Can RPA replace SOP?

SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is a very old method of steps to guide operations. It is commonly used for industries that requires a lot of standardisation. With digital transformation, it is highly anticipated that RPA (Robotics Process Automation) will replace many of these SOP. Sadly, RPA is far from being a replacement.

RPA automate Poor SOP

An ideal RPA is an automation of SOP without user intervention. RPA does not differentiate between good or poor SOP. If the SOP is flawed, RPA will amplify that error by a large magnitude. This is because humans could be fixing the poor SOP unknowingly. Therefore, you will be faced with the risk of creating a large issue from RPA.

The Real SOP

Documented SOP may not always paint a true picture of the SOP on the ground. Majority of documented SOP are outdated and not relevant. This is very obvious with system where the SOP is disconnected with the system user guide. In this case, operational users evolve documented SOP with system user guide into a “Real SOP”. This SOP is usually only known to operational users. Thus, it is not surprised that RPA is done for the wrong SOP.

For all the hype of RPA, it cannot be a replacement of SOP. Instead, it is more worthwhile to invest in business process re-engineering (BPR) to improve the SOP.


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