22 steps to Automate almost anything. How to go from a NOOB to an Automation PRO

Relying on existing staff who are inexperienced in automation is understandably seen as far too risky without expertise on hand.

·         What if the automation solutions that team deliver aren’t robust and full of bugs?

·         What if their delivery is too slow?

·         What if the bots are built wrong and wreak havoc?


It’s a valid concern, but let’s look at the alternatives. You could hire a small team of experts, but this is expensive and becomes more so as the demand for automation increases.

If you had the budget for a large external team, this would require considerable onboarding time to get acquainted with stakeholders, business processes, cultures, and applications. If you’ve every onboarded a large external team before you’ve probably experienced the chaos that can ensue.


Empowering your staff to do it themselves, in a repeatable and controlled manner, may be your best bet. It could even be much faster in the long run and keep spend down. Lean IA as actually reduced the implementation of automation into just 22 repeatable steps. Following these steps can allow your team to execute automation company-wide programs and projects like professionals.


In these 22 steps, there are four stages: STARTUP, PROJECT, DEVELOPMENT, LAUNCH.



This is the first stage. Depending on how far along your team is in the automation process, you’ve already done these steps, but it’s best to double check that your team have done these right and you have everything in place


Step one

Make sure you have a list of your key stakeholders, the directors, key influencers like HR, IT and Change management. This is so you know who to speak with to get alignment for your automation program.


Step two

Understand the objectives and main pain points of your key stakeholders. You will be able to use the things that are teams struggling with to get buy-in and show how your solutions can solve this. Otherwise, without buy-in and alignment these same stakeholders could become blockers later down the line.


Step three

Have a high-level process of the end-to-end process of your department or team that your program will cover. This will help you understand how sub-processes fit together into this high-level end-to-end process


Step four

Identify the end-to-end process experts. Who in the business can help you connect the dots? This may not just be one person but may be a collection of a few people, who can help you paint that picture and knit the different bits together the end-to-end workflow.  


Step five

Create a team and department structure, maybe your company already has an “Org chart”. This can show you the teams and sub-teams within each departments and business unit, as sometime this isn’t very clear and straightforward, especially in large corporations.

With this structure you can see how different teams interact and communicate with each other. This will be valuable for root cause analysis as large processes typically run through several departments and teams, and as you build different automated solutions, you will be able to join them up into larger, transformational end to end solutions.


Step six

Now it’s time to gather the high-level information about the departments, the teams, and the types of activities they do. This will be used to paint a company-wide map of automation opportunities


Step seven

Use data analytics to analyse and present the data collected to give a clear picture of where the opportunities throughout your business are and convey this back to the senior leadership team.  Pareto charts and Opportunities maps in the form of Bubble charts are help demonstrate where the highest value areas of the business or department are, so that you can guide your team on where to focus attention.


Step eight

Knowing where the opportunities are is one thing but working with the business to prioritize these opportunities in the right order is vital for a successful rollout.  Your data analytics should make it obvious which teams should be targeted first for your automation program and which processes definitely should be left to last. Business leaders typically have the final say on the order of attack when creating your enterprise automation roadmap, as they have their corporate objectives to consider, however this should be based on your data-backed recommendation which used the data collected to build momentum gradually and progressively.

The worst thing would be to go for the big fish right at the start which takes too long to implement and stalls momentum as teams lose faith and motivation (which does happen far too often with new automation teams). It’s advisable to start small, building my momentum slowly as your team matures. This will give you the best chance of a successful roll out


Step nine

With a target team or business area to focus on you have a finite area to easily gather more detailed process data. It would waste a lot of time collecting data on teams which don’t have many opportunities for automation.

Gathering process details will help you to find ‘Quick wins’ (processes which are both easy to automate and deliver significant savings). You will be able to filter all automation suitable processes and create a large backlog of projects.


Step 10

Out of all the processes that are most suitable for automation you can create a shortlist of the best processes from the best team, from the best department. which will give the highest returns.


Step 11

Maybe you have 20, 30, 50 processes in your backlog which is suitable for automation. You want to prioritize the best processes in your chosen and create that short list.


Very quickly in about 10 to 11 steps, your team will be able to scan your entire division or company and generate a shortlist of the highest value opportunities to automate.



Step 12

Run cost benefit analysis calculations to confirm that these projects have the high Return on Investment you expect. Compare the cost savings and benefits from automation to the costs to build the solution (including the cost of running the automation, the hidden costs of servers and maintenance etc).

With cost benefit analysis you can prove that you’re working on the most impactful projects, and you will be able to confidently estimate how much savings you’re projects will deliver to the business.


Step 13

To start an Automation project, start putting together a Process Definition Document (PDD) to capture all the details of the As-Is process (the current situation), as well as the problem statement and inefficiencies that need to be solved.


Step 14

Map out the as-is process, what the team does right now? This would require walking through the process with the process experts to learn of exactly what the process is. There are two parts to this. The second involves re-engineering the process and map out what the solution will look like.

You should use lean thinking first to streamline the process as you don’t want to just automate a bad process.


Step 15

Create keystroke document to detail exactly what the robot aka Bot should do. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) uses the User Interface similar to you or I would, clicking on buttons and typing keystrokes. The keystroke document must capture precisely what the Bot clicks and what it types, as well as all other actions and decisions the robot will need to make.


Step 16

Refine the PDD with the future state defined. The Automation Analyst liaises between the developer and the process expert(s) to make sure that the developer has everything they need to build the correct solution that will meet all in-scope requirements.

Make sure the document is clear, complete and unambiguous, and the automation will be fit for purpose


Step 17

The developer now creates what’s called a solution design document (SDD). This is where they convert the Process Definition Document (PDD) into a more technical document showing the Bot’s architecture.


Step 18

This is to make sure you have a test plan in place that mirrors the user stories (what the users wants the automation to do), and start gathering test data. Create acceptance criteria around each user story to define how to test something and how to know whether it was successful or not. But don’t just test that it did what the user wanted to do (e.g. it successfully logged in), but for robustness, also test the negative cases. For example, how did the bot react when it didn’t have the correct credentials?

You want to test that the robot is capable of handling errors and exceptions correctly (both known and unknown exceptions). You can’t program for every specific scenario, so anything outside of the scenarios that you’ve determined are dealt with correctly, and preferably the process experts are notified so that they can manually process anything that wasn’t automated.




Step 19

Whether you’re hiring a developer, or you’ve trained up an existing staff member, here are six standard development best practices which you should check on every development. They are agnostic to whatever platform you’re using

·         Documentation – Adequate knowledge transfer so any developer can understand how to modify or support the bot.

·         Modular code / reusability – Segment the bot into components for steps (e.g. log in/out, data validation, etc.), this makes it clear in the logs where the issue happened.

·         Error handling and logging – The bot notes the outcomes after completing each step in the process. If there’s an error, it can reference in which component the error occurred.

·         Commenting/readability – Well-laid-out code so the logic is clear, and well commented so someone else can read what each section does, and why certain logic was used.

·         Variables and referencing – Variables represents some value which can be referenced in several places in the code; however, the developer only needs to make the change to the variable to ensure that the value has changed everywhere.

·         Test planning – Having a structured approach to testing saves time. Testing of each component individually, then as a whole, is easier to fix than building and testing the whole thing at the end and then having to look through the whole process to find the issue. Also, it’s advisable to test to failure rather than test to success. The tester (preferably a developer other than the original builder) should try to break the bot, using various scenarios and bad data. This should be done even before UAT.


·         Something I like to call User flexibility – This is designing the robot in a way such that the user can make small changes to the process without the need for the developer—e.g. creating an Excel spreadsheet and data table which could be updated for the robot to process new information, as shown in image above or allowing for several spreadsheets to come from different sources and still all be processed by the same bot.


Step 20

Once the developer and build and testing the automation (preferably peer tested too), now it’s time to see if it really is fit for purpose. User Acceptance Testing tests whether the users are happy with the finished build. This is whether the user triggers the bot, reviewing the actions and outputs (with the support of the automation analyst) and the process owner and key stakeholders sign off that the automation works as they expected, and it’s passed all the test cases.

If there are any errors, the team will create a log of bug fixes for the developer to fix so that it passes all acceptance criteria.



This is only the beginning

You may think that launching the bot is the end of your automation team’s roles but this is just the start, as the next few steps are there to confirm that the last 20 steps were executed successfully and you now have a robust automated solution running in your business


Step 21

This step is often missed by new automation teams; however I believe this is probably the most important step. Hyper care, which is also called warranty period or post go live support, is the transition period from being an Automation project to becoming BAU (business as usual). This is where your Automation team (automation analyst, developer, support and the process expert) are all keeping a close eye on the newly launched process.

The purpose is to quickly fix any unexpected issues that may arise (it’s not uncommon for automation to act differently in the live environment even when it acted perfectly in the test environment), and also, for more critical processes, you can slowly scale up the automation. For example, if it was a financial process, you could have the new automation only handle transactions less that $100, and then less than $1000 and so on. Or if it’s to do with customer service, you can assign only 100 cases a day, then 1000 cases.

By slowly rolling out workload to the Bot this minimises the damage is anything went really wrong, until you have full confidence in the automation. Other ways to give the business more confidence, before you leave the bot on its own, is to extend the Hypercare period from 2 weeks to say 4 or 6 weeks. So financial services companies have this period months long.


Step 22

If your new team has successfully completed the last 21 steps you should definitely celebrate this. You now have a robust Bot in your business delivering value and you still have more great opportunities on your backlog. But then again, is your Bot actually delivering value?

Benefits realization is the whole purpose of why you’re doing automation. You shouldn’t be just automating for automation’s sake, you want to deliver a real benefit. The business leaders will want to know did it actually make an improvement and meet user expectations? You need to measure the benefits and the KPIs now that you’ve launched and compare this to what you measured before, to prove that it added value.


BONUS: Step 23

As a Continuous Improvement Analyst at heart, my favourite step is enhancements. You’ve launched your automation; you’re delivering benefits and everyone’s happy. But what other new technologies and Artificial Intelligence capabilities can you plug into your automations to do more?


Once you’ve completed the START UP steps, you can keep looping back through the PROJECT-DEVELOP-LAUNCH steps to create more automated solutions. With many automated processes throughout your business, you may now be in a position to build a big business case for why your business would benefit from purchasing a ChatBot licence.

Maybe now you can evidence that 20 of your automated solutions would be able to provide 20% more value if you purchased Optical character recognition (OCR) to pull data from invoices and scanned images, instead of staff manually inputting this data into your automated workflows.


I’m excited that you will be entering into the world of Intelligent Automation once you reach step 23. If you want to learn more about these steps and topics around Intelligent Automation in your workplace, subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered to optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerated way.


You can also learn more about the expanded 36 steps in my blue book of secrets, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is ex-chief evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.





How to start a CAREER IN PROCESS AUTOMATION – the hottest new technology

Perhaps you discovered this article because you heard of robotic process automation (RPA) and the central part it plays in digital transformation. Is this because automation is coming into your business or is it already there?

If you want to get a job in automation to future-proof your career and get a bigger salary, I hope to answer your big question:

 “how do I get started in getting a career in automation?


There are a couple of starter roles to start you on your automation career journey that we will look at, I’ll share how I got started and most importantly I’ll give you the heads-up common interview questions, the responses that interviewers are looking for and the skills that you will need to stand out on paper and boost your chances of securing a role. Keep reading to the end for bonus information to blow your interviewer away.


What I did

I started my automation career as a junior business analyst and in a few short years jumped to senior business analyst to managing analyst teams, hiring and leading developer teams and setting up automation operational excellence teams. I’ve worked as both an Analyst, developer and Automation lead. I’ve worked in finance and fintech, utilities, healthcare and Ecommerce. I’ve worked at some tier one consultancies as well as small-to-medium businesses. Instead of staying put in one position, company or industry for several years, I took the risk to gain as much experience as possible so that I could learn every aspect of the entire automation lifecycle, and gain a wide and varied perspective of the different ways that RPA (Robotic process automation) and Intelligent Automation is used. As well as how teams use operate in different ways.

Through my ‘obsessive’ networking in Central London, and building a global network in most continents, I realised that this experience was quite rare as the automation industry (as new as it is) is quite siloed. Most Automation analysts don’t have knowledge of how to develop a robot or what happens once a robot is launched, and developers and support engineers don’t know how opportunities are vetting or analysed. Even many Analyst-Developer hybrids don’t have the experience of how to support and manage robots or how to set up governance models in order to maintain the benefits from the Bots they’ve developed.


Lean Six Sigma à Lean Automation à Lean Intelligent Automation

Let’s take a step back further, when I first heard of automation, I was a Process Improvement Analyst, where we used Lean Six Sigma techniques to re-design business processes to make savings. At the time there was a lot of free training or very low cost so I studied everything I could get my hand on. Now I’ve trained over 8,000+ aspiring automation professionals my secrets, my tips and techniques as well as my do’s and don’ts that you wouldn’t find in traditional automation training, to give y students that extra boost to stand out and accelerate their careers (hopefully even faster than I did).


Two main paths of Automation: Design it or Build it

The two main career paths are either to become an Automation Business analyst or an Automation Developer. A junior analyst can become a senior business analyst to lead teams, and junior developer can become a Solutions architect. Both paths lead towards becoming Head of Automation, just with different perspectives. If Head of Automation is where you want to be in the next say five years then it’s advisable to learn both sides and gain experience in analysis and development, so that you will be able to fully understand and guide your entire team.

Whichever route you choose, you need to get certified. But don’t just learn anything that’s available, have a strategic approach, as time is limited.


What does an Automation Business Analyst (RPA Analyst) do?

The Automation business analyst (or Automation Analyst) role is a very central position. As many automation teams can be quite small (as this keeps them nibble to deliver faster), a business analyst aka BA commonly will wear a project manager hat. As an Analyst-PM hybrid, you’re analysing the data, identifying opportunities and you’re designing the solutions as a BA, but you’re also managing the automation project to get that automation launched and delivered.

As a business analyst you may be assigned to a business team (with a more experienced analyst), working closely with them to gather information on how the team and their processes work. You are responsible for gathering their requirements so that you and your team can understand how different technologies can help the business reach their goals.

With the right tools, you will be able to assess a process’s suitability for automation and be able to identify the best opportunities that your team can work on as projects.

The lead analyst or Program manager, who is responsible for collating all the potentially projects together to create a prioritise backlog of work, will assign you a project to work on. You may be required to work on this on your own or you may be part of a “squad” which is a micro team of analysts, project manager and developer(s).

As the Analyst, you will be the liaison between the business team of process experts and the automation developers throughout the entire project.  

This will require you to run, or be part of;

·         workshops to understand the details of the current state of the process (drawing up the “as-is process map)

·         sessions to gather details requirements and user stories (problems experienced, root causes and what they want to be able to do)

·         solution design workshops to re-engineer a more streamlined process (drawing up the “To-Be” process and defining a list of acceptance criteria)

o   NB: you’re not actually designing the new solution or coming up with the ideas, because you’re not the process expert, but you’re facilitating the teams by using your tech knowledge to guide them to the right solution)


When capturing all this information and As-Is, To-Be designs, the central document that every Automation analyst MUST use is called the Process definition document (the PDD). This document allows the Automation analyst to translate the business’s problem into a technical solution. You will use this PDD document when liaising between the business and the developer teams to ensure the solution is clear, unambiguous and has everything the developer needs to build a robust Robot. Business and Development are two very different worlds and as the business analyst you need to be able to speak both languages, so you can effectively communicate with all your stakeholders.

Once you’ve created the PDD you will most likely be involved in these activities leading up to, and even AFTER the automation is launched:

·         Collecting test data (so that the automation can be tested that it works)

·         Creating test cases (working with the process expert to define what needs to be tested and how)

·         Supporting the User Acceptance Testing (assisting the process expert with testing the finished automation, to ensure that it is robust and can work as expected in any situation)

·         Support during Hypercare (helping raise issues, bugs during the hypercare period, aka the warranty phase which tests the bot is still working once it has been launched)

As you can see the Automation Business Analyst has a lot of engagement with the developer, so having an understanding of how an automated process is built is a very useful skill to have


What does an Automation Developer do?

The Automation developer role obviously is the most important because you’re responsible for building the automated solution, however getting started may not be as difficult as you may think.

I’ve interviewed many people straight out of university (‘College’ if you’re from the States) for Junior development roles at top firms and we weren’t looking just for tech Whizzes, and you didn’t even need to have ample experience in development. A lot of the people we hired just had a logical mind and had a good understanding of what Robotic Process Automation was.

We looked for those with engineering or science degree, but even if they didn’t have degrees having programming experience building websites or being an amateur video games programmer was sufficient. Showing evidence of have a logical mind meant they would be able to understand how an automation ‘robot’ would think and thus find it easier to build automated processes.

Seeing that an interviewee had good knowledge of RPA showed us that they had proactively researched the industry and technology and had a personal-development mindset, so would be motivated to learn the latest development tips and best practices.

You will most likely be assigned to a project once the business analyst has started the Process Definition Document (PDD). As a developer you will be involved in the flip-side of what the Analyst would do. You’ll be:

·         Reviewing and providing feedback on the PDD (any details which are missing, or any elements which aren’t clear)

·         Creating a Solution Design Document (SDD).

o    This is the developers equivalent to the PDD, in fact as a developer you will use the PDD to create this. It is more technical, showing the architecture of the automated process and the various objects that you will use to built it

·         Advising the analyst on the test data you need for testing during your development, SIT (System integration testing) and during UAT

·         Creating a test plan with the analyst (using the acceptance criteria)

·         Developing the automated process, testing as you develop each component

·         Potentially carrying out peer-reviews to testing automation developments of other developers

·         Supporting the User Acceptance Testing (this may require manually triggering the automation, or walking the team through the automation, if this is an unattended bot where staff don’t interact with it)

·         Support during Hypercare (bug fixes and updating the SDD document with ll known exceptions)

·         Knowledge transfer to the Support engineer so that they are able to take over and support after the ‘hypercare’ phase is complete


As a junior developer you may not be required to do all of these items listed above, focusing mainly on developing the automated process however you will be required to liaise with the analyst. But do note, before long you will need to present to business teams as your experience grows, so good communications skills is much more important in Automation than most other developer roles. The reason being, RPA/Automation is a ‘business led’ technology so the business is heavily involved in all aspects of the implementation process.


How to get certified in RPA (Robotic process automation)

As time is finite so you want to get that Automation job fast so you need to be strategic. You could probably complete basic RPA training in a few weeks but to maximise your chances of success you’ll want to focus on the most popular platforms that most companies use. It wouldn’t be massively valuable if you were certified in automation on a very obscure RPA software platform, as you’ll find it hard to find jobs that are hiring for that experience.

On the flip-side many businesses I’ve seen advertise for developer experience of an obscure RPA platform and for the very same reason they struggle to find any developers with that experience – as a result you will find that these job posts remain on the jobs boards almost indefinitely.

The three top RPA vendors are UiPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere. In a Tech Crunch article in 2021 UiPath was said to have a 27.1% market share, Automation Anywhere was second with 19.4%, and Blue Prism had 10.3%. So that’s way more than 50% of companies that are using one or more of these three. It’s advisable to get experience in at least one, and I mean at least one because the more knowledge you have on these three the more versatile you are. UiPath and Blue Prism are my favourites, mainly because the use graphical maps to drag and drop actions into the automated workflow, it’s just easier to understand.

If you want to secure an automation analyst position I’d strongly advise you learn how to build at least a basic automated process (a Bot) so that you can design more robust fit-for-purpose solutions when you understand what a bot can/cant do, and you can better communicate with your developer colleagues.

It’s unfortunate that many automation analysts don’t know how to build a bot, which tends to cause a lot of disagreements and confusions within automation teams, but you wont have this problem, and you’ll be way ahead of your peers.


Get started with RPA / Process Automation training for free

Each of the main RPA software companies offers their own training academy with video classes and quizzes (another disadvantage of obscure RPA software vendors is they don’t have complete training, perhaps only a few YouTube videos). You can download their free trial or free edition of their application their website has different courses for you to work through, straight away. You will find traditional develop and analyst certifications which look great on your CV.

A quick caveat, some training is freely available to the public, some are free but require that you’re an existing client having bought licences, and some training has a price tag. Also, if you’re new to RPA they content may be overwhelming, and you may find it difficult to pass the certification exams on your own.

There are companies (some of whom are partners of ours) who offer intense online and in-class training courses to get you upskilled and certified quickly at basic and advanced developer levels all the way up to Solutions Architect level. Either way, these courses can be as much five ten thousand dollars to get fully qualified as an advanced developer. Though the price tag seems high, it might make sense to make that investment because the increase in your salary would far outweigh the costs.


As mentioned, whether you want to be a developer or still to business analysis gaining an understanding of how to build a bot will make you a better analyst and it crucial in getting ahead.

The automation studio is where the “Bot” (automated process) is built and you can download the free editions here:

Download Automation software here free:


Blue Prism:

Automation Anywhere:


Developer training for specific vendors:

UiPath Academy:

Automation Anywhere university:

Take the Blue Prism exam:



Automation / RPA interview questions and good answers


With RPA certifications on your CV and perhaps you’ve been able to demonstrate some experience in developing automated process, hopefully you have some interviews lined up, great. Here are two common interview questions that you may be asked and some great answers to impress the interviewers. If you’re going for a junior analyst or developer role, they wont be expecting you to have this level of knowledge. Many be people who have been in automation for less than two years may not know all of this, so this should put you in prime position.


Benefits of Automation

QUESTION: Name some benefits of automation:

·         Teams work more efficiently

Automating mundane, monotonous and repetitive tasks frees up time for staff become more efficient.

·         Automation can provide better work-life balance and job satisfaction.

non-value-add tasks can be automated so staff can focus on the more enjoyable, interesting, human-to-human interactive and creative activities. This also reduces the need for too many late nights, taking a little off the pressure as they’re getting more work done

·         Automation solves technical issues a lot faster than software development

Many legacy systems have technical barriers which stop applications from seamlessly communicating with each other. Building an AI is expensive and takes a lot of time to develop, and implementing software developments on these applications, especially for a large companies, can take maybe years.

RPA on the other hand can take a matter of months maybe even a few weeks to go from idea to development to launch. Businesses can see the return on their investment a lot faster. Quite often within that same year.

·         Automation provides Out-of-hours services and support

Even when everyone’s gone home robots running the automated processes can continue to work on items and can even offer out of our services such as automates triggered by chatbots. This can greatly enhance the customer experience as customers can have their needs met outside of working hours, through different avenues and this may result is new way to generate revenue streams.

If a customer’s questions could be answered immediately at any time 24-7 rather than waiting for the offices to open at 09am, this can speed up the sales time.

·         Automation provides analytics and insights

If a process or part of a process is automated the Bot can collect information and performance metrics on each process. It’s logs it’s keeping a track of everything that it does and this can be used to create data analytics and Management information for business leaders to look at performance in detail and find areas that need improvements. Business leaders will be able to answer specific questions like; what percentage of customers buy product A on Wednesdays?

·         Automation allows managers to scale up their workforce instantly

A lot of businesses, especially in customer services, have seasonable peaks and troughs in work volume throughout the year, or potentially teams are forecasting a massive increase in work that they don’t have the staff for. Teams can implement automation to streamline time-consuming processes or parts of processes (like gathering or moving data), so that existing teams can do more. If 20% of a team’s processes could be automated, that 20% more people-power.



QUESTION: Name some challenges and issues with automation

The interviewer wants to see how you would solve these challenges and what solutions could mitigate these issues

·         Poor process clarity

This is where the process has never been clearly defined before, each staff member may do their version of the process a little differently, but the team doesn’t really know what the standard process actually is. A process that isn’t standardised would be very difficult for a developer to build.

SOLUTION: work with the team to design a standardised approach first, where the solution is the most streamlined. The documented process must be clear and unambiguous, and you can use a Process definition document a PDD (the golden phrase that your interviewer is going to want to hear) so that the developer knows exactly what they’re building.

·         Inaccurate or incomplete process documentation

It’s quite common that teams’ haves process maps and training documents that are old and out-of-date, perhaps the applications have been updated a few times since the documents were created.

SOLUTION: Though a good starting point for designing the solution, these shouldn’t be relied on. Analysts should sit with the subject matter experts and process owners to walk through the process in real situations to understand how processes are done today.

 This is called “shadowing” where the analyst becomes the staff member’s apprentice-for-a-day, looking at what they do and asking questions about their actions and decisions to fully understand the process. This way the analyst can accurately map out that process As-Is, and by working with several team members in a workshop to standardize the process

·         Automation can act differently in Live environment compared to test:

As a developer, you may test something thoroughly, but when you launch it the bot acts very differently. This is not uncommon for many reasons, the data format that you tested on was a different format to real life, the applications could be slightly different, or it could be that the real life application has more users so it tends to load its pages slower

SOLUTION: The most important thing to do to mitigate these unexpected issues is to have a Hypercare phase (sometimes called Post Go-live support or warranty period). This ensures they the automation team are on hand to babysit the automation after its launched into real life situations.

However, even before you launch you want to ensure the test environment, where you’re the bot is tested has its applications that are up to date and the same version as what is in the live environment. For example, issues can arise when the test application is version 1.1 but version 1.2 in production. Everything needs to match exactly or as close as possible to the real thing. This also extends to the format of real data. Data for testing shouldn’t be made up but should be a true reflect of what will happen in real life.


Finding opportunities

QUESTION: How would you identify automation-suitable solutions?

There are six characteristics of a process that can help you identify a process that is suitable for automation.

1.       The process should not require any human intuition, as automation can’t think so it can’t make judgment calls or use any prior knowledge of a situation. Robotic Process Automation can only make predetermined steps and make pre-determined decisions

2.       The process can only use standardized input this is data with predetermined formats such as options in radio buttons, tick boxes or a drop down menus. Bots can also retrieve, input and transfer data from structured layouts like a webpage or excel table. A Bot wouldn’t understand data in unstructured format, like specific text within an email or comments box message

3.       The process and applications must be stable. Automation Bots repeats the same steps over and over again, so the process and the applications it uses shouldn’t keep changing otherwise if a button changes its name or location on a page, this could cause the Bot to error when it doesn’t find it

4.       The process needs rules based/logic based decisions. The developer needs to be able to program exactly how the robot needs to decide and what pre-determined option to take.

a.       E.g. IF married send form A, ELSE IF single send form B, ELSE IF other send forms C

5.       The process should be repetitive. If it’s just a one-off process then it’s probably not worthwhile automating it.

6.       The process should have a high work volume. Just like being repetitive you want to make sure that it’s high volume so that your automation saving your business a lot of time


If you want to learn more about how to accelerate your career in RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and Intelligent Automation, subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered to optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerated way.

You can also learn more about other tips in my blue book of secrets, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is ex-chief evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.






WHAT IS A BOT? The digital workforce that will be joining your team

What is the purpose of a “bot”?

Digital transformation is a huge wave sweeping the business world, where companies are using cutting edge technologies to modify themselves, upgrade existing and creating new processes to increase speed and accuracy of service, make huge cost savings and improve customer experience.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is arguably the backbone of this, as it’s one of the easiest technologies to set up just so powerful it can transform teams in a matter of months. With this software developers can create automated processes to use the User interface to click and types as if it were using a mouse and keyboard. These “virtual workers” are calls Software Robots or “Bots” and are extremely versatile.

Building “bots” with RPA is like giving your staff teams virtual assistants to automate repetitive, menial manually intensive tasks so that your staff can focus on my intellectual, creative and value-adding tasks. If you’ve not heard of RPA before, hopefully after reading this you will start to appreciate the massive potential and the impact this technology can have on you, your business and your work in life.

These digital workers don’t have intelligence, but they can do all the odd jobs around the business that don’t require any human judgement. Bots aren’t limited to small straightforward processes. Bots can handle huge end-to-end processes as long as the process has logical, rules-based decision points, the input data the bot uses is standardised (can only understand pre-determined data rather than free text), and the process and applications the process uses are stable (can’t handle constant changing applications or webpage layouts).

For example, a robot can easily fill out a form using data from an excel spreadsheet, but it can’t make a decision from instructions in an email. However, if you mixed RPA with Artificial intelligence capabilities (this is called Intelligent Automation), then automation can do so much more


A Bot is able to save your team hours of time and staff effort, as it can work to assist staff, can work behind the scenes, or it can work overnight. Using bots to automate processes can also reduce human errors, improve compliance, and even track workloads to provide more accurate performance insights.


How does a Bot work?

For a bot to work, you have to map the step-by-step actions and decisions that you want the robot to do. Defining exactly what link or button to clicks and where and what to type and logically define how the Bot needs to make a decision. For example, if the bot needs to process a customer’s details differently depending on whether they are married or not, the decision would need to be defined as:

IF customer is married send form A

ELSE IF the customer is not married send form B

For the Bot to follow these steps the developer would drag-and-drop these actions and decision points onto the RPA applications “studio”. The Bot will also need to know how many cases it needs to process, so that it can repeat the steps before it is finished


These images show you what an automated process looks like in RPA studio for different software platforms. The two main layouts are drag-and-drop shapes (like in Blue Prism and UiPath), or drag-and-drop lines code (like Automation Anywhere and IBM RPA). I, and most other developers I’ve spoken to prefer the graphical layout as it’s so much easier to understand, especially when editing someone else’s work.

Once built, you can press play and watch the Bot go step-by-step, looping through your process until it’s finished. When watching a Bot at work, it’s like an invisible pair of hands open applications and websites on your desktop, logging in, typing in text fields and clicking on buttons on your screen, and even pulling data from multiple places to compile it into a central location like in an Excel spreadsheet.



Check out the video:


In reality, automation activities typically work in the background, so even if you had it running on your computer you would hardly see what it is doing. To reduce costs further by outsourcing infrastructure, most robots now operate in the cloud away from human view



How can I build one

The method of building a simple Bot is really quite straight forward. To get started with building your own automated robot, click visit your chose RPA software platform and download a free edition:


Blue Prism:  

Automation Anywhere:


Once you’ve launched the RPA studio, you essentially do just a handful of things:

1.      Drag and drop different steps into your process map


2.      Configure for each step to tell the bot exactly what each step does.  E.g., how to access the website, where to find a certain element on a webpage, what button to click on or where to locate an excel file



3.      Add a loop so that the Bot can repeat the process


4.      Define the trigger. Will this process start at 09.00am every day, or will an action trigger the process, like when the Bot receives an email from a specific email address?


RPA development is as simple as it sounds (for less complex processes), through RPA can handle extremely complex processes as well. And RPA software companies are making development even easier and intuitive as they head towards what many RPA execs call “Citizen development”, where eventually any person in the office will be able to build automated processes themselves without relying on RPA developers.

There are a lot of training online if you wanted to started developing automation properly, and as a result anyone will be able to do it. This inevitably will cause a lot of issues in the near futureas automation is too powerful for teams of staff to start building without some sort of governance and control. It is a good to empower staff however bots need to be developed and tested correctly before they are launched, otherwise they could wreak total havoc all across your business, doing things that the creators didn’t intend, or the work they were supposed to do, isn’t done at all.


‘With great power, comes great responsibility’ to do things right so if you want to learn more about Intelligent Automation in your office, subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.





How-To view your Automation OPPORTUNITIES in 3D …across your entire business or team

If you are dreaming of your Automation team moving from delivering small automations to find big transformational processes to automate, or if your backlog of automation projects is drying up then this article is exactly for you!

You’re not alone, a lot of teams are out their struggling to find automation opportunities, unsure where to look, spending a lot of time looking in the wrong place, wondering if there are any opportunities left. If you’re like most businesses struggling to scale up their automation program, then there are 100s of potential automation opportunities waiting to be discovered by your team.

Today you will learn about the most powerful tool that automation experts use to find the best opportunities that are both easiest and fastest to build. This tool will also help your Automation team avoid the most common mistakes that stall automation program. You’ll ensure you don’t choose processes automation suitable or are so big and complex that they never get finished, causing stakeholders finally lose interest.

 I’ll also show you how to prioritize projects in a way which makes it easier to roll out smoothly with minimal hiccups and can massively boost your momentum. I do cover this in my blue book of secrets “Business @ the speed of Bots” (which has been highly recommended by one of the top executives at UiPath, probably the largest automation software company), but let’s get you started so you can start using this tomorrow


How do you Prioritize opportunities?

I have a question, what metrics do you use to prioritise automation opportunities? I’ve worked with a few new automation teams that use a process’s time saved to prioritise which process to automation. It makes sense to spend time on the projects which will make the largest savings, right? However, this doesn’t look at the big picture and can miss some vital points that can trip them up later down the line.

I want you and your team to take these two steps further. We are going to use three dimensions to find the highest value opportunities, where we look at comparing Time Saved (effectively direct financial benefit), to the Ease of development and implementation, and the Intangible Benefits (which may have an indirect financial benefit). In fact, many teams seem to forget to consider intangible benefits in their cost-benefit analysis. These are things like reducing human error, improving compliance, or generating revenue in new ways.

When you use look at Time Savings, you miss how difficult a process is, it could save a lot but requires expensive AI technologies which could generate a net-loss because the solution is too expensive to run. On the other hand, you may discard a process because it doesn’t save significant time but the reduction in human error could have a massive positive impact on the business.


What is an Automation Opportunities Map?

A bubble chart of your businesses opportunities is a powerful visual which paints a clear picture to your senior leadership team where all the potential savings are hiding. The three dimensions of the map is the x-axis (the ease of implementation), the y-axis (the intangible benefits), and the size of the bubble (the financial benefit from time saved). This diagram has four quadrants for the types of opportunities that exist in your business:

The big quick wins (top right):

These are your high value projects; they would save a lot of intangible benefits and would be very easy of implementation. Typically, they also save significant time for staff too

Quick wins:

They will deliver a slightly smaller benefits but they’re still very quick and easy to implement. These can commonly be even easier to implement that the Big Quick wins, because they are more straight forward processes, and so are easier to support as well.

Long terms:

They have large financial and intangible benefits; however they are a lot more complex so will take a longer time to implement, and probably shouldn’t be at the top of your priority list.

Must Dos:

These are low benefit, high complexity but as they are suitable and potentially, they are automation-suitable processes that are necessary for your company to operation effectively (e.g., legal or compliance processes), you eventually must do them.


The great thing about this map, is that you can select the department or team you want to focus on and can zoom in to see all the process opportunities in that team.


How do you create your Enterprise Automation Roadmap?

You opportunities map is useful aid for senior leadership to prioritise which departments and teams, and the processes within them, that they want to automate first. You can design the road map to progress in a logical manner, starting with easier, high value-high return projects so that momentum can be built steadiness so you can scale successfully.

As your roadmap dictates that move to more complex processes, these projects will move you from using purely Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools, to incorporating a variety of AI capabilities, like Chat bots, Machine learning, Optical character recognition (OCR) software.

The roadmap is another great visual to show how much savings will be delivered from various projects and when the senior leadership team can expect to see this manifest. With the Opportunities Map and Roadmap, you will be able to clearly show business leaders exactly how projects will help move the dial on achieving their corporate objectives (e.g., doing projects A, B and C will improving staff morale, automating projects A, D, E and F will reduce errors by 30%).


1D – Measure the Effort (Total time that can be saved)

Firstly you want your team to measure how much staff effort each process takes each month. Simply calculate the time each process takes multiplied by the volume of work that process has.

E.g. (2mins per case) x (200 cases a month) = 400 minutes of potential savings

This will give you an indication of roughly how much potential time can be saved when that process is automated. Of course the process may not be automated end-to-end, so you may want to estimate the Automation percentage of each process. As you learn more about the details of the process, you will be able to calculate a more accurate Automation %.

As a side not, most likely time savings may not actually reach the bottom line as financial savings because in most cases time saved for staff is deployed so that staff can focus on more value-adding tasks. Or it saves on hiring cost as existing staff can be more productive.


2D – Measure Process Complexity (Ease of implementation)

Measuring complexity is a vital part of finding opportunities. Once you found processes which take up a lot of time, you need to confirm they are automation suitable. Then you want to understand how easy a process will be to build and then to implement due to many other factors. This will give you visibility of the costs of creating these solutions.

Cost of development, costs of support of maintenance and the cost of the technologies requires for these solutions. If a process is complex to build, that it will most likely be complex to support. The more complex a process, the high these costs.

In addition to development complexity is team readiness. If the process experts are unavailable or the applications are undergoing changes then this will add to how difficult the project will be to implement.


3D – Measure Intangible Benefits

By definition, intangible benefits can be hard to quantify but they’re not impossible. Some of these benefits can indirectly attribute to financial savings for example removing errors is an intangible benefit, but there’s also a cost to the error itself and there’s a cost to time taken to fix the mistake. Even when it comes to becoming compliance, the financial savings is the cost avoidance of not paying fines.

Look at the projects you are and will be delivering, what intangible benefits are you saving that you have not accounted for? You could be selling your automation team short


Automation Analyser for individuals and teams


You can build an Opportunities map in excel, however if you have a team of several analysts gathering data from different business areas, you can use Lean IA’s Automation Analyser to compile all the data centrally, auto-analyse all processes to identify automation suitable opportunities. This immediately creates a Pareto chart to show you where most of the staff’s effort is going. You can also see a bubble chart at a department level and can zoom in to see opportunities at the process level.

With these visual aids produced from data your team can gathered centrally with a click of a button your team have all the insights they need to plan how best to roll-out automation company wide. Essentially you will be able to provide leadership team will a slot machine with different levers to achieve whichever objectives they have, and it will spit out the list of projects that are needed

If you want to learn more about lean Intelligent Automation in your office, subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.


The common pitfalls awaits your Automation team …and how to avoid them

Whether you’re looking to train up your automation team from internal staff or whether you’re looking to hire some external experts I want to make you aware of 14 common pitfalls that I and my network have noticed new automation teams making time and time again. These issues can manifest at project level when you start to get going at automating


  1. Lack of senior business leader buy-in

The number one thing every automation team should make sure they have is senior stakeholder backing. If your senior stakeholders believe in the technology and believe in the benefits of your program and projects, you can move forward at pace without getting too stuck and any blockers can be quickly removed.


2                     Lack of IT ownership and understanding

It’s vital for IT to be bought in as well. They will need to take ownership on the part they will need to play if you want to roll out automation company-wide, giving you support on infrastructure and the IT side of things, so that you can focus on automating business processes. IT will need to understand what RPA is and that robotic process automation is very different to IT software development.  RPA is more akin to digital workers rather than software development


3                     Missing or unavailable data


You’re inevitably going to come up against a lot of missing data and unavailable data when you try to analyse your businesses processes, and when analysing your teams and the business as a whole. You need good data to show you where the best automation projects are and to estimate how much value you can deliver back to the business.

You may need to do a little leg work to measure the current state of processes and activities, and if you’re lucky you may be able to extract data from applications and databases to find the data that you need in order to determine which projects are worthwhile. Sometimes (well more often than not) data just isn’t available, but you at least need a consistent measuring approach so that one project/opportunity can be compared to another.


4                     Staff’s resistance to change


Staff buy-in (the end users of the automation, or those who will work alongside automation) is vital.  If staff are engaged in the various automation activities and understand the benefits that you are going to bring to them, their team, their business this will accelerate progress and roll out. Otherwise you’re going to have them feeling a bit resistant to any changes you’re trying to implement on them, that they haven’t been a part of.

 Digital transformation should be co-creation between the tech experts and the business experts. When staff are involved, and it’s their change they will gain the understand that you’re there to deliver solutions to help them achieve their goals and their targets faster and exceed them. Together you can solve the problems and inefficiencies causing them to have to work late nights, be overloaded with work, and together your solutions will be fit for purpose, actually benefit them and they will be happy to use!


5                     Loss of traction


Loss of traction is a big pitfall when you’re running an automation program and is a sign you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Perhaps you’ve start too big, it took too long to develop and now you’ve hit a brick wall.

A better approach, especially when you’re team is new, is to build up momentum slowly and progressively starting with smaller simpler automation projects which gets people excited, get business teams brought in and then you can keep scaling up by building bigger, more complex and exciting projects. Starting small and building fast also gets you automation team to get your deliver processes perfected.

Practice the steps slowly then you’ll be tapdancing to work in no time


6                     Unclear roles and responsibilities

If no one knows what anyone else in the delivery process is doing then you’re just going nowhere fast. Throughout the deliver process everyone involved needs to know what their role is. Everyone in the implementation process needs to understand what’s expected of them and what to expect of other people so written down roles and responsibilities and have everyone agree, leaves nothing up for interpretation later down the line.

You can use what’s called a RACI chart to help clarify what people need to do. For each action or activity define:

R = who is responsible for the action. I.e. who actually does the work

A = who should be accountable if the work isn’t done, is subpar or is delayed

C = who can the person doing the work consult to get expertise on a subject

I = who should someone Inform when the activity is done …or has issues


Each of the 4 architypes above can have multiple people apart from Responsible. There needs to only be one person who take responsibility for issues



7                     No clear governance model

A governance model are the steps that determine when something is done, what good looks like and what to do when things go wrong. Without clear governance process (coupled with clear roles and responsibilities), you and your team will find themselves wasting a LOT of time chasing people, going around in circles and being batted from left to right trying to work out what to do and who to go to.

To avoid these headaches, make sure you have all your key stakeholders agreed on the governance model and if something slips you know how to escalate that to get it fixed 

·         Who to speak to (Who deals with servers? Who are the application owners? Who deals with username/password creation?)

·         How is it done (what is the process? Multiple people/activities involved?)

·         What is the criteria (? What requirements for this request? What does ‘good’ look like?)

·         When will they deliver it by (Is there a timeframe? How long some a testing environment take to set up?)


8                     Lack of process clarity

You effectively become a process expert yourself when you analyse a process thoroughly. If not, how will you be able to translate the business problem into a technical solution, in enough detail for the developer to build?

In automation, a Process definition document (PDD) is used to define clearly and unambiguously what the process, from your discussion with the subject matter expert(s) or process owner(s). When you understand exactly what the process looks like and what the improved solution looks like, then the developer should have everything in the PDD that they need.


9                     Process documentation differ from what workers do in reality

It’s not advisable to rely on just the work instructions of a process or training manual because that’s probably been sitting there for years collecting dust and it’s not up to date. Most likely the team has found better ways of doing it, or they’ve need to change the process due to the systems being updated or the applications have been upgraded.

Process documentation is a great starting point but make sure you’re speaking with the team on what they do now, how it can be better and then co-design the solution.


10                 Automation behaves differently in live environment to how it worked during testing

OK so your developer tested the automation, you thoroughly tested it again during user acceptance testing (UAT) and it worked perfectly ..but then when you launched it, your automation broke down, generated lots of exceptions or didn’t work as expected.

This it’s uncommon as development and testing environments can be slightly different to the real thing, even the data you used in testing might be slightly different, or the version of the application might be a newer version in the live environment.

As you can’t be 100% sure what will happen when you’ve launched your automation it’s important to have a “hypercare” phase, sometimes it’s called “warranty period” or “post go live support”. This allows your team to babysit your newly launched robot until you and the business are happy to let it go on it’s own


11                 Lack of time and commitment from process owners and users

When you agreed upfront with team managers how much time and commitment you will likely need your process owners to dedicate to working with you on a project, it can ensure your project isn’t delayed by unavailable subject matter experts (SMEs), or your tempted to continue on a process which isn’t fully defined.

Automation delivery requires full understanding of the process that you’re automating in detail, and you can document that clearly and unambiguously. This is why the number one pitfall (and number one solution for success) is senior buy-in. Senior stakeholders can unlock the doors and make time for that person to commit time with you. Automation design and delivery is not a one-and-done thing, it’s a process which needs several sessions for defining, designing, and testing the solution. With a committed process expert, you have a better chance of getting it right first time.  


12                 Poor stakeholder awareness and understanding of technologies

With automation, your stakeholders are the business, they’re IT, they’re HR and Change management. All these teams will need to get to understand what this technology is, where they fit in and how it can benefit them. And from an informed position, they will have feedback on how this technology should be used.

Automation can’t be built in the dark corner of the business and be successfully rolled out, because once it’s launched, it just might not get used, or your program could be blocked and never see the light of day.

To get alignment and buy-in company-wide, run some awareness sessions, some one-to-ones, or/and host ‘lunch and learns’ to educate teams on what this technology is and how powerful it can be to help them in their day-to-day jobs, and progress the business as a whole.



13                 Unrealistic expectation

Sometimes automation and technologies in general can be a little oversold, or at least misunderstood, so people may have the wrong understanding of what it can do and how fast it can do it. Automation is a powerful tool, it can take just a matter of few weeks to get set up and it is typically a lot lower cost option to software development in many cases, but it’s not a silver bullet.

Automating business processes does take sufficient upfront investment of time and commitment from staff to get solutions implemented, so it’s good practice to be clear on how long it’s most likely to take (E.g., up to 2hours a week spread over 6-8 weeks, or 3x 2hour workshops) and use a cost-benefits calculator to estimate the potential value the solution can deliver.  


14                 Choosing the wrong process

I wanted to leave this to last, as this is probably the number one pitfall that your team needs to stay away from. Choosing the wrong process is one of the most common reasons for automation failings and why projects stall. When a team works on a process that isn’t suitable for the technologies that they have, it’s too big, or if it’s too complex, it can stall the entire program as stakeholders loose faith.

Many experienced automation teams use complexity calculators to estimate how difficult a process would be to automate, and they use suitability checklists to filter out processes that aren’t suitable for different type of RPA and AI solutions.


Like and subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.

Screenshot 2022-02-20 205947

5 things you NEED TO KNOW about RPA (Robotic Process Automation)

Robotic Process Automation has been around for a while now, but there’s still a lot of misconception about what it actually is. Maybe you’ve heard different conflicting opinions and thoughts online about how it could impact you and how it can be used.


I want to highlight FIVE things that you need to know about RPA, its benefits and why you personally should get involved in automation. I also want you to be able to spot a process which eventually is going to get automated and give you a peak at popular RPA development platforms, so that you can see how easy it is to build automated “Bots”.


I’ve been a Lead Automation Expert for many, many years now, focusing on using “Lean thinking” with Intelligent Automation, working in many industries at some of the largest companies, tier one consultancies and also some small and medium enterprises. When I first heard about RPA was in 2017, when I was working as a Process Improvement Analyst (using lean six sigma to improve business processes). My boss had approached me to take lead on using “robotic automation” to improve processes and make savings. I honestly thought that he was about to roll out a physical robot from the storage cupboard behind him!


What is RPA?

To be clear, Robotic Process Automation is software robotics similar to an excel macro. RPA is low- or no-code where you can record the process you want to automate, or you can build the automated process from scratch by drag-and-dropping actions onto a process flow. RPA is able to scrape data from website pages or web-tables, or directly from databases using APIs. It can add data into an excel or fill in webforms or into desktop applications.


 This highly versatile application can work with any application desktop, web app or website as it uses the User Interface just like you and I would. It can press buttons and links, tick boxes, select from dropdown menus and type into any text field as if it were using a mouse and keyboard.


It is an amazing technology but it’s not actually a silver bullet. There’s a lot of things that RPA can’t do and that’s why it businesses are coupling RPA with AI capabilities. Pure RPA can still automate potentially hundreds of your business’s processes right now, but RPA is limited by the fact that it can only use standardised input and can only make logical decisions. I.e. RPA can’t do anything which is which would require human judgment and intuition.


More and more RPA is overlapping with Artificial Intelligence (AI), as vendors add AI capabilities into their software so that the scope of what RPA can do for your business keeps increasing. Gartner had estimated that RPA on it’s own would be able to eliminate 20% of repetitive tasks. When I was interviewed for Process Excellence Network in 2019, I shared how this trend would eventually bring an end to pure RPA.  


With the emergence of Intelligent Automation (RPA + AI), if say you wanted to read data off a pdf or respond to a chat, or use information collected by a chatbot to better serve a customer, you can now literally drag that capability into your RPA bots workflow.

The Optical Character recognition (OCR) software is able to read the PDF document (whether that be text or handwriting). A Natural Language Progressing (NLP) integrated tool could understand the customers intention from the question entered into a chatbot/webchat, and then trigger an automated process to take over and carry out the required action or retrieve requested information.


What are the benefits of automation?

Robotic process automation on it’s own is great at manually intensive tasks, that are tedious and repetitive, and require a lot of combined staff effort to manage the workload. RPA is especially good for those repetitive tasks that have seasonal volume.


Do you have areas in your business where staff are constantly working late?

These teams could leverage automation to save them time on odd-jobs and partially automate processes here and there to free up more of their time to hit their targets and deadlines faster.


Do you have KPIs showing high amounts of human error in certain teams?

Automating processes prone for error can effectively reduce errors to near zero. Even if the whole end-to-end process can’t be automated, augmenting staff can ensure they retrieve/input/use accurate information or data validation can be automated.


Do you have long physical queues or customers on hold for long period of time? Perhaps your staff are taking a long time to respond to clients.

Intelligent automation has grown very popular in the customer service division. Customer service advisors use multiple applications to assist enquiries and also have a lot of form filling and updating customer data so automation can be used to streamline a lot of these processes

With seasonal spikes, instead of going through the whole process of finding and hiring new teams and having to train them up, your existing staff can leverage automation technology to be more productive.


Are you outsourcing certain processes that could be automated?

You could potentially develop a Bot once and all you need to pay after that is server costs, the software licenses and maybe a little maintenance to keep it running and up to date

The by-product of these cost savings, improved efficiencies, and error reductions, is the enhancement of customer experience. The service that you deliver to customers will be more accurate, faster and more convenient that from your competitors that don’t use automation effectively.


Giving automation technology to your staff can also improve staff morale as it can be like giving everyone in your team a virtual assistant to exceed targets and gain a better work-life balance with fewer late nights and more time spend on interesting, creative, human to human interaction and customer facing tasks.


How do I spot an RPA use case?

There are about eight things you want to look for when identifying a process which is suitable for automation:

1.       RPA needs standardized input. Its able to use pre-determined information like options in drop down menus or selectors. RPA on its own can’t understand free text

2.       RPA can’t do a process that requires human intuition, RPA cannot think, it can’t make any judgment calls. It pretty much can just ‘copy’ a task if you show it the steps

3.       RPA needs rules. It can only make a decision if its rules based, and the outcomes are pre-determined. You must be able to program the logic that the Bot needs to make to choice the right option.

a.       For example: IF price goes up press “BUY”, ELSE IF price goes down press “SELL”

4.       RPA works best when the process is repetitive and manually intensive. You want to find processes which repeat over and over again like updating details for a long list of customers

5.       RPA is best for those high volume processes like adding 100 customer details every day into a CRM application. This isn’t a necessity, but it does mean that you will deliver a significant amount of savings for your development effort.

6.       The process needs to be stable you if your RPA is to last. RPA using the User Interface (clicking on buttons, types in text boxes). If the process keeps changing the Bot will keep crashing and will constantly require new development so that it can navigate the new application or webpage layouts.

7.       Make sure there’s no pending changes on the process or applications. Related to the previous point, it’s not a good idea to have your team working on automating a process that is due to change in under 6 months’ time, or the applications are due to be upgraded. This could require having to rebuild the automation before the end users ever had a change to properly benefit from it. Changes are inevitable, but timing is everything.

8.       Obviously, the process for automation must be fully computer-based. However, it certain steps require someone to pick up a phone or print something then it could be possible to automate with a “human in the loop”, where you automate the first part of the process, the bot notifies the person to do a physical task, then that person triggers the automation to finish that process.

a.        It is possible to integrate RPA (software robotics) with physical robotics, for example, an automated payment process triggers a physical robot to pick the stock in a warehouse


How can I build an Automated process?

The RPA studio is where developers design the automated steps for the Bot to follow. There are two main types; drag and drop where you can just drag an activity like an action or decision point into a process map (you would see this set up on Blue Prism or UiPath software).

The other way is displayed as line-by-line code, where you drag the activity and all steps show are lines of code in a page, instead of shapes (see the images for a better understanding). This is typicaly found with Automation Anywhere and IBM’s software, however recently there is an option to depict the process steps with shapes.




To build a robot there are just a handful of steps you need to follow to create a building an automation:

IDENTIFY PAGE ELEMENTS: you have to spy different objects on a screen or a page of a website or an application and all this is it just helps the rpa robot to recognize different elements on a page so this is a button this is a link this is the name field

DRAG ACTIVITIES/ACTIONS: you can drag in different activities into the process map like an action to open excel, open chrome or type a web address

DRAG DECISION POINTS: you can drag in a decision so that could be:

IF price had gone up press “BUY”

ELSE IF price has gone down press “SELL”

ADD LOOPS: this loops through the process for a predefined number of iterations. For example you could have a data table in excel. The bot counts the rows and loops through the table row by row inputting data from excel into a web form

PRESS PLAY: Once the process is finished you can press play (or define the trigger to start the process) and you will see the robot moving through the process step by step


That’s it! Pretty easy right?


RPA Vendors are quickly moving towards a world of “Citizen Development” as they develop their platforms to become so intuitive, anyone could build automated processes.


How is RPA using/integrating with Artificial Intelligence?

RPA on its own can probably only automate about 20 percent of processes (still you’re looking at hundreds of processes), but then what about a rest?

This is where you need different types of AI to plug into your automated process so that it can extend its capability. RPA platforms are making it really easy to do in two ways. Either they’re embedding AI into their platform or they’re building massive ecosystems where it’s very easy to integrate with different AI applications.


Let’s take a look at a few:

OCR (optical character recognition) is a type of AI that can read data from an image. So if you had a pdf or a scanned image or maybe even just a photo, Optical character recognition (or perhaps Intelligent Character Recognition) can turn data from an image into structured information that the RPA Bot can use. You could get a scanned invoice or PDF and with OCR capabilities your automation can input invoice data directing into your excel spreadsheet or your finance application.  Intelligent character recognition (the smarter version of OCR) cans understand things like handwriting, varying fonts and even spelling mistakes.


Another very popular AI in the office is the chatbots. You can have a web chat where customers are asking the same questions like “what’s my balance?” or “who’s my account manager?”. Maybe customers wants to do similar activities like “I want to purchase flights to cyprus in january” or “Book a hotel” or “book a car”. A chatbot using natural language processing (NLP) to understand the intent of a question can trigger an automated process to go into the customer’s account and find who the account manager is, or look at their balance. If it were a holiday making site, the automation could book a holiday/flight/car using the requirements the customer specified.


NLP, however, is not limited to chatbots. It can understand free text, so could read an email or text in a comments box. For example, NLP capability can read the content of an email and use this to categorise and organise a mailbox, which in turn could trigger different automated processes for each type of email. Intelligent automation has endless possibilities.


Machine learning and this is probably what most people think is “AI”. You essentially feed a computer with a load of data, and it finds different patterns and correlations, so that when you ask it a relevant question it can calculate the answer which has the highest probability of being correct.

This has been useful in healthcare. The computer is given the details and symptoms of patients that have a specific disease, and the details of people that don’t have that illness. By calculating the similarities and dissimilarities between the people in the two groups, when the machine is given the details of a new person, the machine can calculate the probability that this new person as the disease or not.

Sales and Marketing can use machine learning in a different way. If you have hundreds or thousands of customers that you want to sell something to but you don’t fully understand their buying habits or preferences. By feeding customer data and purchase histories to the machine, it can calculate patterns can make the best recommendations of new products to customers that have a high probability of buying.


Now that you have an awareness of how Robotic process automation is being used in the office and how Artificial intelligent is supercharging what RPA can do, start looking at processes in your business that can be automated today


If you want to learn more about Intelligent Automation in your office, subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.





6 ways your business is wasting TIME, MONEY AND RESOURCES in every Process and Team

You may already be aware that your team or business isn’t running as efficiently as you would have liked. Maybe it’s the long customer queues, long the hold times or there’s high error rates that are difficult to stomach. Perhaps it’s the slow turnaround time for sales to be process or it’s the constantly low staff morale that has tipped your off that something is very wrong.

If you are aware that things could be a lot better, are you struggling to find where the problem is or how to solve it?


Let’s look at six places to look for inefficiencies in your business and teams. Using this method in team workshops will help you to uncover a whole list of underlying causes of business problems, that could be solved quickly with intelligent automation technologies.



The method I want to share is a lean thinking technique call the Ishikawa or the Cause-and-Effect diagram. It also looks like a fish bone so called a fish bone diagram too.


The head of the fish bone this is the Effect, this is the problem or pain that you’re experiencing. Then the fish bones are the 6 areas where you will find the causes to the main problem. This powerful tool can be used in workshops to help the team focus when brainstorming around the whiteboard.

The goal is to get ideas on the whiteboard using post-it notes then you can group these ideas of possible causes into themes. Then you will have Each theme could potentially be a project or a clue to finding the root cause of your problem.




This looks at whether you’re actually measuring staff/business performance correctly and accurately, or are you measuring performance at all? Sometimes just measuring something can immediately uncover the problem. In lean thinking and process improvement, a common phrase is “if you’re not measuring something you can’t improve it”.

 So you first point of call is to check IF and HOW you are measuring key performance indicators (KPIs). Measuring accurately may show that the problem is not as bad as it seems,  or it only looks bad to you because you’re just measuring it wrong.

In the automation world, new automation delivery teams may just look at the time saved to calculate the benefit and value they are delivering; however they may be delivering significant intangible value (cost avoidance, compliance, staff morale and error improvements). They are missing the full picture. If this is your team, are these KPIs not being measured because your team hasn’t thought to do so, is it too difficult to measure or the data needed to measure it unavailable?

Another reason that inaccurate/incomplete measurement might be an issue is because teams lack the right resources or skills in-house to know how to measure these KPIs.



Materials is do with whether your teams have the right resources to do the task effectively. Does the team feel they don’t have the right skills and need further education on a new process or application, or potentially the company when through a recent brain drain and people who were skilled in that department have now left.



This is looking at the process design itself. Is it an awkward process which is unnecessarily bureaucratic, or old and inefficient? As applications and technologies advance, processes also need to be revised as an old process might not be fit for purpose anymore.

Just by redesigning and streamlining a process, and removing redundant steps can make massive improvements to a process, and that’s even before it’s been automated.


I remember when I was an analyst, a team I was working with were carrying out a which required they print off the document and file it away into a cupboard. Quickly we discovered that these documents were never used again, not even for audit purposes. It was an old process when documents where physically signed. The process had never been fully updated, even after all documents (which were now signed with e-signatures) were all stored on the computer.


Mother Nature

This looks at the environment that staff work in. This could be a physical environment like their workspace or a virtual environment. Is comfortable? Are things in the right places?

A productivity study found that a team’s productivity can drop by four percent for every degree above 27 degrees Celsius. The virtual environment can have just as big an impact, if files are in messy unorganised folders with no logical location or naming convention.


Mother nature can be wider than just physical or virtual environments, but it’s also covers changes in economic or social environments. For example a market crash, COVID, or legal/political changes can reduce efficiencies and make processes more clunky. In Europe, the GDPR compliance mandate slowed a lot of processes down and required that processes were sped back up through process re-design and automation.



Manpower (Preferably People-Power)

This can lead to people to pointing fingers at different teams but it can expose the different politics and frictions between which is useful because most times friction and politics and disagreements between teams is just the misunderstanding between how different teams operate and the environments that they work in. This can highlight who else your team can speak to, to uncover more about this problem or pain.

Digital business transformation is People, Process and Technology, in that order. ‘People’ is normally the Number One problem in transforming your business. This friction and resistance is misunderstandings and misalignments, but this is exactly what Intelligent Automation can do for your business. It can be used to remove silos to align teams and to uncover these misunderstandings for more efficient future



Not to be confused with materials. Materials are resources, something you use to make or provide something. Machines are the equipment that we use to produce the product. Some businesses are inefficient purely because their staff are using legacy computers and applications which are clunky, slow and terribly un-user friendly.

Robotic Process Automation is a powerful tool to solve these technical blockers in a matter of weeks or months, which would take the IT teams years to develop fixes.



Once you’re workshop attendees have populated the board with all their reasons for what is wrong with these 6 topics, gathered metrics and KPIs (if available) for each issue raised, so that you have an indication of how serious each issue is and then you can start to prioritise them for Intelligent Automation projects.


Subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) where I create videos every week to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who was the then-Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.





Pareto Chart – Automate 80% OF SAVINGS with just 20% of activities!

Pareto Chart – Automate 80% OF SAVINGS with just 20% of activities!

The most insightful ratio that you might not have heard is called the Pareto ratio, Pareto’s law or the 80:20 rule. Essentially, your teams are spending 80% of their time on a mere 20% of business processes. About 20% of your customers make up roughly eighty percent of your profits, and eighty percent of your results are from twenty percent of the efforts you put in.

A Pareto chart coupled with an Opportunities map (see link at the end to get more info on this), will help you to build huge momentum and massively accelerate your rollout plans. But..

What is Pareto’s law?

In “Lean” intelligent automation, you can use this 80:20 rule to find the best automation opportunities in your business for your Automation team to focus on. I want to show you how to create and use a simple Pareto Chart to identify a shortlist of processes that will deliver the most savings, so that you move away from small tactical processes and deliver large transformational automation.

You can create a Pareto chart in five simple steps:

1.       Measure the effort for all processes 

2.       Calculate the percentage of the total effort of each individual process 

3.       Put processes in order of most effort

4.       Calculate the accumulative effort of each process

5.       Find that  80% mark

Create a data capture table

In an excel table as shown below, you need several columns for your team to populate as they build a list of processes. In workshops as your automation analysts go team by team, they will be able to gather high level process data from several teams in a matter of days.

I really like this process because it’s by far the fastest (and cheapest – if you were looking at process mining) way to scan hundreds of processes and teams in a matter of weeks.

You will need:

·         Process names (and the department and team name if you are compiling data from across your business)

·         Average handling time (how long each process will take to complete a single iteration)

For example, How long do staff take on average to complete the registration process for a single customer

·         Volume of work (how many times per month do staff do each process)

For example teams may complete 100s of customer registrations each day, which could amount to hundreds or thousands of customer registration on average each month 

NB: Average monthly volume is preferred as a daily average (using a month’s worth of data) could be unreliable due to seasonal peaks and troughs throughout the year. Whereas a yearly average could take too long to gather that amount of data.

Step1 – Calculate the Effort

Depending on the size of your automation team, and also the relationships you’ve built with business teams, you can have multiple analysts working is different teams simultaneously to speed things up.

What I have done before on occasions when I was the single analyst on the team and had good relationships with teams and had their support, was to book short sessions to explain how to complete this data capture table and do a few examples, then have the team themselves go through this themselves. This allowed me to cover a LOT of ground meeting with multiple teams in a week and collating data for 100s of data in a few short weeks.

Another point to add, is it helps teams complete the tables you provide them if it is partially complete. If you’re lucky, your business may have a lot of process data in documentation or extractable from applications logs, or in Management Information (MI). Your team can fill in the data they can find, and encourage business teams to sense check, revise and complete the data table for their processes.

For an Automation standpoint, you can other process details for accessing automation suitability of each process ( cover this in other articles), but to demonstrate this Pareto chart your team as a minimum need to collect Process Name, Average Handling time and Work volume.

The Effort of a process is simply multiplying the Average handling time with the Volume of work. E.g., if a process takes 2mins and is run 100 times a month the staff effort is 200 minutes a month

Step2 – Calculate the Effort%

With Efforts of all processes calculated (for your business or for your department, depending on your scope of your program) you total up the effort for all processes together. This on its own can show you how much time your entire business or department are working on all activities that you’ve identified. If there is a significant difference between the amount of staff and total process effort, this will indicate that there are still a lot of processes and activities that you’ve missed.

The Effort percentage for each process is then calculated by (Process Effort)/(Total Process Effort)

If all processes make up 5000 minutes a month and your process is 200min a month, that process’s Effort % = 200/5000 = 4%

Step3 – Put Effort in descending order

With Effort% calculated for all processes from all teams in your table, put processes in order of Effort%, so the process with the most effort at the top.

Step4 – Accumulate Effort %

Create a new column for Accumulates Effort %. When you’ve ordered the processes, add the process effort % of the first process in this column. Then add the 2nd process’s Effort %, then add the 3rd process’s effort to the Accumulated total, and so on.

As you continue adding each process’s Effort % to the Accumulated total this to continue towards 100%, when all have been added up. You can see how this works on the most righthand column.

Step5 – Find the 80% mark

With your long list of processes organised with the most effortful process at the top, all you need to do now is to find the 80% mark and skim the best processes off the top.

However, the Pareto chart is a powerful visual to show senior leadership where you want to focus and how big of impact your ventures will be.

Excel on latest versions has a Pareto version, where the histogram bars is the effort for each process, and the line curve is the accumulated % of each process.

You can find the 80% mark on your Pareto chart and highlight the processes you wish to automate.

Automation Analyser tool

As mentioned earlier, as your analysts work with each target team, there are other data points that they can collect to assess whether a process is suitable for automation, and how suitable. Also, I mentioned how an Automation Opportunities Map coupled with a Pareto Chart can accelerate your automation program. LeanIA’s analysis tool has this all in one, were your whole team can drop data gathered from different teams into a central location to be analysed for assessing and identifying not only the best opportunities for your team to focus on, but suggests a priority order for your team to focus on the right projects first, allowing you to build momentum as your roll out automation without stalling your program.

There’s lots more this application can do, as you have a Opportunity bubble chart at the department/Team level, and when you chose your target team, you can dive deeper to look at a bubble chart of opportunities just for that team. These visuals and tables can easily be copied for presenting to your leadership team

Subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.


How-To get Senior leaders bought in to Automation program

As soon as a business gets involved in automation many teams immediately run out to hire a developer and start building their automated processes. But without getting senior stakeholders and their teams bought in to this revolutionary new technology, most teams hit brick walls, momentum and progress slows down and sometimes delivery holts. 

There are many things an automation team must do before they start automating but the Number One thing that will make your automation program succeed or fail is to get senior buy-in.  Without this, it will inevitable cause your team a lot of frustration and pain.


I’d like to walk you through my 10-stage step-by-step approach for getting key stakeholders excited about what Intelligent Automation can do and how it can benefit them

Senior stakeholders will accelerate your progress and supercharge your delivery. Many challenges and pitfalls that I’ve seen new teams make time and time again stem from not getting Top-down buy-in.



Do’s and don’ts

Did you know that over 50 percent of businesses have less than 10 bots and less than 5% have over 200 bots?

If most businesses, no matter what size they are, have hundreds of automation suitable processes, why are so many businesses struggling to scale?



One reason is that many newbie automation teams will try to do a bottom-up approach where they get the buy-in from the teams to start automating and then try to work their way up get senior stakeholders brought in. The issue with this approach is that process experts though generally happy to work with he automation team and excited about  technology, they have their day job and before long may become unavailable or have limited time.

This is why getting senior management support your program early is key. They can carve out sufficient time for their process owners and subject matter expert to give your projects the attention and commitment it needs to deliver solutions.  For example just mapping out the current state of a process may require a few iterations and revisions to get it right and designing the solution take a bit of coordinating to get the right experts in a workshop and designing the solution take a bit of coordinating to get the right experts in a workshop. Your teams also need access to applications and test data to build a robust solution, all this requires commitment from the team and management.



Not having commitment and sufficient time with the team, can tempt new automation teams to cut corners, leaving out the process experts and end-users from critical milestones. It isn’t advisable to just design it  and develop the automation yourself without being sure it’s what the business team wants or assuming your analysts know enough about the process.

Professional automation teams know the importance of co-designing solutions with the business team. In fact this is paramount. The business teams know the process, its issues and are aware of any pending changes. They know why exceptions happen from time-to-time, they know where the application glitches. They are best  placed to know (with your tech knowledge and guidance) how the process can be improved and design a solution which is fit-for-purpose.

Even if an analyst in your team used to do the process and can re-design it themselves without the teams help, it’s not good practice to impose changes on staff teams. By getting staff involved the solution becomes their solution and there’s a greater chance it will actually be used. Remember it’s people first, then it’s process and technology



RPA is a powerful tool but it’s not a silver bullet. Automation teams need to make it very clear to the business that this is not a quick fix, and it can’t fix everything. Yes, it can be implemented in a little as four to six weeks for certain simple processes, or maybe a few months, but it still requires significant time spent with the business users to get it right. Automation shouldn’t be rushed. Cutting corners just leads to technical debt,  basically where you pay for it  later on in support costs for fixes, change requests and re-builds.



Getting senior buy-in is challenging. Here are 10 steps I use to get TOP-DOWN buy-in to accelerate Automation programs:


Step1 – Senior leadership awareness

Gaining and keeping senior stakeholders excited and bought-in is challenging. Automation Programs work best when the Automation sponsor is from the C-suite or has their backing.

The senior leadership team are directors and heads of departments and their subordinates.  They are very busy and their time is scarce. Furthermore, they most likely aren’t fully aware of what intelligent automation is or what is can do so they require some education on how it can benefit their division and help them meet their corporate objective.

You may only have one opportunity with them, so the first thing to include in your presentation is a high-level view of how your technologies work, and highlight key benefits that Intelligent automation can bring their teams and the central role it plays in Digital Transformation.


Step2 – Use case studies

This is the second thing you should include in your presentation.  Case studies shows that while they are not automating, their competitors already are succeeding and benefiting from this technology. Industry-based use cases can also identify the hidden potential in the business that is ready to be unlocked by your Automation team


Step3 – Build-a-bot sessions

If you have time, this can make a last impress for hesitant stakeholders who aren’t sold on the technology. It’s also something fun and interactive. A Build-a-bot session is where you have senior stakeholders build a very basic robot in a workshop. The purpose of this is to show them how simple and fast-to-implement automation really is, and unlike other technologies can add immediate value.

Have attendees chose a simple but useful process to automation, like sorting their emails or automating their expenses. They will see what goes into building a bot, how they (with minimal training) were able to easily build something useful, and they can actually then and there, see immediate value and real time-savings from the 30-60minute session

If you don’t have the time for them to build the robots themselves then run a demo (preferably recorded) of you building one yourself.


Step4 – Create a Proof of Concept (POC)

A proof of concept is a simple, low-cost method for showing the business that RPA and Intelligent Automation works well on the business’s infrastructure and applications. This is better than a generic demo, this proves that not only can this technology stack work in their working environment, but also that your Automation team is capable of delivering robust automated solutions quickly.


Step5 – Staff Automation 101 Roadshow

This is where you’re team is visiting the different areas of the business (or department) and answering the question “What’s in it for me?”. By now your senior stakeholders are bought in, they’ve seen the proof of concept but you still need to take the rest of the business along the digital transformation journey with you, if this is going to be a smooth ride.

Roadshows get staff teams (the process experts who will be working closely with your automation team, interacting with and working alongside these digital workers) excited about the potential benefits automation can bring them. This requires answering sensitive questions, squashing myths and misconceptions. Intelligent Automation has a wider range of capabilities that can benefit the team and the individual.

Show team managers and staff real examples they can relate to, have them trigger an email sorting process, or a tedious copy-and-pasting process, and empathise the benefits on user experience, customer experience and work-life balance, as this is a technology which should be celebrated, not hidden from the masses.


Step6 – Nominate automation champions

An Automation Champions is someone in each team or business department who can be an advocate for your program and keep the excitement and enthusiasm going.

They should be in an influential position, so someone who’s fairly senior. By giving them extra training on Automation, they can be your eyes and ears within teams to look for opportunities, gain feedback on staff’s true opinions and apprehension and they can sell the benefits. 


Step7 – Create an Opportunities map


Creating an Opportunities map is a high-level view of all the opportunities that exist throughout your business, in each department. By gathering high level information on different teams and their activities, heads of department and team managers can see where the potential savings lies across their entire business area.

This is a great visual to show the senior leadership team all the opportunities so that they can align on how you’re Automation team should prioritise projects and roll this out company wide. With alignment and excitement on the size of the opportunities, the next step is to put your best foot forward by carefully choosing the target team to start


Step8 – Find the target team

 The targeted pilot team should be a team which is rich in opportunities which are easy and fast to implement, and will deliver significant benefit.

These opportunities should be small enough so they can be delivered fast (because as a pilot the pressure will be on to deliver something, and something too big could kill momentum and stall your program!), but big enough so that the benefits can be felt by the team (if it’s a small seemingly “pointless” project, stakeholders will lose faith in the technologies ability to impact the bottom line).

Also, the target team should be readiness technically (so no pending changes to major applications), and business ready (teams have sufficient cover to allow for process experts can dedicate sufficient time on automation projects).


Step9 – Generate your shortlist

With your target team carefully chosen, your team can work with the business to build a short list of the best opportunities to start with. These are the BEST opportunities, in the BEST team, out of all the teams/departments that your team have reviewed.

It’s important to not let the business dictate what should be on your shortlist without considering your data-backed recommendations. The business understandably will want to start with the biggest most painful project in their team, but as mentioned early, if you don’t start small and go too big too early, this could kill all the hard work you have done in the last 8 steps!


Step10 – Create a Proof of Value (POV)

So, to recap on your achievements:

Teams and the SLT are excited, you’ve scanned the business for loads of automation opportunities (to be added to your backlog), key stakeholders are aligned on how to roll out this technology out, and the priority in which to do this.

Finally, it’s time to run a Proof of value. More than a proof of concept, you’re building a real solution, running a full automation project, that will deliver real value to the business. This will be the proof in the pudding, where all stakeholders will see how your team can quickly implement a solution which can deliver tangible savings and other benefits in-year. Yes, a project that makes net savings in a matter of months.

This also is a test of your implementation process and governance model (right first-time can’t always be expected so you will refine this as you go along). Having a repetitive process for churning out automation solutions on demand will be crucial for maintaining a stead “drumbeat” for your program. Now that you’ve delivered the proof of value, and have a shortlist of “Quick Wins” in your target pilot team (as well as a long list of opportunities in your backlog), perfecting your repeatable governance model will be a vital tool in achieving Digital Transformation. Let’s call that …step 11.   



Which of these10 steps you need to take depends on how mature and far along your automation journey your team is right now. Once you’ve achieved all 10 steps mentioned above, it becomes a no-brainer for senior stakeholders to be fully bought-in and heavily invest in supporting your Intelligent Automation program. You’ve shown in real time how this technology can alleviate their pains and deliver on many of their objectives faster than any alternative solution.



Subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.



7 steps to FINDING ROOT CAUSES to your business problems: How-To run a Root Cause workshop

7 steps to FINDING ROOT CAUSES to your business problems:

How-To run a Root Cause workshop


If your business isn’t running efficiently, you’ll see some tell-tale signs: Long customer queues, long hold times, high amounts of human errors, slow turnaround times when dealing with clients or suppliers. Perhaps there’s high attrition and low staff morale.


Why a root cause workshop?

The underlying cause of these issues can be difficult to spot and may require some investigative work and a root cause workshop if the best approach. Many new Automation teams unaware of lean thinking (and lean automation) may go out and fix the problem that they see in front of them, however by uncovering and then solving the root cause may “kill multiple birds with one stone”, as root causes typically result in an array of issues. Lean Intelligent Automation, using lean thinking techniques to get the most out of automation technologies.


Here are seven steps your team can use to air out team issues, get full participation in workshops and uncover key root causes to the major blockers and hurdles impacting their team.



Before we start, a central tool to use in your Root Cause Workshops is the fishbone diagram. This has six areas for your attendees to focus on when thinking about what may be causing these headaches.  

Most root causes typically exist upstream from where the issues are being experienced. It’s also interesting to understand what happens as a result of the target team experiencing these blockers. Perhaps this issue is causing the target team to generate a lot more work, which is putting immense pressure on teams down the chain.


Invite the right people

For this to work well, it’s vital that you’ve inviting the right people to that workshop from your target team (where the pain is being experienced) as well as representatives from the teams who are upstream from the target team (who feed them information), and downstream (those who receive information once your target team has completed whatever they do). It would be better to postpone your workshop, than to just invite people just because they were available.


Have the information available

Another thing to do before the workshop is to ensure that the attendees have done their research on the problems being discussed, so that they bring keep information like KPIs and other metrics to the meeting. You don’t want people to say “oh I’ll get back to you on that” or “we don’t have that information right now” as this will defeat the purpose of the workshop.


Senior backing

Finally, for a successful workshop you should have senior person or decision-maker in the room, or at least has clearly supported the workshop. This will minimise the amount of last minute dropouts and emails five minutes before the meeting asking to reschedule or postpone.



Step 1: Set up your Fishbone diagram

Get your fishbone diagram set up on a whiteboard so that when people walk in (physically or virtually, they have some to prepare their thoughts.

Explain the rules of the workshop, these steps and explain the 6 areas. This visual aid helps attendees focus their ideas and have something to put their ideas on. You can use a physical whiteboard or there are lots of different virtual whiteboards you can use like Miro or Mural. Great for remote working.



Step 2: Discuss problems (using the 6 areas)


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With your attendees warmed up and understanding the six different areas (measurements, materials, methods, mother nature, manpower and machines), use silent post-its to walk through each area, getting attendees to add their ideas of problems and pains for each.

Silent post-its is more comfortable as ideas can be added to the board without fear of being shot down. This also allows you to get FULL participation, calling out anyone who hasn’t put their ideas down for each of the 6 areas.

Only after the board has post-its from everyone you can start to discuss the ideas and start tease out more pains and problems around those six areas.


Step 3: Group problems into themes (and determine what’s in/out of scope)

Moving away from the Fishbone diagram now, as you discuss the problems on the board you may find that you can group them together into about three to five different themes. Hopefully there should be similarities between the different problems so that you can discuss details of the key themes that encapsulate all these post-its. Perhaps a lot of problems stem from a new upgrade to a third party system, or the webchat that customers always use incorrectly, or a new website that keeps breaking down.

Once you’ve collected them into themes you want to which are in and out of scope of your Automation team’s remit. Perhaps the issues with the third party’s system is something that is out of your hands, to handle potentially it’s one of the pain themes are to do with it equipment being upgraded or partners or suppliers maybe some for the teams that deal with partnerships and suppliers to handle


Step 4: Add information, metrics, and KPIs

Getting information, KPIs and other metrics around these pain points helps you to determine whether these problems are significant, or if they feel worse than they really are. Perhaps the finance system is cumbersome and preparing spreadsheets takes almost an hour to do, but it’s only used once every 3 months.

Whether its the percentage of human error, number of monthly customer complaints or trending rate of losing clients, understanding the situation with numbers (or knowing who or where to get them) will help you know where is best to focus to have the greatest impact.


Step 5: Highlight Blockers

With a clear view on what the key issues are, you want to get some understanding on potential blockers and restrictions that could stop you from making improvements. This could be a legal or cultural restrictions which could stop or hinder you.

Understand how they tried to solve this before and why it failed the last time.


Step 6: Prioritise problems/themes

With a short list of themed problems, minimal blockers and metrics which evidence that these are big worthwhile problems, these are potentially very go automation projects for your team to look at.

Work with the business team(s) to prioritize which problems are most business critical, and when solved would make the biggest improvement to corporate objectives. There must be logical rationale behind their prioritizations aside from the perceived pain it causes. A new automation team may stop here and start designing solutions for these problems, but we want to go one step further so that we can solve the root cause.


Step 7: 5-Whys

As the name suggestions, the 5-Whys method is where you ask the team about the problem five why’s in order to peal back the layers of the problem. This lean thinking technique asks the cause of a problem, then asks the cause of that cause and so on. This can lead to you to uncover a simpler issue when you finally get down to the root cause.

As a real life example the problem was that the team needed to manually copy data from one system to the next. This was creating a lot of work, putting immense pressure on the team. Furthermore, the work load was forecast to increase next year.  

1WHY: Why do you need to copy data from one system to the next?

Because the two systems don’t sync properly

2WHY: why is that?

Because the two systems data hardly ever matches

3WHY: okay so why is that?

Because the customer data in system A is hardly ever accurate

4WHY: okay and why is that?

Because the data from the outdoor workmen are not entering the customer details correctly

5WHY: (to the workmen representatives) okay and why are workmen not entering details correctly?

In this scenario the outdoor workers had their handheld devices while on the road, and they had to enter the customers details sometimes at night, in the rain and using their finger to enter details manually. All too frequently this causes them to key in customer details accurately.


By stopping at the problem, an automation team would be tempted to automate the alignment of data between system A and system B. But by identifying the root cause your team could provide a far simpler, such as providing the outdoor workman with touchscreen pens for the handheld device and dropdown menus to accurately select the correct customer details to avoid spelling mistakes, rather that typing customer details manually.

With extra upfront work of finding that root cause this maximised the returns from automation, because multiple teams use the data that the workmen were entering into that system so solving the root cause can solve multiple processes.


If you want to learn more about lean Intelligent Automation in your office, subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.