Remember when every article you read about IT focused on digital transformation (DX)? Now the broad concept of DX seemingly has taken a back seat in the headlines to a number of hot technologies. One of these, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), is frequently positioned as the new next big thing of the tech world. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that DX never really went away–RPA is really just the latest piece being added to that larger digital transformation puzzle.
Digital transformation is often explained as an ongoing journey that promises to help organizations break the traditional boundaries of enterprise IT, empowering business line workers to enable the delivery of faster outcomes and better experiences to customers. An important part of DX is eliminating the rote task work that plagues day-to-day operations. That can only be done with transformative automation technology. It’s no wonder that many organizations worldwide are focused on exploring, implementing or scaling RPA to help check that box.
But as the RPA hype cycle starts to crest, don’t be fooled into thinking that RPA is the single turnkey solution to your enterprise problems. There are ways to avoid common pitfalls that are starting to emerge in RPA projects and ensure its successful implementation and achievement of business results.
RPA projects need proper planning, a strategy and an implementation team, all tied into broader enterprise systems and process management. Without these, organizations are bound to face costly delays that can affect deployment plans and return on investment (ROI). In fact, a recent study from EY found 30% to 55% of initial RPA projects fail. In another industry survey, it was reported that 87% of respondents had experienced RPA bot failure while reporting that maintenance was the second biggest concerns users face.
Here are the most common mistakes organizations should avoid to achieve real results.
Thinking RPA is Easy Since It’s Everywhere
This is perhaps the most common myth around RPA–enterprises expect to purchase a solution, train business users to build automation and see the ROI start to accumulate. It is reported that only 39% of bots are deployed on schedule, and it typically takes 18 months to push bots into live production. This is hardly an out-of-the-box solution.
But we all know how difficult technology implementations can be. Very few things in our industry are truly plug-and-play–no matter what sales professionals might say. While RPA is pitched as a way to solve menial tasks, there is nothing menial about the process of automation and developing an application tailored to how work actually gets done. It is possible to train up employees to build simple automation, but the true results will not be realized without an end-to-end approach that takes into account the broader outcome the automated task is supporting.
Remember, your business has rules on security, compliance and governance–all critical to the success of an RPA deployment. Are you considering these factors and all the affected stakeholders across the entire organization when trying to fix a problem within one department?
There is a place for business users building automation, but to get to real scale and potential for transformation, IT needs to work together with stakeholders across different lines of business to design an end-to-end intelligent automation solution that ties into pre-existing business systems and accounts for their sophistication/complexity, while also accounting for where humans need to be involved.
Attended or Unattended?
RPA is the hottest trend since cloud computing, and it boils down to two basic forms: attended and unattended. Simply put, attended requires the help of human interaction on the desktop, while unattended takes over tasks without the need to interruption. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily. In the right situation, both can generate quick wins and task automation to assist the workers.
Consider the desktop of call center agents. These workstations are known for having deep integrations with legacy technology that are geared toward repetitive, scripted and manual tasks. This provides the perfect opportunity for attended RPA deployments to address these types of functions that take place across the entire call center, delivering better customer outcomes and generating business value.
There is a time and place for both attended and unattended solutions–it is important to understand which capabilities the RPA vendor is offering and how they will address the needs of your current situation. In many situations, attended can be an unexpected source of ROI opportunity, as the total volume of work automated in environments such as contact centers, can far exceed the amount of non-human assisted work that can be automated.
RPA Will Solve All My Problems
RPA is great—I wouldn’t be writing about it if it weren’t. But it’s not the end-all digital investment automation platform; it’s part of an organization’s digital transformation strategy and can create serious business value when used the correct way. Automating and streamlining the complexity of multiple, long-running processes that interlink internal and external systems, machine and human work, bespoke software and third-party apps and systems is not what RPA was created to do. That’s the work of a BPM solution supported by Case Management. Businesses need to realize how RPA fits into their overall digital transformation strategy and where specifically it can be applied across their organization to realize its true benefits.
You’ve likely heard of the old saying, patience is a virtue. Let’s apply that to RPA deployments. There is so much promise and opportunity for RPA within the enterprise, but the major ROI numbers that some expect may not be there–at least not yet.
Finding the right opportunities for RPA technology within the organization, getting company buy-in and developing and deploying the solutions all take time to create an impact. Businesses need to approach their projects with a strong understanding of where RPA can be applied and what it does well, like automating high-volume, low-complexity, rule-based tasks within an end-to-end enterprise process automation strategy, to realize the business benefits it brings.