RPA: The Promise and the Challenge
We’ve touted the unique advantages of RPA many times. From its ease of use supported by a low-code development environment and the non-intrusive nature by operating at the user interface level, to it’s advanced cognitive capabilities that help to create robust automations that can cope with a dynamic business environment.
RPA is a technology that is helping organizations to fundamentally alter the operational landscape of business. However, it’s important to be aware of the obstacles you may encounter on your automation journey.
RPA Challenges are Not Just Technical in Nature
With all the growth and early promise of RPA, it is not without its challenges. Here are common themes we have seen companies struggle with:
- Early Bots that were Built Don’t Provide the Expected Returns
The first few bots implemented tend to be simple automations that are easy to deliver. They provide a quick win and build support within the organization, but this sets an expectation that all bots can be delivered in a few days or weeks. Early on in a program, the pressure to show progress is high, which can sometimes lead to selecting low-value use cases that are quick to implement. The expectation of an artificially swift delivery timeframe coupled with processes yielding small benefits results in a program at the end of the first year with little accumulated business value. What’s worse, the business value that is captured may be inconsistent with expectations, such as providing efficiency when leadership was expecting hard-dollar savings.
- Measuring Business Value Generated by Your Bots is Challenging
If you’re unable to articulate business value in an objective and quantifiable way, leadership in your organization may lose faith in the automation program. While you may feel the bots are adding value and the program is progressing, the broader organization may not feel the same. The challenge comes from the absence of a method to ascribe worth to the bot tasks in a credible way, and the technical challenges with merging bot run statistics and transactions with business value data elements. While vendor tools are making it easier to measure and report business value, it still requires planning and forethought to ensure that you are associating credible savings amounts to the bot tasks, as well as capturing the right data that is meaningful to your organization.
- The Automation Program Can Lose Steam
As the program becomes established and the initial excitement fades, the use case volume and quality may trail off. While process owners are generally able to identify a list with good benefits, several factors come into play that can impact your ability to continue recognizing good ones:
- Lack of imagination in where automation can help
- Poor understanding of the capabilities of RPA
- Closed mindset of process owners leads to resistance in questioning the status quo
- Belief that RPA can replace people and whole jobs
- Fear of Job Eliminations
A common misconception is that bots automate whole jobs. This can stem from the expectation and desire of management to take the 40 hours of manual work spread across multiple employees that was saved, and use it to eliminate a single position. This expectation can lead process owners to under-report the actual savings and create a reluctance for them to sign up for future use cases. Job replacement is only possible for positions with a very narrow scope of tasks. In reality, companies that understand this productivity equation can start to see real efficiencies when the saving is used to reallocate work across their employee base.
The enormous potential of RPA to hyper-charge your operations can only be achieved if you can effectively cope with the challenges you will face. While many companies have experienced some or all of these challenges, they can be overcome with preparation and planning. When embarking on an automation journey it’s crucial to anticipate the obstacles and include countermeasures in your strategy to ensure that they do not derail your program before it even has a chance to take root.
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