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There is always a quest to find ways to work smarter and more efficiently. This is where robotic process automation, or RPA, comes in.
The purpose of the technology is to automate repetitive tasks that human workers would otherwise have to perform. It is often confused with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), but it is different.
- First and foremost, RPA is rule-based, meaning that it can be programmed to carry out specific tasks in a specific way. AI and ML, on the other hand, are powered by algorithms that allow them to learn and adapt over time.
- Secondly, RPA can be deployed without changing underlying IT systems. In contrast, AI and ML generally require access to data and other resources that may be locked away in legacy systems.
- Finally, RPA bots can be deployed relatively quickly and easily, whereas AI and ML initiatives can take months or even years.
Despite these differences, RPA, AI, and ML are often used together in what is known as Intelligent Automation (IA). By combining the strengths of all three technologies, businesses can achieve even greater efficiencies in their operations.
Challenges of implementing RPA
RPA technology is driving a major shift in how companies operate—taking over the monotonous and repetitive tasks that humans would otherwise complete.
However, the adoption of RPA has been low. Since RPA projects are notoriously tricky, companies can get overwhelmed by technical ambiguity and fail at the first hurdle.
According to a survey, 69% of RPA projects fail to take off because of their complexity. And those who manage to progress to execution fail by up to 50%. An analysis by PwC points out that 63% of business leaders find the speed of RPA Implementation a pain point.
Research by the consultancy also finds that implementing a proof-of-concept or pilot project of RPA can often take 4-6 months instead of the expected 4-6 weeks.
Project complexity, lack of ownership, poor strategic decisions, and talent shortages are the primary reasons why companies fail with RPA Implementations.
Below, we explain this in more detail:
1. Lack of ownership and accountability
RPA projects are often mission-critical and should be led by experienced leaders. However, many organizations neglect this prerequisite, and do not appoint the appropriate talent to oversee their RPA initiatives.
If there is no clearly defined senior leadership or executive committees, the decision-making process can be hampered, with teams not understanding what needs to be done and how.
2. Choosing the wrong use case
Over 50% of RPA projects go awry when an inappropriate business use case is determined.
When companies fail to identify the right processes that need to be automated, they end up wasting time and money. As a solution, companies can choose any of the following approaches to reap the rewards of their RPA initiatives:
- They can identify repetitive tasks performed by skilled employees, thus freeing them to focus on strategic priorities.
- They can automate more straightforward and menial tasks through RPA instead of hiring new employees for the same roles.
3. Poor strategic choices
A hasty and ill-thought-out strategy can derail any organizational project, including an RPA initiative.
When decisions are not carefully considered and planned, leaders fail to address opportunities and legitimate concerns. The results of such negligence are:
- A decline in efficiency.
- Financial losses.
- Waning enthusiasm among employees.
There is no silver bullet to a successful RPA implementation. Companies must create a solid foundation bolstered by a sustainable, scalable strategy; sound skills; and a stable IT infrastructure. They must make a blueprint to build an end-to-end understanding of the big picture, share references, and guide teams across every implementation stage.
4. Infrastructure bottlenecks
Ultimately, RPA is only as good as its foundation.
The reason behind the failure of 30%-50% of RPA projects is an outdated, sluggish, and shaky IT infrastructure that fails to support high-impact operations. Trouble further mounts when companies try to scale automation initiatives to cater to the evolving needs of the business. Notably, the quality of an IT infrastructure is directly proportional to the success of an RPA project.
Before starting any RPA project, companies must objectively assess their IT infrastructures without overestimating their capacity to change. Leaders must adopt a more nuanced approach to determine the correct configuration of RPA infrastructure. This will enable robots to run smoothly regardless of the work volume, inspire confidence among senior stakeholders, and provide organizations with the full benefits of automation.
Companies that neglect security or treat it cavalierly face the risk of unauthorized data access. Bots gain access to CRM, ERP, and other mission-critical systems and can move data freely without a ‘man’ in the middle.
While implementing RPA, companies must build a framework that addresses security priorities. Failure to do so can lead to vulnerabilities, posing a real or imminent danger to an organization’s IT networks.
Gartner recommends four approaches to counteract this problem:
- Assigning unique identity credentials to each bot.
- Limiting rights to access for RPA bots.
- Designing RPA tools to generate consistent logs without gaps, which can be reviewed if suspicious behavior is detected.
- Implementing a risk management framework for the development, deployment, and operation of RPA.
The seven-step guide to RPA Implementation
Even though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to RPA Implementation, there are certain steps to follow. We discuss these steps in more detail below.
The RPA Implementation journey
1. Define the business problem or opportunity RPA can address.
The first step in any RPA implementation is to define the business problem, or opportunity companies hope to address with RPA. What are the goals for implementing RPA? What specific pain points are they looking to alleviate? Answering these questions will help better understand what processes should be automated and how RPA can best be deployed within the organization.
2. Identify processes that can be automated using RPA
When defining the business problem or opportunity that RPA can address, companies must vet what specific processes can be automated using the technology. A close examination of business processes can help companies identify tasks suitable for automation. Remember that not all processes can or should be automated; some tasks are better suited for human execution due to their complexity or nature.
3. Assess the feasibility of automating each process.
After identifying the processes that can be automated, companies must assess the feasibility of automating each. This assessment will involve factors such as the complexity of the task, the data requirements, and whether any regulatory considerations need to be taken into account. Automating a complex process with numerous data requirements is generally not feasible, nor is automating a process where compliance is a concern.
4. Develop a business case for each process
Developing a business case for each use case justifies why automating the task is a good idea from a cost-benefit perspective. To do this, leaders need to estimate the costs associated with implementing RPA and the benefits of automating the task. In most cases, developing a business case for automating a task will require engaging stakeholders across different departments within your organization.
5. Create an implementation plan
The final step in the planning stage is creating an implementation plan that outlines how and when RPA will be deployed within your organization. This plan should detail what tasks will be automated, who will oversee each automation project, what resources (both financial and human) will be required, and what timelines are realistic given these constraints. Creating a detailed implementation plan upfront will help ensure an organization's smooth and successful rollout of RPA.
6. Product initiation and PoC development
During this phase, the business case for RPA is developed, and executive sponsorship is secured. This is also when the RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) is established, and an RPA governance model is put in place. Further, a Proof of Concept (POC) is built, replicating concepts and theories into actual results.
7. Implementation and deployment
This is where software robots are deployed and begin working alongside humans to automate tasks. This stage can be broken down into three sub-stages
The pre-deployment stage is configuring and testing the POC. A pilot test allows testing the technology in a real-world setting before fully implementing it. This way, engineers can work out any kinks and ensure everything runs smoothly. It is essential to ensure that the software is compatible with an organization's existing IT infrastructure and can integrate with the applications it will need to interact with.
Run through the automated processes and evaluate the results against the predefined goals. If everything goes well, the POC will be ready for pilot testing.
The deployment stage is when the actual rollout of RPA takes place. This is where the bots are designed and built and then deployed into production.
To ensure a successful deployment, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the processes that will be automated, as well as how those processes fit into the overall business operation. It is also crucial to have a solid plan in place for managing and monitoring the bots once they are live.
The post-deployment stage is when you monitor the performance of the RPA software and make any necessary adjustments. It is important to keep track of key metrics such as accuracy rates and processing times to identify areas where the robots are not performing up to par. Additionally, you should periodically check in with employees working with the robots to get their feedback and ensure that they are comfortable with the new technology.
Top 4 benefits of a successful RPA Implementation
Companies across industries are turning to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate high-volume, repeatable tasks that are traditionally performed by humans.
RPA can provide several benefits for businesses, including increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved accuracy when implemented successfully. The top five benefits of a successful RPA implementation are as follows:
1. Increased efficiency
One of the most important benefits of RPA is that it can help companies increase their efficiency. By automating repetitive tasks, businesses can free up employees' time to focus on more strategic tasks requiring human interaction and decision-making.
2. Reduced costs
RPA helps businesses maximize savings. By automating tasks that are currently being done manually. Additionally, RPA can help them avoid potential fines and penalties by ensuring compliance with regulations.
3. Improved accuracy
The cost of human error exceeds billions of dollars annually. When tasks are automated through RPA, there is less room for human error. This can be especially beneficial for businesses that rely on data for decision-making.
By automating tasks such as service inquiries and order processing tasks, companies can provide customers with faster and more streamlined service, resulting in greater profitability.
4. Enhanced employee satisfaction
Finally, RPA can improve employee satisfaction. Employees freed from performing repetitive tasks can have a greater sense of job satisfaction and engagement. They refocus on creative and strategic business priorities. In turn, this can lead to improved retention.
Refer to the image below to learn more about the benefits of RPA.
The final word
Though RPA is a relatively new technology, it has already begun to prove its potential in the business world. As process automation becomes more refined, we can expect even more industries to adopt this efficient way of working.
However, implementing RPA can be complex and challenging to implement without the assistance of experts. The good news is that we have a team of Robotic Process Automation experts who can help you implement RPA in your business.
If you are interested in learning more about how RPA can help improve efficiency and productivity in your business, please get in touch with us today. We’d be delighted to answer any questions or provide you with a free consultation.