RPA Implementation: 6 Common Mistakes and Misconceptions to Avoid
I first started supporting clients on their RPA journey 3 years ago, when RPA was still in its relative early stages. The potential was mind-blowing from the start: increased productivity, better levels of quality, increased customer satisfaction, improved governance and monitoring capability… one of our clients even told us at the time that their staff morale improved significantly since automating some of their most mundane tasks.
But all wasn’t always perfect in the RPA world and when talking with various organisations who had implemented (or tried to implement) RPA, I started to notice a pattern of mistakes that were repeated over and over again, often due to misconceptions on the benefits that an automation programme brings. This got me thinking: we wouldn’t expect a diesel car filled with petrol to race out of the filling station, so why are we expecting RPA to be the best fix for all of our operational challenges?
So, based on my experience talking with Operational Excellence professionals on their own RPA journey, here are 6 of the most common RPA mistakes and misconceptions that will help you to avoid filling your operational tank with an RPA solution that might not be fit for purpose.
All activities can be automated
RPA allows for an increase in productivity and quality amongst many other things, but only when the activity that is to be automated ticks the right boxes. Indeed, only 45% of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adopting Robotic Process Automation (Source: Expert interviews; McKinsey Analysis). So the first thing you need to do is analyse your processes to check that the activity you are looking to automate is made of high volume, resource intensive, repetitive tasks - think activities such as data entry and back office functions.
Now you are going to tell me that these criteria do apply to part of your process but not to its entirety and this is fine. Processes don’t have to be fully automated. The golden rule you need to remember is that the make or break of RPA suitability lies within the detail.
It is absolutely vital that you analyse each one of the activities that make up the process and keep in mind that this process can evolve to be partly automated and partly managed by your teams.
As part of this analysis you need to ask yourself a few questions such as ‘Is the process resource intensive?’, ‘What are the patterns of demand?’, ‘Are your business rules standardised and to what extent?’, ‘Is the investment worthwhile?’ – Think cost reduction, but not only: improved quality, speed and increased customer satisfaction are key points you need to take into account.
Waste. Waste. Waste.
Analysing your processes for RPA suitability is a great thing, not only for the reasons I have just explained, but also because this analysis often uncovers some potential for improvement and waste reduction. RPA is not going to remove waste and this is the 2nd most major misconception I have encountered in my career. If a process needs to be improved, this needs to be done before you jump on the RPA train or you will only be automating complexity and waste.
RPA is not, in my opinion, a strategic tool; it is a means to an end, a spanner in our bag of lean and operational excellence methodologies. Only after simplifying your processes and removing waste by using some traditional lean and operational excellence methodologies can you confidently decide whether your organisation will benefit from RPA.
IT will deal with it
Yes, your IT team will be heavily involved, but your RPA journey will not be a success unless there is a complete top to bottom buy-in because integrating RPA implies changes in your processes as well as in the way you manage your resource.
Automation will create additional capacity that you can utilise in more value-adding activities and this shift in resources will need to be managed. Moreover, as your processes will evolve with time, so will your bots and without a strong commitment from your senior management team to invest in building internal capability you will face an increase in costs. Remember that when things in a process change, the bots need retraining just as humans would – this feels more of a responsibility for operations rather than IT!
Automation means removing the need for our staff to be involved
This couldn’t be further away from the truth; with every process comes some exceptions that will still need to be managed by a member of your team. Let’s not forget also that your process might not be suitable for RPA in its entirety, so your staff will still need to be involved to either receive work from the bot, or hand-off to them.
Clarity is of the essence here and I have seen many an organisation missing out by not building the full end-to-end process to support the newly automated activities, including providing clarity on who handles the exceptions and when.
Do not underestimate the impact RPA will have within your organisation as the biggest challenge your management team will face will be to manage change within their teams.
Automating a process, partially or in full, will free up some capacity to manage more strategic, empathetic and creative activities and it will be down to your managers to best use this additional capacity and build on your internal capability.
We will benefit from automating all of our processes at once
This is tempting and I know that there is a big ongoing debate on this particular point but in my experience trying to implement RPA too much too soon is the best way to add complexity to your RPA programme and generate change resistance. If RPA is something new to your organisation, I recommend you build internal confidence by taking small steps that will not only allow you to measure successes but will also help you to build senior stakeholder buy-in.
Phasing your RPA deployment by delivering a rapid live trial within a matter of weeks allows you to learn, scale and embed; putting you in a better place to accelerate the implementation using pre-coded bots that you can modify and deploy quickly.
The RPA journey finishes at implementation stage.
Processes change in accordance with your business needs and automation does not change this.
This is why you need to invest in building your own RPA capability and create a sustainable centre of excellence that will allow you to apply the modifications that will best match your new requirements and make the most out of your RPA investment in the future.
From my experience, the success of delivering effective RPA is knowing what should be automated & when it should be done. It may sound basic, but without this clear understanding, and the support of your senior stakeholders to build internal capability and manage change, you will not equip your car with all the gears it needs to allow for a smooth, efficient and successful journey on the road to process automation. Therefore, the upfront assessment and scoping of suitable activities is absolutely vital.
Implementing RPA is a daunting task for many an organisation who struggles to quickly identify the processes to prioritise and the tangible benefits they will derive from automating some of their processes, making the decision to implement RPA all the most difficult to take.
This is why we at Reinvigoration have created RoboticAssess, a solution that helps you to undertake a fast and detailed RPA diagnostic on any process and provide you with an instant RPA business case itemizing cost savings for every activity impacted. You can find out more about RoboticAssess by viewing our short video.