The Automation Lifecycle (RPA)
As an RPA enthusiast, have you ever wondered how an automation project is built from scratch and is implemented? In all honesty, it's not that simple.
Every automation project involves executing a series of phases known as the automation lifecycle. But, what is the purpose of this lifecycle?
Read to find out 👇🏽
What's in this article?
- An introduction to the automation lifecycle
- Steps involved in the automation lifecycle
Automation Lifecycle: An Introduction
The automation lifecycle is a methodology or a technique that outlines the phases or the steps involved in the development of an automation project. The purpose of this lifecycle is to help create high-quality automation that is reliable, scalable, and meets the client's expectations in the shortest time possible.
Automation Lifecycle: Steps
➡️ Process Study
Process Study is the initial phase in the automation lifecycle. This phase (also known as the requirements gathering & analysis phase in traditional software development) is usually carried out by the Business Analyst.
The Business Analyst starts the process study by interviewing the business units, stakeholders, and the process owners to understand the business processes and performs a complete feasibility check.
The Business Analyst also calculates the automation complexity, benefits, type of automation (attended or unattended), budget, and the time taken to automate the required processes in this phase which depends on several factors such as the no of input fields, input type, application type, etc.
Upon gathering the required details, the lifecycle moves on to the next phase.
Once the required information has been gathered, the same is documented by the Business Analyst. This document commonly referred to as Process Design Document (PDD for short), contains the entire process study in detail.
The document mainly consists of 2 parts: The As-Is part and the To-Be part.
The As-Is part of the document explains how the process is being carried out manually and the To-Be part explains how the robot should carry out the same process.
The PDD is a single source of truth and reference for the technical team so, it is essential to capture the business process to the keystroke level with all the required information (including process metrics, application details, infrastructure details, test environments, etc) in the form of text and flowcharts.
The PDD is then submitted to the process owners for approval. Upon their approval, the lifecycle moves to the next phase.
Upon receiving a go-ahead from the process owners, the development begins. In this phase, the RPA developers work in tandem with the Business Analysts to create and deliver the automation project profitably.
The developers use the PDD to understand the requirements of each process (defined and in-scope) and create workflows using an automation tool to fulfill the same.
The workflow's complexity entirely depends on the user's requirement. The developers also make sure that the workflow is dynamic in nature, and handles all kinds of exceptions.
While the development takes place, the BA takes time to develop UAT (User Acceptance Testing) test cases for each scenario handled by the robot.
Once the development is completed (even for a process), the lifecycle moves to the next phase.
Testing is usually carried out in tandem with development.
In this phase, the developed processes are tested against the test cases created by the BA. The testing is done by the BA alongside the developer and the business owners.
The business owners ensure that the process works exactly as defined in the PDD and the exceptions are handled properly. After testing, a pass/fail remark is given for each process along with detailed comments.
If the remark for the process is fail then, the process moves back to the development phase, where the specific failed scenario is rebuilt, and tested.
If the remark for the process is pass then, the lifecycle moves on to the next phase.
This is the simple yet, the most critical phase of the project and it involves solution architects, managers, developers, and business owners.
The tested processes are implemented in the production servers and are tested once again to ensure correctness. This testing is done to ensure that the robot is adaptable to the new environment.
The required input files (static ones), passwords, and other accesses are provided to the robot during the test.
Once the testing is completed, the lifecycle moves on to the next phase.
Hyper-Care is the last phase of an automation project and it involves BAs, developers, solution architects, and business owners. This phase of the project focuses on monitoring the live processes for a specific period to ensure reliability.
After this phase, the solution architect works alongside the developers to prepare the Solution Design Document (SDD for short), and the user manual.
The SDD explains the business requirement and the implemented solution. It is more of a technical reference document that explains the workflow or the code in detail along with the exceptions and is valuable during future enhancements.
The user manual, on the other hand, acts as a reference to the business owners to run their automation. It contains step-by-step instructions on how to run the robot, how to handle exceptions (if encountered) etc.
The automation lifecycle acts as a guide to any automation project, despite its size. It also ensures quality, correctness, and timely delivery to the client so, adhering to it will definitely yield fruitful results.
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