Robotic Process Automation hype is at an all-time high, having turned into one of the fastest growing technologies of recent years. According to a survey by HfS Research, the global market for RPA software and services grew by 63% between 2016/17. The report further stated that the global market for RPA is expected to grow to $1.2 billion by 2021 at a compound annual growth rate of 36%.
In 2018, it is hard to find a large company that is not already implementing RPA or seriously thinking about getting involved soon. Industry watchers are declaring RPA the start of the next industrial age. Software providers on both ends of the Automation/AI spectrum hustle to incorporate new capabilities, but in all of that momentum and energy, one fact is often lost — many RPA implementations actually fail.
McKinsey & Company find, “several robotics programs have been put on hold, or CIOs have flatly refused to install new bots.” It is possible to recognise patterns in implementations that were successful as opposed to those that were not. The path from experimentation to industrialisation resulted in many lessons learned for companies starting the RPA journey. There are six broad takeaways to learn from:
1. Engage and get buy-in from key business stakeholders
The most likely path leading to a new RPA initiative failing is not having benefits awareness and support from key stakeholders — such as the CEO or key IT personnel — at the early project stages. This is because although RPA software sits within, and is managed by a business team, it’s still governed by the IT department using existing practices.
Although RPA is fairly quick to implement and minimises the need for costly systems integration, these benefits are not always fully appreciated by the IT department. RPA adoption isn’t normally driven by IT — but by business units instead. To address this, a list of scenarios should be communicated that benefit IT department’s own internal operations, ranging from initial projects in service management and transaction processing — to resource-intensive, transactional and administrative work.
When it comes to RPA, no robot can operate without a PC, a user account, or access to an application. This is in power of IT department as they deliver the infrastructure and apply roles and permissions to a robotic user account. This means that without support and buy-in across the organisation, you may find it more challenging to get an RPA initiative up-and-running.
2. Have a clear RPA use strategy across the business
In an ideal world, a RPA project would be welcomed with open hands by all stakeholders as it presents opportunity for businesses to operate more fluidly and efficiently. However, in order to achieve that, businesses need to create a clear strategy on how RPA is going to be deployed and utilised, otherwise they will be running a risk of RPA becoming the driving force of a standalone business function.
Having a clear vision for the use of RPA ensures that the right RPA software is chosen to meet the collective needs of the many — not the loudest advocates only. For example, this could include linking RPA to strategic imperatives such as ‘increasing efficiency’ or ‘increasing agility’ outlined by the Board of Directors. This also ensures that the software can fully integrate into existing IT frameworks and support mechanisms — delivering a more harmonious infrastructure.
3. Communicate with the IT department throughout delivery
Communication with IT should not be limited to getting buy-in at the outset but become an ongoing activity. At various points in the delivery of a new RPA process, IT colleagues can provide real support to limit any operational impacts e.g getting an access to test environments for the purposes of building and testing processes or support on roles and permissions within an application, and crucially, knowledge of upcoming changes. Regular contact with IT is important to ensure delivery of a new process is smooth — so the ‘live’ process remains operational.
4. Learn about hidden costs of RPA
Whilst recent developments in the RPA market have removed some costs, there will always be some initial expenditure to get RPA up-and-running and then to keep it operational. Budget for the build phase — including the provisioning of IT infrastructure such as databases, physical / virtual machines etc., and IT resource time to get RPA up-and-running. Also, account for additional consultancy costs from partner companies.
Running costs are again largely time related and centre around the ongoing delivery and maintenance of processes, maintenance of underlying infrastructure and support etc. In some cases, there may be additional roles created because of RPA, which may add salary costs.
5. Select correct process for automation
As you’ve learned by now, RPA works best where processes are repetitive, rules-based, high volume and do not require human creativity or judgement. It becomes more challenging where processes are non-standardised and require frequent human intervention to complete — such as interacting with customers or working with process variability. Even processes that pass the obvious criteria may not ultimately be the best ‘candidates’ for automation — at least not initially. For example, automating an inefficient process, can potentially only speed up the inefficiency. More benefit could be gained from either optimising and redesigning the process prior to automating.
Typical selection criteria could include processes where there is an increased need for regulatory compliance and auditability, processes where errors are costly, or where the ability to scale up operations whilst minimising costs is important.
6. Set realistic expectations
“RPA is a tool, not the tool.” and should not be the ‘go-to’ solution for every business problem. It is one of several options available and should form part of a wider strategy on the use of technology. There is still a need for human intervention to manage exceptions. So, taking a human user completely out of the equation through the implementation of RPA, is likely to lead to operational challenges later. Exceptions will be thrown due to business rules not being met and / or applications not responding as expected. Human users need to be on hand to help address these exceptions.
Despite potential difficulties during RPA deployment, proactive planning up front can reduce or eliminate them. By understanding what your company is looking to achieve from automation and learning the value proposition RPA provides, you can ensure a successful RPA implementation scheme that is both cost-effective and timely.
At Untrite, we provide smart RPA solutions for high growth companies. We are very excited about the new projects we are taking on helping our clients’ employees focus on productivity — not processing. Follow our next steps by subscribing to our newsletter or get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org