RPA Is Not a Four-Letter Word

November 21, 2018

You've heard the hype about Robotics Process Automation (RPA) – implementation is weeks, ROIs in the hundreds of percents and pictures of smiling robots.  Then you've heard the horror stories; spend the money and it doesn’t work, ROIs turn negative from unintended consequences, and those pictures are eerily reminiscent of a couple of Hollywood blockbusters’ bad guys.

Like most business transformations, yeah there is some risk.  And like most business activities, successfully managing risk delivers value, to your customers and to you.  So how do you do that?

Couple of basics – the kinds on unglamorous things you would do in any business initiative:

a. Have a plan – you don’t need an enterprise roadmap (that can come later) but have a plan of that defines the outcomes you are after, and use that to sell the idea to your stakeholders.

b. Start small - Resist the urge to boil the ocean; if you are looking at RPA you're an innovator, so you like big audacious goals.  In RPA take advantage of it being one of the few transformations where you don’t have to bet the business…start small, with something easy.  Look for a small problem everybody recognizes, and solve for that.  Show the outcome and the ROI and it becomes your proof of concept.

c. It’s the process stupid – remember you are automating a process that will continue to interact with people.  Plan that interaction in, and consider the training to support the implementation – ideally your process customer won’t notice something has changed.  And think of the robots as new employees, while they can work 24/7 they do need monitoring and ongoing maintenance, so don’t forget to incorporate that.

d. And then the people – the people running the process, and the people using the process should be involved in the change…and in advance.  A little effort here can turn even the most stalwart pessimist into a raving fanatic (nothing like a convert).

e. Keep the RPA engine together – leverage that gained expertise, and use this talent as the foundation of a specialist team, or Center of Excellence, to identify, promote, and execute the next RPA initiatives.  This team can now build an informed enterprise roadmap, and watch that engine turn faster and faster.

Finally, take advantage of capabilities in the market.  You probably don’t want to be in the RPA business per se, and you may not be equipped to properly manage your automated workforce.  That’s okay, there are people out there that do that, and because they do it for others, you can leverage their experience to avoid rookie errors, and probably at attractive economics.

And yeah, you might still have bumps in the road as you move forward, but you’ll be set up to respond quickly to them, and learn for the next time.

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