Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Do the liabilities cancel out the opportunities? Is there greater upside versus down? When it comes to deploying a robotic process automation (RPA) solution, these questions more often than not are answered on the positive side of the equation where the value proposition of RPA for companies in a variety of industries far exceeds any drawback. In today’s modern, global business climate, companies require some form of RPA solution to enhance operational functions, mitigate risks, and leverage a competitive advantage in crowded marketplaces.
Implementing an RPA software solution can be tricky and companies who do not fully understand the challenges can find themselves struggling to reap the benefits RPA provides; in fact, companies who do not address these challenges and create strategies to combat them can actually experience RPA as a negative value proposition. However, putting together an implementation team and creating a preliminary strategy to ensure smooth deployment is a company’s best bet to experience the greatest potential increases in productivity and revenue at the hands of RPA.
Let’s examine 5 pitfalls to avoid in RPA implementation and how companies can turn these pitfalls into opportunities to leverage growth and profitability.
Premature process automation plan
Most of the discussion around adoption of new technology tends to focus on slow acceptors and how business and IT resources cling to old ways of doing business - however, with RPA software the opposite is often true. Advantages are so drastic that the transition to automated processes takes place without clearly thinking things through the process. Process automation should be part – a focal part – of an overall process optimization strategy consisting of many elements or components. Before any process is automated, all processes should be filtered through a centralization, standardization and optimization filter. This doesn’t mean obvious automation opportunities should be delayed and it doesn’t mean centralization, standardization and optimization has to come first (in fact, automation savings may have to fund those efforts). But this does mean automation is directed only at relevant and well-qualified business processes.
One of the great strengths of automation is accuracy – the fact that configured software never deviates from its algorithms. Of course, this can also be a critical weakness. Should any internal or external aspect of a business process change, the software will likely fail to perform. In order to avoid automation failures, changes or alterations will have to be planned, communicated, tested, and executed within a strong operational oversight framework. This will be an organizational and 3rd party challenge because many business processes are undocumented and revisions occur less formally than in a governed change control process. This level of operational oversight is rarely conducted successfully in a reactive mode, which means the framework should be proactively put in place before any deployment begins.
Optimism in effort
At the end of the day, robotic process automation software is robotic process automation software. The roadmap for RPA deployment should reflect a more conservative optimistic in effort than guidelines stipulate from product vendor or third-party advisory firms. Despite all the talk about the ease of implementation, the fact remains automation software is not quite that user-friendly and quick to configure. The fault lies in the nature of business processes and the fact software is literal – it can do only what it’s been told to do. Because humans are anything but literal, there are often missing rules in a process simply because the decisions-making only resonates with the human operator. It will take time for current process employees to identify and document the innate rules they follow without consciously thinking about them.
New or added roles
Via process automation, changes or turnover within a company or organization is a means to an outcome but not the outcome itself (though accuracy, efficiency and costs will improve). This means it’s important the deployment process incorporate new roles well beforehand. New team leads will be required to manage the output of robots rather than FTEs. This lead will have a variety of new and expanded responsibilities: maintaining and improving service levels for the human interventions needed for process exception-handling; a liaison with the IT Dept; and turnover management, proactively re-configuring robotic software in coordination with changes in process activities and rules. Depending upon the size of the deployment, a management slot above the lead position may be needed to implement the rollout across other business units.
Overconfidence in ability
While deploying robotic software to automate business processes entails risk and requires an investment of human and financial capital, the companies to undertake such deployment stand to experience two attractive benefits: the associated savings and cost-reduction, and complete operational control. An early part of the strategic plan should question whether automation should be done in-house or by a BPO provider. Experienced BPO providers have robust service offerings with well-integrated capabilities across technology, process optimization, change management, automation technology, and labor arbitrage. Outsourcing process automation does present its own set of issues, particularly the risk of becoming locked into a provider’s technology. With this technology changing so rapidly, entering into a long-term contract with a third party provider has to be balanced against an objective measurement of a company’s internal capability to do the job itself.