Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is rightly regarded as something that can be implemented quickly with early benefits realisation.
This is generally true, as long as there is an understanding of the various obstacles that are faced, and that appropriate measures are put in place to manage the mix of risks, issues and decisions. Such obstacles can be time consuming to overcome but by recognising them, working with an experienced adviser, grasping the route to overcome them and implementing a good strategy they can usually be tackled with relative ease.
Those that are willing to tackle the RPA obstacle course are those that’ll benefit at the finish line. It’s not necessarily about getting there quickly; it’s about putting in the effort to come away with a PB (personal best)!
“It’s not necessarily about getting there quickly; it’s about putting in the effort to come away with a PB (personal best)!”
The mix of tools on the market can present decision makers with a host of options. Successful deployment of process automation is dependent on knowing why and where specific tools are to be positioned and what technology is required to achieve this. This is a decision with long-term consequences that will fundamentally affect your strategic approach and expected outcomes (Click here for articles on selecting your RPA partner and deployment).
Decisions based around a short-term fix or a long-term platform for change presents a crucial technological decision. Short-term fixes are always available as an option but convincing stakeholders about the long-term opportunities RPA presents for overall, transformational change is key to real RPA success.
Once the first stage of automation has been completed the opportunities for scalability usually surface naturally but nonetheless, educating key stakeholders and providing insight in to the benefits of front to back transformation from the outset, and how to implement that, can really enhance the overall transformation process.
“It’s advisable to start small and build quickly”
It’s advisable to start small and build quickly. The value of RPA exists not just in the savings that can be made, but also in the additional business benefits that can be gained from scalable implementation. The real winners are those who can identify and exploit scale. This requires not just analysing processes but assessing overall operational models and how services are delivered.
In some industries, there is a reluctance to accept new technologies without a proof of concept (PoC). RPA is already proven – many organisations, large and small, from all industries, are executing automated processes in the front and back offices. Going through a PoC can lengthen the time to how quickly the benefits of RPA are realised. Early adopters are commonly those that reap these rewards. They’ll gain the competitive advantage whilst the rest of the market catches up. Shifting the business culture away from being the late majority towards being an early adopter is key and can of course help in other areas of the business too. Although, time is running out to be an early adopter so the pace will have to be increased to keep up!
Existing IT security and data policies are understandably issues that arise time and time again. RPA is more secure than it’s human counterparts but the common misconceptions associated with robotics still play a hand at holding back a lot of RPA projects (see our article on Security here).
Issues surrounding existing contractual agreements with customers/suppliers about how service is delivered may present questions too. Data processing restrictions can cause concern but through education and strategic planning, and some discussion with customers, there is scope to change agreements and alter perceptions so that RPA can be a feature of any future contracts.
“In order for true acceptance, IT must ultimately ‘toe the RPA line’”
In order for true acceptance, IT must ultimately ‘toe the RPA line’. We frequently hear that IT departments are, perhaps rightly, RPA’s biggest challengers. This is often because the business users have identified the RPA opportunity. IT needs to trust the reliability and security of RPA and understand how it can fit in line with an existing IT strategy and architecture. Decision makers must spend time educating and addressing misconceptions. So often, those that neglect the need to inform IT thoroughly are those that struggle to realise the true benefits.
The same sort of principle applies to governance. Automation governance is paramount to the seamless implementation of RPA and should be aligned very closely to IT governance for service requests, technical assistance, change management and configuration management. If attention falters here, issues can often occur.
Political matters aren’t to be forgotten. IT departments need to be involved and carefully managed. Process Automation Software had a poor reputation in the days of screen scraping and this perception often prevails. Introducing new technology is often met with resistance and RPA is often seen as ‘grey IT’. It is crucial to get the buy-in from IT. When managed (and governed by IT) the typical outcome is RPA is accepted and valued as a relief valve for demands from the business.
Processes that have previously been offshored are best suited for the early wave of RPA projects due to their rules based and transactional nature. As part of the offshore transition there is an improvement in standardisation, good process documentation and management information. Comparably, onshore processes standard operating procedures are maybe not so well documented leading to miscommunication and inefficiencies. Time spent correcting this at an early stage, ensuring good process documentation from the outset, will allow for a smooth and relatively straightforward transition.
The idea that RPA will disrupt existing procedure is a view that arises at some point in most automation projects. This debate is usually threefold and includes questions surrounding the refocus, reskilling and reduction of employees.
Refocusing refers to the new work to be done by existing staff whose time will be freed up by automation, and the resultant effects on people’s jobs. Part of the automation plan will be to free up people to work on higher value jobs to do more rewarding work.
What’s more, and perhaps most importantly, is the need to reskill and reduce. Reskilling employees is vital to ensuring that a) RPA can be properly implemented and managed at every level and b) ensuring employees know where and what they will be doing when they come to work.
Reduction is a word we hear a lot about when discussing RPA. Whilst it’s hoped that robots are used to do more work with the same number of people it’s no surprise that RPA can lead to redundancies. Plans should be formulated and the overall impact of redundancies should be built into the general implementation program and strategy.
When reviewing the mix of obstacles, it becomes clear that they’re just that. None of the ‘challenges’ are fixed, they a fluid and changeable and to that end, they all have to be considered and addressed. The key to moving forward is to arm everyone with the necessary knowledge to tackle queries and complications. Utilising employee knowledge and the skills of experienced RPA practitioners can be a shortcut to any RPA implementation project’s success: finding a good partner can really influence how quickly the difficulties and decisions are addressed. But, it’s just as important to ensure your employees have the abilities to embrace RPA and realise true benefits.