you’re still unsure about how to go about bringing your company into the RPA world. You know you need an automation solution to help retool how your company conducts its operational processes, but you’re still grappling with this fundamental question: Do we build or buy?
It’s a complex question. While many companies can fall prey to celebrating the mere fact they’ve selected a method of automation deployment, companies with more insight into how RPA functions and is implemented know the process is more complicated than simply plugging a bot into your existing workflow. But this of course begs the question: What are the factors companies should consider when weighing whether to build or buy RPA? What variables should be considered? What elements of this decision-making process should be weighed more heavily than others?
Baseline of RPA knowledge
Before we understand and investigate the considerations necessary to decide on building or buying an RPA solution, we must first realize an important point of discussion no matter which path you select. First, at the very least, employees or organization members should, at the end of the deployment process, be RPA conversant. Those within you organization who will be interacting with the automation robots must have a baseline of knowledge for how, why, and in what manner business operations will be automated and how automation improves these functions. Failure to assist employees in reaching an established status of knowledge about RPA processes will not only hamper tasks selected for automation, but it could also foster dysfunction within an organization as employees will feel excluded.
Secondly, a selected few team members or employees should, after a pre-established series of trainings, be able to work in conjunction with RPA as solution coordinators. The goal here is to centralize as many automation skills as possible in order to troubleshoot potential problems in the weeks and months following automation deployment. Even if a company selects external help, working to foster RPA experts internally will be a value-added proposition down the road when maintaining, scaling, or modifying your RPA solution.
Considerations with build or buy
Now that we understand a handful of general outcomes whether your company decides to build or buy the automation solution, we can examine the considerations and elements necessary to weigh when deciding on your automation pathway. Whether you’re a large company or small, looking for a tactical or strategic automation solution, some critical elements to ponder include:
Overall automation planning
It’s not enough to simply plan for an RPA solution to extract, sort, or reconcile data. This is very entry-level automation thinking. Instead, companies must have a holistic understanding on how automation will integrate into their existing workflows and operational platform. Understanding what, why, how, and when you require an automation platform is critical to deciding whether to build or buy. You might feel encouraged to build your own RPA if your automation scope is more narrow. On the other hand, a more robust automation solution with more moving parts might be a good candidate for buying your RPA solution. Either way, companies must know themselves and understand their KPI, ROI expectations, and their desired business outcomes to make the right choice. Always think strategically when embarking on an automation journey.
Building RPA capacity
Deploying an RPA solution without any real consideration as to the resources, personnel, and investment necessary to sustain and administer such a solution is similar to buying a home without the money to undergo repairs and maintenance. Companies must consider several tasks, functions, and elements associated with an automation solution when deciding whether to build or buy. For example, what is the capacity of your IT department to integrate with an automation campaign? Does your company have the financial leverage to work with an outside vendor? Do your current employees have the facility and time to learn and understand how and why RPA works within your company? Each of these variables is key in building and furthering your capacity for automation.
Speed and rate of deployment
It sounds simple, but the decision on whether to build or buy can in large part depend on how quickly you need an automation solution in place and how soon you need said solution to start showing real results. Companies with variant-rich volume peaks might be more inclined to build their own RPA solution during their slow periods while companies with more steady, high-volume workflows would be more apt to work with an RPA vendor to create and deploy a solution as soon as possible without taking away time and resources from current staff and employees. Understanding the pace and breadth of your company’s needs should not be overlooked in the build or buy paradigm.
Yes, RPA is a highly-accurate, precise model for data processing and workflow optimization, however, updates and maintenance are necessary to ensure such a high-degree of operational functionality. While we discussed a few moments ago the importance of employees becoming RPA conversant, being fluent in RPA is not quite the same as being an expert in understanding the nuances of automation solutions and the overall architecture for regular maintenance and updates. Understanding the need for automation development, evolution, and maintenance should help you decide whether you want to undertake such actions in-house or whether a vendor is better equipped to address concerns over time.