Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2017 and updated with new information in 2019.
“What could I be missing?”
It’s a question we hear from many customers and prospects, either as they begin to evaluate Robotic Process Automation (RPA) project or attempt to get started by automating their first process.
We recently wrote a similar article on the challenges of RPA, but after helping thousands of our customers avoid so many possible bumps in the road, we thought we’d revisit the topic. This time, we’re also including a specific tip or best practice to help you overcome each possible pitfall.
Many organizations make the common mistake of trying to use RPA to automate what is essentially a broken process. Unfortunately, “automate” does not equal “fix,” and trying to apply RPA to flawed process will never work. In many cases, it may even make things worse, leaving the company to wonder if RPA is even worth the effort.
Tip to overcome this pitfall: Automation is worth it, but only when you do it right. Before attempting any process automation, RPA teams should carefully analyze the proposed process. Such analysis should include closer scrutiny about how the process works, how employees view it, and if there is the underlying rules-driven data to even support its potential automation.
This helps ensure RPA technology is directed only at well-qualified business processes that can deliver the most impressive benefits.
Too many companies fail to develop an effective change management plan to communicate with employees and fail to draw them in to make them part of the overall process.
If so, it’s a missed opportunity. Most workers simply don’t know a lot about RPA software, which can lead to the common misconception that this technology is coming to take their jobs.
● At a minimum, misinformed employees may distrust RPA and adopt a defensive “wait-and-see” mindset.
● At worst, they may actively oppose the implementation and even rally others to this position, both of which can significantly disrupt the entire implementation process.
Either stance will contribute to the RPA rollout failing to reach its full potential and could put it at risk of lower-than-expected adoption rates, a sluggish ROI, and resistance from other departments in the organization.
Tip to overcome this pitfall: In most cases, developing a comprehensive internal rollout strategy will go a long way in educating and reassuring employees, soliciting feedback, and engaging them as a vital part of the implementation.
For example, creating proactive, comprehensive communication plans can give employees all the information they need, and in doing so, contribute to increased awareness, support, buy in, and other benefits.
Some of those informed, engaged employees will turn into your RPA champions.
Many companies don’t build effective internal CoEs to plan the process of deploying RPA technology and to define overarching governance rules and processes.
Related read: How to Build Your Center of Excellence
Tip to overcome this pitfall: Creating an effective CoE as part of the implementation process will lead to stronger governance over the entire automation project. The CoE also identifies internal RPA experts and documents early efforts and “quick wins,” all of which help subsequent automation efforts. In turn, this lays the foundation for long-term success by factoring in variables such as timeframe, budget, security issues, and any potential obstacles that may impede progress.
Similar to the point above, many organizations don’t do enough to foster teamwork between business operations teams and IT departments. Both parties have valuable knowledge and insights and can bring a lot to the table. When collaboration doesn’t occur, the resulting governance model is not as strong as it should be, and as a result, potential issues aren’t resolved as easily as they should be.
“When you build bots and you want to take bots into production, you need IT. And you need them involved early enough that they can do the things they have to do to ensure integrity."
– Tom Torlone, global vice president of professional services, UiPath
Tip to overcome this pitfall: Companies should build cross-functional governance teams to bring as many different perspectives to the project as possible. These teams can be expanded to include representation from senior management and other departments within the organization, all to improve information sharing, planning, and overall alignment against a common goal.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” While this old adage pre-dates RPA, it still rings true for companies whose first attempts at automation don’t go exactly as they envisioned.
It actually happened to UiPath customer, Ladbrokes Coral, whose first RPA project was not successful. In this case, the early automations weren’t robust enough, resulting in the work having to be manually repeated. The operations team quickly lost faith in the technology, and the robots were decommissioned. Read the full story of how Ladbrokes Coral successfully implemented RPA.
Tip to overcome this pitfall: Let’s face it: Not everything always goes exactly as planned (it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about first days of school, home renovation projects, or enterprise-wide technology deployments). In these cases, stepping back, examining what went wrong, and coming up with a new approach can help get the project back on track.
For Ladbrokes Coral, the initial program hadn’t delivered the expected benefits, but it was enough to show the promise of RPA. The company just needed the correct RPA platform. Partnering with UiPath helped the company focus on different aspects of what would make its project a success—more robust automations and improving ease of use—and make the next RPA implementation attempt an overwhelming success.
We hope these tips help you avoid some of the most common missteps related to automation and developing and implementing RPA processes.
If you’re interested in seeing how many leading organizations overcame similar questions and successfully used RPA to their advantage, check out our customer successes stories (you can easily filter by industry and process to find use cases similar to your own).