How to Advocate for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to Management
Original post from https://www.cigen.com.au/cigenblog/
Have you ever been in a situation when your attempts to advocate for robotic process automation have gone less well than expected due to the lack of efficient communication between marketing and IT departments?
Have you been concerned that the benefits of automation might be restricted to specific business units, when in fact their scope of applicability is the company as a whole?
If you’ve answered affirmatively to any of the above, then most likely you will find this article helpful.
It will help you to better understand how your approach to advocating automation can be assisted by engaging your colleagues from different company units. Proper inter-departmental communication is a crucial aspect that should be capitalised in order to obtain the management’s buy in for an automation program.
It is essential to start from acknowledging that the benefits of RPA should be noticeable across a large area of functional domains of your company. The reduction in revenue leakage and the improved accuracy brought about by working side by side with software robots leads to improved business results, and to a significant reduction of wage costs.
Additionally, it is fast and easy to implement, yet customisable to serve your own specific needs; this brings even more weight to the above mentioned advantages. Software robots’ faster service at entering forms into systems or copying data between systems can also improve customer satisfaction, and thus, make them more willing to keep working with you.
Since RPA enables business users to automate their processes themselves, you can count on a reduced workload for the IT people, which means that they can focus primarily on more challenging technology problems. We’ve written extensively about the RPA benefits for domains like HR, analytics, compliance, and more, in an article about your 2020 robotic process automation cheat sheet .
6 steps to advocating for RPA to management
We’ll assume that you are someone who wishes to advocate for RPA to management. To this end, your mission is to present to the CFO and other board members the business case for a multi-million-dollar investment in automation technology.
You basically want to promote business transformation underpinned by IT aspects – this way to frame your approach highlights the importance of the cooperation between marketing and IT for successful implementation.
1. Create awareness prior to the meeting
This is the prelude to your advocacy enterprise. Make sure to gather broad support within the organization to ensure readiness for the profound shift. The bottom line is that when the majority of people understand the payoffs of automation, cultural adoption ensues. You can find here some recommendations for ensuring that the company’s personnel can make sense of the prospective shift towards a digital workplace.
In order to gain consensus, make sure you orchestrate support for the automation project across members of marketing and IT units. Show the executives that reliance on automated processes is one of the “primary drivers of productivity.” The McKinsey Digital report from earlier this year, Digital strategy in a time of crisis, might serve you well at this point because it makes the convincing point that RPA is part of the ‘survival kit’ during these difficult pandemic times.
2. Know your audience
Be aware that the criteria for investment decisions may vary according to executives’ different backgrounds (e.g., controllership, accounting, financial planning, etc.). However, irrespective of the background, all board members will most likely base their decision on cost containment, revenue growth, and risk management. This is why it’s recommendable that you highlight each of these aspects when presenting the automation investment proposal.
3. Focus on providing the management with answers to the why question
Briefly put, this means emphasizing the benefits of robotic process automation. Capitalising on the benefits provides good arguments as to why an automation project should be prioritized over competing projects. These make the strongest impact if presented in numerical format.
This means that an Excel sheet where the “before vs. after automation” is expressed in the language of numbers is most likely to convince your executives that remaining tied to the status quo, although least complicated, is certainly not the most effective path. We encourage you to leverage data about customer and employee experience taken from surveys and net promoter scores (NPS).
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4. Name the stakeholders that will benefit from RPA
This is meant to show the management that RPA is conducive to multi-faceted innovation for the company, which is a very good argument to start big with the automation journey. For global process owners, RPA implementation will improve quality and compliance for intricate processes that may stretch over several departments, business units, and regions.
For shared services owners, automating processes that used to be in a business process outsourcing arrangement, for example, is likely to improve efficiency for throughput of high-volume transactions. Last but certainly not least, mention how business unit leaders may use digital assistants to automate entire functions within their departments and thereby increase each employee’s productivity.
5. Mitigate management’s concerns about the inherent risks of digitisation
This is particularly important in these times marred by pandemic-related uncertainties. Start to advocate for robotic process automation by acknowledging the fact that safeguarding the investment is (indeed, should be) the top priority when embarking on the automation journey.
Cash preservation, ensuring employee safety, managing the return on capital, safeguarding the supply chain, fortifying the infrastructure for business continuity, etc. are topics of concern for all the organisation’s “supporting pillars” – the board (CFO included), the business unit leaders, and the investors. Place the discussion about a risk mitigation strategy at the centre of your presentation.
6. Align the approach to automation with other corporate strategic goals
Automation projects which are ‘attuned’ to the other long-term objectives of the company, related to values, strategy, and culture, typically obtain larger funding allocations. But perhaps more important is the fact that aligned strategies raise the likelihood that the project is adopted by, and becomes a priority for both business and IT teams.
By doing this, you are one step closer to a really collaborative enterprise between marketing and IT, which helps to surmount the belief that the automation journey is primarily an IT project. As to how this can be done, consider framing the view of automation in a manner that’s coherent with the financial and non-financial key performance indicators of the organisation’s strategic goals.
All in all, the main takeaway is that when you advocate for RPA to management, being realistic and open – i.e. not adopting the ostrich policy with respect to the inherent risks of RPA implementation – is the way to go. Equally important is that you work together with the executives to figure out ways to mitigate the risks. This is precisely what a solution-oriented approach recommends: acknowledge what can go wrong, and try to make it such that it doesn’t.
If you are looking for inspiration for how to leverage robotic process automation in order to gain a competitive advantage, you should also read our most recent whitepaper. We’ve asked more than 2000 leaders of Australian companies how they implemented robotic process automation, and what their future automation plans are. You can fill out this form to receive a copy of our Thought Leaders Survey: How Are Australian Companies Leveraging Automation?