With the implementation of any new technology, it’s important to consider not only it's value proposition but also recognize the importance of a successful implementation to the ultimate performance of the technology within your company. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is no exception and provides both compelling benefits and implementation challenges to new users.
Based on recent findings from KPMG's Global Sourcing Advisory Pulse Survey titled Robotic Revolution, technology experts believe “The opportunities [from robotic process automation (RPA) implementation] are many — so are the adoption challenges... For most organizations, taking advantage of higher-end RPA opportunities will be easier said than done.” That certainly sounds a bit ominous and definitely begs the question: What are these difficulties? What value-added services can RPA provide? What are some of the roadblocks and success stories regarding implementation?
These are the questions companies must ask themselves when weighing the costs and benefits of RPA for their automation strategy, They’re also the questions we’ll tackle in discussing the pros and cons of using robotic software to take on business process roles.
Advantages of RPA
Imagine an insurance provider considering automation in order to streamline numerous administrative tasks and optimize business processes. This provider is seeking an automation solution that will quickly deliver the transformation of back office processes to leverage greater agility and growth in its business services. By implementing RPA, this insurance company can expect a number of already recognized benefits such as increased efficiency of claims processing, enhanced accuracy of manual data input, and quick scalability based on customer demand.
But these advantages of RPA implementation are relatively common and don’t speak to the breadth and depth of automation capabilities RPA offers.
Below, see what some of the less frequently discussed outcomes of RPA are.
RPA removes data gaps between disparate sources and logs all actions completed by the the software robots throughout automation. This allows employees to proactively recognize and manage any compliance issues and consistently run internal reviews. These features of RPA support companies across various industries, whether that be the insurance provider obligated to meet certain regulations, a healthcare company required to meet HIPAA privacy rules, or a financial service firm needing to be PCI compliant.
Non-invasive nature and compatibility with existing systems
Because RPA mimics human actions, the technology interacts with data within the presentation layer of platforms and applications. This means RPA acts at the user interface just like a human would. As a result, this means companies do not need to make changes to existing legacy systems when implementing RPA. This is beneficial because it allows organizations to implement RPA in a non-interruptive way, which makes RPA unique among other types of automation. It also reduces the need for constant IT involvement and for employees to have coding abilities.
Better management capabilities
A centralized management platform provides organizations with the ability to remotely model, monitor, control, schedule, and execute the deployment of RPA software robots. It also allows auditing and analytics to happen in the same place. Because certain requirements can be embedded in automation rules, RPA allows organizations to achieve enhanced governance in order to better manage business operations. In addition, high levels of security can be maintained through remote server control of the software robots.
Improved customer experience
RPA is generally seen as a way for companies to alleviate employees from the burden of repetitive, high-volume tasks such as purchase order issuing and claims processing. Even though the automation of back office tasks seemingly does not have an impact on the front office, RPA can drive improvements for customers as well. Through its automation capabilities, RPA allows organizations to deliver higher quality services to their customers in a timely manner.
Let’s Not Forget the Challenges
As you can see, RPA offers a handful of benefits that allows companies, such as our hypothetical insurance company, to optimize their business operations and deliver exceptional customer service. But as we also discussed at the beginning of this entry, no solution exists without certain challenges in integrating a new technology into a company’s current architecture.
Here just some of the difficulties that could stand in the way of our insurance provider’s successful use of RPA:
Employee resistance and onboarding
Any changes that accompany implementation of a new technology can be stressful for employees as they might experience shifts in their responsibilities. Frequent communication from company leaders and executive sponsors to ensure employees are fully informed about what is expected of them throughout the implementation process is essential to successful adoption. Fostering a culture of innovation within the company will only further accelerate this adoption.
Choosing the right processes
The automation capabilities provided by RPA are ideal for tasks that are repetitive, rules-based, high volume, and do not require human judgement. This can include activities such as data migration and copy-paste tasks. RPA implementation is especially difficult though with business processes that are non-standardized and require frequent human intervention in order to execute. Typically, these more complex tasks include interacting with customers and developing human relationships. While it is an upfront time investment, it’s important for companies to determine which of their processes are suitable for RPA so that automation runs smoothly.
Setting realistic expectations
This is arguably one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to implementing a new technology such as RPA. Instead of seeing RPA as the panacea for operational problems and broken processes, organizations need to recognize the limits of what RPA can and cannot do. Decisions regarding the technology need to be made on an individualized and company-specific basis, as RPA’s functionality, implementation timeline, and operational results will vary between different companies. Maintaining company-wide discussions about expected results will allow organizations to make the most of RPA and its benefits.
Overcoming the Obstacles
While these challenges to adopting RPA might initially seem daunting, proper planning and consideration will allow companies to fully leverage all that RPA has to offer. In addition, when taken in totality, the competitive advantages RPA offers companies in leveraging lean operational principles far outweighs the potential pain points of implementation, many of which are merely growing pains as companies adapt to the new technology.
PwC suggests in their whitepaper Organizing Your Future with Robotic Process Automation that, despite obstacles that can occur during implementation, RPA is still one of the most straightforward technologies to establish: “In fact, a couple of RPA’s greatest benefits are often overlooked…[especially] its ease of deployment.”
As companies work to quickly overcome initial challenges such as choosing what processes to automate and overcoming employee resistance, they will be able to drive a successful implementation.
Even more so, organizations will be able to recognize new applications for RPA among their business activities and eventually increase the scale of automation within their enterprise. This will encourage widespread adoption of the technology throughout the company and help organizations realize even more substantial, company-wide benefits of an RPA solution.
Nick Ostdick is a Digital Content Strategist.