All across the country and from our network in other countries too, we’re observing businesses and teams new to RPA and automation making these same mistakes. Let’s dive straight in to see how these can be easily avoided
1) Lack of senior or business leader buy-in / RPA Strategy
Getting senior buy-in is the only way to get a successful RPA programme moving. During stakeholder engagements it’s vital to get top-down enthusiasm and demonstrate how RPA can enable their senior management teams to be more efficient and cost effective.
If senior management are fully on-board, they can remove blockers, deploy the right personnel to assist the RPA team to attend workshops, identify opportunities, and they can invest their limited funds in more RPA initiatives. If senior leaders believe in the technology, they will be more likely to redirect funds away from ‘tried-and-tested’ methods, such as recruitment or outsourcing, and start investing in this new and seemingly untested (in their area at least) technology.
2) Choosing the wrong process
Time and time again I’ve heard of companies or consulted with companies who were in the midst of trying to automate a complex, low-volume, highly volatile process as one of their first processes. Sometimes the process even requires several forms of AI.
This is a clear sign of “shiny object syndrome” (SOS), the propensity to chase something because it’s new and shiny and everyone else is doing it.
Or perhaps a case of “The one who shouts loudest” gets their process automated. At this point the RPA sponsor or senior needs to step in. New things can have great value, but there must be a logical approach to utilitising such a powerful tool.
Choosing the wrong process to start with is guaranteed to stall an automation programme. Stakeholders will lose interest, the RPA team will get disheartened, and the RPA sponsor will be wondering whether she will ever get a return on the investment and may consider pulling the plug on the whole thing. Such a toxic perception of this tool will swiftly destroy what you are trying to achieve. If you suspect you have started with the wrong process, this realization may mark the last chance you have to hire an experienced RPA analyst or success manager to turn things around and get the process back on track.
If you have just hired an expert and have yet to choose your process, it would be wise to listen to the expert to avoid choosing badly.
3) Lack of time/commitment from SME
Though buy-in from senior leadership gets things moving, the second hurdle is getting the managers and the team themselves excited and keen to get involved. This is potentially the hardest sell, as many may be totally content with the old way of doing things. Some may not feel comfortable with change in general, and the rest may quietly fear that this new technology could change their job or replace them.
Once team managers and SMEs are on board, the right expectations need to be set with them so they understand how much time the RPA team requires from them in order to design the right solution, to the necessary detail. If expectations are not clear upfront, staff and managers may grow frustrated with intermittent disruptions to business as usual. It’s important that they understand how the discovery and implementation process works, and the RPA team needs to clearly layout their method, and explain that it’s not a one-and-done event, but a staged process.
4) Poor stakeholder education and communications
Doing RPA in a dark corner of the office leads to staff thinking the worst. Openness and visibility is best; take them on the journey with you. At a minimum, an easy way to stay visible is to create a newsletter and an online portal with information on the technology, the process and a discussion forum for questions and concerns.
In addition to the visibility provided by open-door policy and regular lunch-and-learns or periodic workshops, the Centre of Excellence should stay in communication with staff. Popping up and disrupting teams for a few days, then disappearing without results can be very irritating. Stakeholders in a few organizations I’ve worked with have expressed their frustrations about previous RPA teams who attempted to implement but were shut down or moved on to a different team without any explanation. Understandably when I came to launch the RPA properly I was initially meet by reservations and reluctance. Even if your RPA team needs to close down an initiative, its courtesy to inform the team as to why, so that the relationship ends on good terms and they are welcoming the next time you circle back.
5) Not streamlining process first
There are two schools of thought in RPA. Roll out automation fast leaving the processes as it is because it will immediately impact the bottom line. Or optimize a process first with lean thinking so that the process is redesigned to be streamlined and is designed for a robot instead of a human. At Lean IA, you can surely guess which one we prefer. Garbage in, garbage out.
Optimising a process can provide a much faster payback period as costs may be lower because the process may be designed to be simpler. Imagine a process where the human goes back and forth to pull data from one application into another. This workflow is long winded as the human has limited memory, whereas the process could be redesigned for the robot to take all the information from the whole page, then paste it into the other page in one go, thus eliminating the old back-and-forth way.