The Challenges of RPA Implementation, and How to Mitigate Them
RPA implementation can save you time, money and increase both customer and employee satisfaction, but it comes with its own set of challenges that you need to be cognisant of.
According to Leslie Willcocks, professor of technology, work, and globalization at the London School of Economics, “The relationship between technology and people has to change in the future for the better, and I think RPA is one of the great tools to enable that change.”
Coupled with the many other benefits of RPA, such as increased accuracy, compliance control and transparency, you’ll surely be looking to automate business processes, before long.
Take a deep breath, because without a plan in place and a proper support team, RPA could end up costing you money, rather than saving it. Here are some of the most common risks and challenges of RPA implementation - and expert advice on how to overcome them.
Identify Where RPA Will Work
A task to be automated needs to be RPA eligible, meaning it should be rule based and involve structured data. Tasks with the lowest cost of implementation are standardized, and remain stable over time. According to a Forbes.com article,
“RPA bots can handle many of the activities associated with account opening, evaluating credit limits, and identification and explanation of changes in risk exposure. The use cases continue to expand.”
The first mistake that many companies make in implementing RPA however, happens when they’re determining which processes will be offloaded to automation. After defining the most eligible ones, companies halt their search. They miss the most important factor in RPA implementation, which isn’t what processes are eligible, but which processes will give the greatest ROI upon automation. In order to identify where RPA will be the most beneficial, you need to focus on people. The biggest ROI isn’t in eliminating humans - it’s in freeing up full time employees to do high-level tasks instead of wasting their time and effort on repetitive tasks that requires no critical thinking at all.
Define the Highest ROI Points
Most organizations try to identify where robots will best function, which is great, but in terms of return on investment, it’s more important to see where people's time needs to be freed up. The tasks with the highest ROI are the ones that have frequent errors, and/or involve continuous input. Both errors and continuous input are time consuming and therefore in case of a full time employee, it ends up being very expensive. Computational errors are especially easy to avoid with RPAs, and continuous input is one of the best uses for robotic software's, because robots, unlike people, can work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Companies need to identify places where people's time is used to perform non-value added tasks, such as data entry or invoice processing, and instead consider RPA for those tasks, so that employees can pursue the judgement-based roles which they’re more suited for – such as strategizing, problem solving and critical thinking.
Make an RPA Roadmap
Before running headlong into RPA implementation, it pays to have a plan. It’s essential to have a realistic roadmap that includes financial projections, implementation strategy, management and scaling over time - with an understanding about the cost of implementation vs. the ROI, and the amount of time it will take to see the results.
To begin with, look at the costs. RPA implementation doesn’t mean just downloading and installing some software. You’ll need to integrate with IT, pay licensing fees and train your employees to maintain and update the new system. Most companies see an ROI relatively quickly - in about three to six months - but that’s still time that needs to be accounted for. Smaller companies might consider implementing RPA for a few tasks, and then investing the savings in additional RPA implementations over time. Having solid financial projections can help make the transition to automation simpler and smoother.
Identify the Ripple Effects
Then, identify the ripple effects, so you’re clear on the overall ROI. RPA can save you up to 90% on the salary of a full-time, on-site employee, but that isn’t the only financial gain you’ll be getting. The Institute for Robotic Process Automation boasts that “Any company that uses labour on a large scale for general knowledge process work, where people are performing high-volume, highly transactional process functions, will boost their capabilities and save money and time with robotic process automation software.” One of the challenges of RPA implementation is to define exactly how much ROI one can expect to see.
According to a study by the London School of Economics, repetitive manual tasks lower performance and motivation, so beyond freeing up your full time employees to do the high-level, valuable tasks you hired them for, RPA will relieve them of task they don’t want to do, increasing their overall job satisfaction and output and decreasing job turnover. An interesting and valuable outcome for a simple automation implementation.
Don’t go at it alone
RPA is a simple concept, but implementation is trickier than what meets the eye. Incorrectly implemented RPAs can end up costing you money, rather than saving it, so it’s in your best interest to get it right the first time. Most companies consider hiring a specialist in implementation. This might seem like an investment upfront, but it can save you time and money in the long run. According to an RPA Summit 2016 survey,
“64% of respondents stated that they felt people were central to RPA implementation.”
An expert will help you determine what role your full time employees will play in managing the software's, and what is the ratio of human to robot that will work best for your company. They’ll help you put a training program in place so your employees know how to manage and make adjustments to the RPA, once they’re running. Experts in implementation will also help you bridge the gap with IT, as they’re going to need to understand where the robots are operating, and make sure they’re properly integrated into your already existing network. Streamlining your implementation with expert help means you’ll see ROI faster, and experience fewer headaches from incorrect implementation or incomplete employee training.
Manage, Analyze and Adjust
RPA’s aren’t “set and forget” like most people think. Even the best implemented RPA systems need upkeep. Full time employees will need to be available to make adjustments to the systems over time, and to ensure that they’re running correctly. Often times, tasks change. The changes might be small enough that they don’t run through official channels, but if they’re not reflected in the RPA’s programming, everything could get thrown off balance. Humans need to manage, analyze the output data and adjust RPA’s to make sure that they’re working properly - and performing up to their full potential.
Get the Full Benefits
RPA’s are perfect for tasks such as data cleaning, payment processing, compliance reporting, claims handling and marketing, amongst other things. They are known to accelerate productivity, are less expensive than on-site employees, enhance compliance through reduction in risk of errors, increased transparency and improved record keeping. These robots are also less expensive as they work nonstop i.e., 140 hours per week vs. the 32 hour per week, of an office employee. Still, without the proper roadmap, support team and management system in place RPA can be more detrimental than beneficial.
Go at it right - get expert help in automation, and make sure your RPA implementation process goes off without hitch, and starts saving you money sooner, rather than later.