Processes with Low Complexity but also Low Benefits in Automation – The Low-Hanging Fruits
The Low-Hanging Fruits in Process Automation projects
von Arnold Kinzel
Consultant | Advisory
10/01/2020 | Frankfurt am Main
RPA (Robotic Process Automation) tasks that are easily implemented and have low priority are often referred to as “Low Hanging Fruits” (LHF). Their benefits are expected to be less than those for Quick Wins (QW) while being similar in implementation complexity. When projects or processes have these characteristics, it is essential for businesses to set their priorities right. While it is important to undertake such projects, it is crucial first to identify whether other projects are generating greater returns and then prioritize those. For an in-depth analysis see the (BCH) Process Assessment Matrix for your RPA journey.
Low-hanging learning opportunities
Often a project becomes a Low Hanging Fruit instead of a Quick Win when its outcome is not sufficiently scalable. Once complexity levels for the respective processes are analyzed and clarified, scalability is one of the crucial aspects when categorizing, thus, indirectly prioritizing process automation projects.
However, Low Hanging Fruits have some essential advantages when starting any RPA project. They should be used for introducing the organization to RPA, therefore, serving as a learning option before more complex and impactful processes are being automized. Since LHFs are less impactful than Quick Wins, the project team can first move up the learning curve before moving on to the first Quick Win. This is an important step for organizations that are just starting their RPA journey. In addition, LHF are very often part of a larger E2E process that usually impacts several departments. Once LHFs have been automized the foundations for further automation, specifically End-to-End automations are established.
Low hanging traps
Simple projects that show quick results, classified as LHF, bear the danger of trapping managers in a series of satisfying smaller automation “tasks” while suffering hidden opportunity costs by forgoing Quick Wins or Must-Do Improvements. For example, documenting accounts payable (AP) exceptions in an excel spreadsheet is considered a Low Hanging Fruit. While it might be tempting to conduct many automations of this type, the solution is not scalable to the degree that would make the prioritization rational. However, there is a hidden Quick Win here. If one considers the whole business metrics and how exceptions in AP affect other areas of the business, an End-to-End automation will lead to higher returns on investment (ROI) and is to be preferred against several small Low Hanging Fruit automations.
Complexity does Not equal effort
To conclude, while both Low Hanging Fruits and Quick Wins are characterized by low complexity, the former will have little impact on profitability compared to the latter. The difference lies in the project’s impact on the business. LHFs can serve as an introduction to RPA for organizations that have no prior experience with RPA.