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RPA – The Gotchas

What can go wrong?

The Robot Process Automation (RPA) market is experiencing rapid growth and continues to see more organisations turn to software that automates business tasks driving efficiency improvements. But it’s not all plain sailing. There are a fair number of failed RPA projects out there. And that, leads to caution amongst some enterprises as to whether or not RPA adoption is the road to take. So what needs to be considered? What are the drawbacks? What landmines can be avoided?

An inefficient process is an inefficient process. Why automate a poor approach to doing something? Take some time to reconsider the approach before launching into automating it! Sometimes, when evaluating processes suitable for automation, our consultants come across a stinker of a process. It may include unnecessary notifications or approvals. It may involve gathering data that is never validated  – never cross checked against any rules – leaving tons of poor quality data in applications, making reporting nigh impossible. It may involve unnecessary time delays in providing common data to multiple systems. Typically, our consultants provide guidance around process improvements as part of a discovery exercise where we determine which processes are suitable for automation.

A bot can only work with the applications it is programmed to work with. If the business decides to use a new application to fulfil the process, the bot needs to be rebuilt. This may not be a huge task; it depends the steps, and their complexity, that relate to new application. However, it is important to consider this when choosing what process to automate. If it’s likely that, in the near future, a process will involve new procedures, tasks, related applications or regulations, the cost of rebuilding the bot may outweigh the immediate ROI of automating that process.

Automation of a process may not necessarily mean no human involvement. An RPA bot may encounter an inbound record it cannot process due to the record containing data that does not meet certain criteria e.g. an employee on-boarding bot that comes across a date of birth with the year 1900!  RPA bots deal with these occurrences as ‘exceptions’ and typically, the bot sends an email to a human supervisor to notify them that the record needs to be manually reviewed. It is tempting to have IT receive those notifications. Don’t succumb. The business knows how to handle the exceptions and it is the business who should own them.

People do not like change! There’s also a misconception that RPA is all about getting rid of human workers. It’s not. RPA is a technology that improves and augments employee capability and capacity. What the future holds is a digital workforce – human workers and bots  – co-delivering services and value. Now is the time for organisations to discuss with employees what that future looks like; where the benefits lie for employees and the business. Having a clear message as to how this change will improve life for employees is critical. Organisations need a pro-technology culture to be future-ready. Build that culture. Start talking about automation. Today.

18th October 2021

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