Operational scalability is the top business priority for 58% of enterprises around the world, as revealed through a recent survey by technology research firm Gartner. And to attain this growth, many companies are looking to technology and IT-related improvements, robotic process automation (RPA) in particular:
“While the idea of shifting toward digital business was speculative for most CEOs a few years ago, it has become a reality for many in 2017. (...) Deeper transformation can only be achieved at scale if it is systematically driven.”
In fact, without preemptive planning, deployments can easily slump or even fail. And this can lead to a number of challenges along the way, especially at big scale: complications with employee resistance and onboarding, difficulties with choosing the right processes to automate, obstacles in setting realistic expectations, and more. Yet, rather than being a one-time event, adopting RPA is a journey — one that, in addition to the software purchase and implementation alone, includes rethinking how the technology will unfold within an enterprise and how it will change over time.
Why plan ahead?
Knowledge and understanding of the strategic importance of RPA is crucial in achieving robust automation. Yet, one of the common pitfalls of RPA deployment is failing to have a strategy to deal with the roll-out of automation and its sustainability. With the goal of rapid implementation, companies often rely on unstable, non-scalable approaches when trying to grow RPA.
An RPA program can’t simply be established on top of an enterprise’s existing IT infrastructure without a well-developed strategy for implementing the software from pilot to full-scale. Otherwise, even automation deployments with the smallest of scales will fail. A proper structure for RPA roll-out should start small and aim big.
Gain competitive advantage
When taken in totality, RPA offers companies competitive advantages in leveraging lean operational principles that far outweigh the potential obstacles in implementation. Consequently, the RPA industry is quickly maturing, and deployments are scaling. A growing number of global companies, both big and small, are making use of RPA to streamline activities and drive positive business outcomes. To remain a step ahead in a competitive marketplace and invest in future-proofing, enterprises currently looking to adopt RPA must plan early — and plan big.
Leverage the benefits
An RPA software robot can work around the clock 24/7/365, do the work of up to five full-time employees, bring cost savings of up to 50%, and result in a return on investment in just a few months. Yet, the benefits are simply insufficient when companies do not intend to automate all that is automatable. Because automation changes how business is done within all the interconnected departments of a company, it’s especially advantageous to automate significant segments in one leap. For big enterprises bigger automation means bigger results.
Determining scope & preparing for sustainability
Without the necessary foresight, an RPA deployment will fail to secure the aforementioned benefits, so what exactly should a comprehensive RPA strategy include? And what should enterprises be aware of when planning for long-term automation?
More generally, enterprises must decide on the scope and sourcing of their RPA program, develop a business plan and operating model, and prepare stakeholder and change management actions — all before even beginning the roll-out of automation. Only then can processes be identified, prioritized, and assessed and automation be pushed through development and user acceptance testing.
Of these activities, determining the scope of an RPA roll-out is the most important topic when planning for big-scale. For long-term automation success, enterprises should plan their RPA program with the biggest scope possible in mind. This is especially true for multinational enterprises wanting to establish wide-reaching improvements. Companies must decide what functions to automate as well as which company entities and geographies to involve.
Back office functions can be automated first, but error-prone, customer-facing front office functions should be automated quickly thereafter.
Automation of these functions should be established through the enterprise’s entities at both the shared service center and individual company levels.
Enterprises should decide on a global program from the start, in order to ensure success in capturing economies of scale within multiple enterprise-wide RPA initiatives.
In addition to defining these characteristics from the get-go, the large scope of the automation project should be communicated as such throughout the company to avoid redundancies and later RPA chaos.
Baby steps or big bounds
Small-scale, conservative planning is not always the right answer and it’s also not the best approach for achieving deep technological transformation with large-scale RPA deployments. Professional services firm Deloitte suggests that:
“Not all RPA journeys start off with an enterprise-widescope. [But] RPA solutions are enterprise platforms: they can, in theory, be applied to any automatable activity. The benefits of a digital workforce should be evaluated across the whole organisation.”
More and more organisations are beginning to recognize that RPA deployment is part of an enterprise-wide initiative that demands systematic foresight. The most important message: Think big from the start.