7 Challenges to Implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) & How to Overcome Them
Original post from https://www.cigen.com.au/cigenblog/
The history of RPA is not long at all. In May 2013, a McKinsey report included ‘advanced robotics’ among the disruptive technologies, those expected to “transform life, business, and the global economy”.
According to UiPath, 2014 was the moment when robotic process automation started to be a significant competitor to business process outsourcing. Afterward, it took only two more years until it started to be institutionalized by business companies.
Where are we today? We are at a point where both adoption and scaling have advanced tremendously, and RPA has reached new levels of maturity, becoming a must for companies determined to pursue a real competitive advantage.
To put it differently, many enterprises have learned by now efficient ways to overcome the challenges of RPA implementation and deployment, and automation has evolved into a core technology.
In order to ensure some common ground, we’ll start with our favourite working definition of RPA, as a very useful tool for maximally efficient use of a company’s resources, where ‘tool’ stands for both software and services.
What are the outcomes of this ‘maximally efficient use of resources’?
According to McKinsey, RPA can bring about a quick and robust ROI, i.e., up to 200% in the first year of deployment, and 20-25% cost savings.
But the benefits go beyond the financial ones; consider rapid scalability to demand spikes, headcount flexibility, improved risk, compliance, and audit management. Perhaps the most important consequence of automation is a human-centered way of doing business, which makes both the customers and the employees more satisfied with improved services and by higher-value tasks, respectively.
If you are still at the beginning of your automation journey and you feel a little out of your depth in the attempt to deal efficiently with the challenges to implementing RPA, we wrote an ebook meant to assist you in making savvy implementation decisions.
RPA implementation challenges and how to overcome them
1. Starting with reasonable expectations
Given the RPA hype, it is easy to fall prey to an over-enthusiastic perspective. But keeping your feet on the ground is crucial because of the large-scale impact on the assessment of the outcomes of automation, and hence, on subsequent decisions regarding scaling up to enterprise level. A helpful way to do this is to start with a clear hierarchy of business objectives, and then figure out how exactly RPA can help to attain them.
2. Managing employees’ resistance
The “robots will steal our jobs” narrative, often used as a typical robotic process automation objection, is the core reason for the staff’s lack of willingness to accept new technologies.
Prior to engaging in the automation project, you should educate them regarding what software robots can and cannot do, and help them understand that the bots are to be seen as helping, and not as hindering, the current work roles. Moreover, you should invest in training employees regularly, as the ‘automation era’ will likely require them to acquire new skills.
3. Picking the most appropriate processes to begin a successful automation journey
We’ve discussed this before, not all processes are suitable for automation. We’ve published an article containing 8 questions to ask about processes before implementing RPA.
You should identify processes with clear processing instructions (template driven), based on standardised and predictive rules. Processes that require a high degree of manual input, structured and repetitive input involve activities that are more susceptible to human error; this is why they are also good candidates for automation.
Another idea to be considered in the selection process is that the more stable a business task, the more smooth and effective (and thus cost-efficient) its automated version. Relatedly, processes with measurable savings will make it easier to evaluate realistically the impact of RPA on your company.
4. Inability to automate end-to-end processes
For the more complex processes, RPA tools may be insufficient for directly automating all the process steps. “Divide and conquer” is our recommended way to go about this. Redesign these sophisticated tasks, break them into simpler parts, and start automation here.
Additionally, try to leverage the joint work of RPA and other digital technologies like machine learning or optical character recognition. Keep in mind though the extra costs involved by this, so do not strive for end-to-end intelligent automation when cost-efficiency becomes questionable.
5. Insufficient assistance from the business department
Relying solely on the IT department is among the common RPA challenges that should be actively avoided throughout the automation project. According to RPA expert Nicole Schultz, “finance cannot depend on IT for RPA; it needs to be owned by the business side.”
Business processes require a Process Design Document for the pilot phase, including workflow diagrams, data-specific business rules (for various types of data), a comprehensive list of technical exceptions that the operations unit may face during manual processing, etc. It is more likely that the pilot paves the way for successful long-term development if the business team gives feedback for bots’ performance.
6. Lack of effectively structured RPA implementation teams
As always, lack of structure is a pitfall. But the good news is that it is not too difficult to be fixed. “Effective structure” arises out of clearly specified roles for the team members, sufficient knowledge about the processes selected for automation, as well as not allowing resources to be shared among multiple ongoing projects.
7. Technical and operational issues
Given that the ease of configuration is a core feature of RPA, it can be easy to forget asking for, and acting out the suggestions of the technical staff regarding technical and operational issues. The solution is easy though, and it amounts to following RPA maintenance protocols after the implementation phase.
Last year we wrote an article about the most common RPA pitfalls, with recommendations for ways to avoid them. We believe that the experience we gathered in the meantime from various projects has helped us to refine our approach to robotic process automation implementation challenges, making it easier for you to follow the way towards attaining your business goals.
Functionality is a core feature of RPA; software robots can be seen as tools for cutting down costs and enhancing productivity. To these ends, however, you must be able, first, to acknowledge, and second, to overcome the challenges of RPA implementation. By going through the list above, we believe you will be one step closer to meeting your efficiency standards.