Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a relatively new technology that allows companies to drive significant efficiencies by enabling software robots to execute repetitive and often clerical activities normally performed by humans.
Efficiency is not the only benefit of RPA – it also allows for increased process quality, and eliminates errors that may result from manual work.
Furthermore, the use of RPA technology typically results in increased customer satisfaction, both internally and externally. For example, loan application processing times can be reduced from days to hours via automation, resulting in happier customers. And staff, who are often wary at the beginning of an RPA implementation, become supportive of the technology once it relieves them from dull, repetitive work, and allows them to focus on more interesting and challenging projects.
The path to reaping the benefits of RPA, however, can be riddled with many obstacles. If you are considering introducing RPA to your organization, these are seven common mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: Not engaging senior leadership
Every successful project begins with strong leadership. RPA initiatives are no exception, and we recommend securing strong leadership from both the business and IT sides of your organization.
Business leaders will champion the effort, build a business case, and ensure that necessary resources are available (e.g. investments, subject matter experts, etc.)
IT leaders must be involved early on because RPA relies both on IT infrastructure (e.g. servers) and access to various IT applications. IT leaders can help to quickly resolve any unexpected challenges along the way, such as issues with IT security policies, or IT infrastructure upgrades, etc.
Want additional support for your initiative? Engage with the Audit and Risk leaders within your organization. They will quickly grasp all the benefits that RPA offers them, such as auditable processes, reduction in operational risk (due to reduction in manual work), and improved security.
Mistake #2: Not choosing the right processes
It is easy to get into the trap of automating small and simple tasks that nobody wants to touch. The real benefits of RPA, however, lie in the end-to-end automation of processes that tie up significant human resources.
Examples of such processes are: credit decisions in banking, underwriting decisions in insurance, processing of account changes, or setting up new customers across various industries.
In order to generate tangible benefits from your RPA project, you need to think big. Ask yourself if the impact of your automation project can be measured through one of these KPIs:
- Revenue generation
- Cost reduction/efficiency increases
- Quality improvements
- Positive impact on audit, risk, and compliance
As an example, a global bank used RPA to reduce its loan processing times from several weeks to two hours, resulting in dramatic efficiency improvements and significant customer satisfaction uplifts.
Mistake #3: Automating broken processes
Though RPA can, in most cases, automate existing processes, it is recommended that you look critically at processes before automating them and streamline where possible. This results in simpler, cleaner decision logic for RPA bots, shorter RPA testing cycles and easier maintenance of automation solutions.
For example, if you plan to automate an onboarding process for new customers, but there are currently 20 different ways your organization can onboard them, it makes sense to determine which is the most effective and reliable process, and then automating that process.
Mistake #4: Not investing enough time to test your bots
RPA bots can handle various tasks so long as they are programmed to manage them. Taking the time to define the different parameters involved in each process and programming your robots to handle each of them will save you a lot of time in the future. The idea being that your expert staff should only have to deal with exceptional cases that your robots cannot process. In order to achieve this, you need to rely on extensive testing to ensure that the robots know their part of the work.
Don’t forget to involve your SMEs when defining these testing scenarios. It is an iterative approach, and there are sure to be scenarios that nobody in your organization anticipated in the development phase, so be sure to allow sufficient time for testing.
Mistake #5: Not showing benefits early on
If there is one thing that will motivate your leadership to continue investing in RPA, it is seeing benefits early on.
Our RPA deployment experience shows that 8-12 weeks is enough time to automate a select group of processes and push them live, allowing you to show tangible benefits within a 3-month period.
A quick demonstration of benefits will strengthen the position of the RPA sponsor in the organization, and encourage other business areas to get involved in your automation transformation. They will be eager to leverage this new technology to drive benefits in their areas.
If, however, you fail to demonstrate the benefits quickly, the position of the RPA sponsor will be weakened over time.
Mistake #6: Failing to communicate changes to your staff
The introduction of RPA in most organizations can also have a significant impact on people, often staff is unsure if, or how, they will be impacted by this initiative which leads to great uncertainty. When the implication of an RPA implementation to human resources is not anticipated as part of an automation project, it can lead to increased turnover, as staff, motivated by fear of losing their jobs, start seeking alternative opportunities.
It is crucial that the introduction of RPA is combined with carefully drafted ongoing communication to staff ensuring they are aware of how they will be affected. This communication can vary from organization to organization, but we recommend something along the lines of the following narrative:
“RPA is not about reducing the number of people. Our objective is to focus our staff on important, client-facing activities, boosting client satisfaction, and eliminating manual, non-value adding activities.”
“Our organization has aggressive growth plans and we need to complement our staff with automation to ensure we are able to cope with our growing volume of clients.”
Mistake #7: Failing to scale up
Many organizations find it easy to deploy the first RPA robot, but are less successful in scaling up their efforts beyond that.
As discussed earlier, the true benefits of an RPA implementation can be reaped only if you automate the right set of processes. In addition, the scaling up of your RPA means the creation of an RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE) that will handle numerous tasks and capabilities, such as:
- Bundling RPA expertise in the organization (e.g. own a library of RPA objects)
- Provide training for new RPA users (e.g. other business areas)
- Oversee RPA technology infrastructure
- Own relationship with RPA provider and 3rd party RPA experts
- Own methodology for choosing candidate processes for RPA
Putting an RPA CoE in place will ensure that your organization is always self-developing and that it will be able to provide viable solutions for growing RPA benefits.
We hope these insights will allow you to avoid some of these more common mistakes when introducing RPA in your organization.
If you are considering bringing RPA into your organization, work with a partner who will ensure you to keep your project efficient and on track, in addition to helping you build your internal capabilities as required.
As a pioneer in North American RPA, The Burnie Group will help you develop the right strategy, identify the right programs, and implement your first RPA processes. Ensuring that your Robotic Process Automation can grow quickly, become a core capability, and help you to differentiate your organization from your competitors.