5 min read

How to Swim in RPA Without Drowning

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You wouldn’t dive in the deep end of a pool without first learning how to swim. Unfortunately, though, too many businesses implementing RPA initiatives jump right in with an “automate everything” mindset, causing the project to die before it ever had a chance to succeed. Just like swimming, you must first get your toes wet with RPA if you want it to thrive. If not, you will likely sink before any true benefits have the chance to materialize.

The Pitfalls of RPA 

If you don’t adhere to a crawl, walk, run approach, your RPA project could fail fast. Companies will either go all in, trying to hyper-automate everything or they pass the responsibility entirely to IT. This can lead to a compartmentalized solution that lacks an enterprise-wide, progressive approach, leading to minimal RPA adoption or even worse—purgatory. 

Automation isn’t the sole responsibility of IT. The most successful RPA projects include key stakeholders across all departments, such as marketing, HR, finance and operations. It is not the function of one team or department; rather, RPA is about bringing efficiency company-wide; so, if you don’t think about it globally from the start, it will lose its impact and generate little return.

Also, too many times people associate automation with human replacement. But only in Hollywood can computers replace complex human thinking. RPA is about creating a digital workforce for a specific task or project that complements your team. It’s then up to your people to apply the strategy around it: How can we scale RPA across the company? What other areas of our business can we automate?

Moreover, while RPA may be more cost effective than hiring two or three people for a specific task, there is a not a direct correlation to the jobs automated with price. For example, if you automate 20 percent of tasks, it does not equal a 20 percent cost reduction for that specific job or department. 

It’s Not All Gloom and Doom:
5 Steps to Avoid Pitfalls

1. Don’t Go at It Alone

Whether the COO or CIO identified a process or task to automate, it’s important to think globally across the entire organization. Before you invest a large amount of money in your RPA project, think about the company both horizontally and vertically. How will it affect other departments? How will it impact the people beneath leadership? Using a trusted advisor like Veracity can alleviate this burden, helping to remove any unconscious blinders.

An advisor can also help with a cost-benefit analysis, often providing a more robust view into potential expenses, roadblocks or unforeseen value. This level of transparency will be key as other departments and leaders are brought into the discussion, determining where RPA fits best across the organization.

2. Start Small

Automation is a mindset, and not everyone is there. Start with one or two small jobs to prove out success. Communicate regularly across teams and with leadership to break down any barriers and to help others adopt this mindset. It will create a more dynamic way of thinking, which will allow others to approach new processes or tasks with an automation-first mindset.

3. Set Realistic Expectations

RPA is not fit for every task. There are some things robots can’t replace, such as human thinking or strategic work. Pick a few projects you know will be successful and apply key learnings, risks and opportunities to help create your RPA roadmap. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect an enterprise-wide RPA solution right out of the gate. As you get quick wins and knock out low hanging fruit, you will discover more processes that are a fit for RPA, letting you expand automation at the pace of crawl, walk, run.

4. Establish a Center of Excellence
Governance is key.Establish a governing body that represents the entire organization in order to help guide what should be automated and how it should be implemented. This team will help share experiences, best practices and develop other use cases, including ROI and KPIs.

This governing body will serve as your automation ambassadors and evangelists within their respective departments and teams, working to create a more dynamic culture across the entire organization. Governance ensures quality control and will help keep your CIO or IT team in-the-know in real-time to ensure new policies or processes won’t impact the current RPA initiative.

5. Keep It Simple

RPA shouldn’t be complex. Start with a proof of concept so that it reduces risk and allows for scale. This approach is better for your employees; it helps avoid a major shift or disruption in their daily processes and workflows. From our experience, we know smaller successes yield bigger wins long term, increasing the longevity and ROI of RPA.  

There is no “one-size-fits-all" approach for RPA. But as it becomes a more ubiquitous feature embedded in many platforms by the end of this year, it’s going to shift from a “nice to have” to a “must have” as more businesses embrace digital transformation. Make sure your organization is ready to take on RPA in the year ahead with your friends at Veracity. And stay tuned for our final post about RPA where we’ll cover how to scale it beyond IT, creating an automation-first mindset across the entire organization. 

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About Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson is our director of solution architecture, senior management consultant, leading Veracity’s hyperautomation and data strategy efforts. In this role, he works with business leaders and technical teams in the industries of banking and financial service, insurance and risk management, healthcare, engineering, utilities, and manufacturing to advance their internal data infrastructure and bring business intelligence to the forefront of strategy. With over 25 years of experience in technology and IT leadership, Scott has a wealth of knowledge in system migrations, integrations, data management and custom application development. He’s received several awards from major industry outlets like Information Week and NetworkWorld.