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PA OPINION

The Robotic Process Automation Journey - What makes a successful proof of concept

We recently wrote about how NHS Trusts should approach the ‘Start Small’ stage of their automation journey after setting a 'Think Big' vision, highlighting the need to undertake a proof of concept (POC). But what makes a successful POC?

NHS organisations typically have a culture sensitive to data protection, and with the deployment of automation in its infancy, progressing new initiatives can be a challenge. One way to overcome this is to show the potential benefits, so a successful POC is key. Here, we explain what a POC is and how to create a great one.

What is a POC?

A POC tests the feasibility of automating a process for a limited time without fully committing to it.

What a POC will deliver:

  • An introduction to automation and the opportunities it presents for NHS Trusts
  • An understanding of which processes are most appropriate for automating
  • An assessment of the potential business impact of automating an agreed process
  • A digital recording of process that has been automated, detailing the steps in the process.

What a POC won’t deliver:

  • A fully operational and supported automated process that will continue working after the POC
  • A complete business case for the implementation of automation within the Trust
  • The infrastructure and software required for the Trust to develop and test additional automation
  • Immediate business benefits that can be realised from automating processes.

Delivering a successful POC

The delivery of a POC may be the first experience of robotic process automation (RPA) for most people in the organisation. As a result, it’s vital that this step in the process runs as smoothly as possible. From our experience, we know there are four key factors in successful POCs:

  • the appropriate stakeholders agree and document that the automated process is the right place to start
  • the baseline KPIs and metrics of the chosen process are agreed with the process owner and captured in advance
  • information governance teams are involved in developing the POC and approvals are in place to process data automatically
  • key stakeholders, including the RPA champion and process owner, see the automated demonstration so they can understand the potential business benefits.

Implementing a successful POC will have a significant impact on the ability to demonstrate what automation can achieve, helping progress the automation journey.

We’ve managed multiple POCs across a range of functions and – once all approvals are in place – the automated process can be built in just three days. With such a low amount of time invested and with such potentially high benefits to be realised, delivering a POC should be seen as essential for any NHS organisation embarking on their own automation journey.

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