Implement AI and RPA with Continuous Improvement 

Last week I shared the five issues with implementing AI and RPA too fast. Now that you know what happens when AI or RPA is implemented too quickly, we need to visit the best way to implement it.  The best way to implement AI and RPA is with Continuous Improvement to implement RPA (Robotic Process Automation) or AI (Artificial Intelligence) within your business, you will avoid running into the costly issues that I shared last week.  Developing a well thought out plan will increase your chances of a successful implementation.  Successful implementation will provide better results, better adaptation rates, improved culture, and increase customer satisfaction.  The increase in customer satisfaction and improved culture should drive revenue and cost savings for your business.

Steps to implement AI or RPA with Continuous Improvement

These are steps that I have used within my Continuous Improvement work with my clients and corporations that have led to them being successful.

Step 1 – Determine the problem!

What is the exact problem that you are trying to solve? You want to answer this question before moving forward with any type of implementation.  Remember that technology is a tool and not a solution. Asking the right questions will help you get to the right problem.  Some examples of questions to ask are:

  1. What is wrong with the business?
  2. What are you genuinely trying to fix?
  3. Is it a business problem or a people problem?
  4. Is it a cultural problem?
  5. Is there a problem with the quality?
  6. Is there a problem with cycle time?
  7. Are you my customers unhappy?
  8. Are my employees unhappy?
  9. Are there issues with costs?
  10. Is the business losing revenue?
  11. Is there an issue with the product or service?
  12. How is my business doing compared to my competitors?
  13. Is there any data to back up the business problem?

These types of questions do not ask what business processes need to have AI or RPA. These are just general business questions that will help get to the actual problem that you are solving.  Without understanding the right reason, the technology will be implemented in the wrong way and the wrong part of the business.

Once you determine your problem, develop a business case and problem statement that is clear, concise, and time-bound.  You will want to ensure that you have data to back up what you find through brainstorming sessions.  Data tells the true story!  Without data, you do not have enough to move forward. 

Continuous Improvement Data


Important tip – Try to keep things simple here. While it is essential to do this step, do not spend “forever” in this step.  You can get stuck in analysis paralysis and lose the real reason of why you are implementing the technology.

Step 2 – Set up the goal!

With any type of Continuous Improvement plan or Lean Six Sigma project, you need to have a goal to work towards. The goal is based off the business case and problem statement.  It is good practice to determine what will happen to the business after implementation is completed.  This may seem to be a lot of work, but remember that by taking the time to plan first, you will be able to move a lot faster.  The goal should be SMART!

Step 3- Determine how to implement RPA and AI

You are not implementing any technology during this step!

 At this point, you want to determine if you can handle the implementation of RPA and AI in house, hire a consultant (s), or use a drop-in solution.  One word of caution, be careful of drop-in solutions. Drop-in solutions may or may not work for your situation, and you may still need to customize the solution.   You can hold off to make this decision until after Step 4.  If you are unsure what type of solution to use, it will be worth the extra cost to hire a consultant(s) to help with the implementation. Spending money upfront will help you get it right the first time.

Step 3 and Step 4 can be done in parallel and will move things along faster.

Step 4 – Analyze your process(es) and data

Continuous Improvement Standardize

It is best to utilize Lean Six Sigma during this step. LSS is an excellent methodology to use to ensure your business and processes are ready for RPA and AI.

  1. Determine the right processes to start with
    • If you are implementing AI or RPA throughout the entire business or organization, start with the simpler processes first
  2. Analyze the process(es) to ensure that it is free of defects and waste
    • If the process has defects and waste, fix these first with process improvements
      • Utilize LSS DMAIC/PDCA methodology
    • All processes should be stable, standardize, and repeatable before RPA & AI.
      • If you can write procedures that are followed the same way every time, these processes can be automated. Think repetitive and monotonous.
    • Analyze the data of the process to ensure the data is correct and free of errors.
      • Data within the process and process data metrics need to be as clean as possible.
      • Robots usually do not make mistakes, but if the data is wrong, the robot can not fix it.
        • Remember the saying: garbage in, garbage out.

Step 5 – Implement the RPA and AI

Once the process(es) and data are set up and as perfect as they can be, now is the time to start working in the technology.  From Step 3, you have decided on your path on how you are going to implement your RPA and AI solution.  Always start with the simplest first, just like with choosing the simplest processes.  Implement RPA, and then move into AI and machine learning.

Step 6 – Use Change Management and Training to increase adaptation

For any for this to work, Change Management and training need to be included.  The change should be considered favorable for all levels of the business. If you are able to sell technology as a way to make everyone’s work-life better, it will easier to sell to all levels.  This is why it is essential to start to think about Change Management and training from the start.  Step 6 can be done in parallel with Steps 3 – 5. 

  1. Plan your Change Management and Training
    • Determine if you are going to do this in-house or hire a consultant
    • Include HR along this journey!
  2. Determine when and how to deploy
  3. Ensure that everyone is on board and training is done at all levels
    • There will be different types of training depending upon the various levels
      • Front line employees will get detailed training on how to use the process and technology
      • Middle leadership will get in-depth training on what their employees will be doing and how to handle the different situations that may arise
      • Executive leadership will get higher-level training to know what is going on
    • The whole concept is that everyone within the organization will know what is going on and why.

Step 7 – Determine how to on-going support of the technology will be managed

This step is usually missed with most implementations.  It is important to determine how what, and who will be maintaining the technology. This step rolls into step 8, but I wanted to call this out separately so it is not missed.  If something breaks or needs to be improved, the how what, and who needs to be worked out as part of the Continuous Improvement Plan.

Step 8 – Setup Continuous Improvement with RPA and AI

Continuous Improvement Flexibility

The final step along this journey is to set up a Continuous Improvement Plan with AI and RPA.  As technology changes, market changes, and customer demand remind us that we always need to evolve as time goes on.    Businesses need to learn how to adapt quickly to stay relevant in this ever-changing world.  By setting up a Continuous Improvement plan with RPA and AI, business becomes balanced.

What’s next?

Instead of moving too fast with implementing RPA and AI, it is better to slow down to plan! By slowing down first, this allows you to get it right the first time and move faster after you plan.  Each time I work with a client who wants to use AI or RPA, I apply Continuous Implement.  We start with setting goals, planning, leveraging Lean Six Sigma, and then apply AI or RPA. After everything is in place, we set up a Continuous Improvement Plan.  The plan to ensures that the company is always improving and can pivot as needed for growth, market demands, and customer changes. 

What are your thoughts? What is your experience with implementing AI or RPA within your business?


If you would like to learn more about how to apply this to your business, let’s set up a time to talk.

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