RO-BLOG#3: Dispelling Myths & Removing Barriers of RPA

With the ongoing proliferation of RPA and Intelligent Automation, companies are still surprisingly hesitating at the start of their automation journey. Given that the benefits and pitfalls of RPA have been widely written about and well understood by now, what’s holding them back? In this article, we explore RPA folklore, dispel the most commonly held myths and provide some guidance to overcome the true challenges and obstacles to beginning and sustaining a successful automation journey.

Let’s begin with the perceived barriers and myths:

  • “Our processes aren’t ready yet” – by far the most common myth is the misunderstanding that processes simply aren’t ready to be automated, and that a programme of process optimisation must be completed first. For an activity performed manually, there’s no significant benefit in optimising any of those steps, which will only be redesigned for optimal robotic operation. This will include changing a number of aspects in the process including activity sequence,  methods, processing speeds (definitely), timing, frequency and schedules. The automation methodology should also (if being done right) include identifying steps to be eliminated, simplified and optimised. So don’t delay, any optimisation work done first could be time, effort and cost wasted.

  • “Too Expensive! – Whilst this can be true, it doesn’t have to be. The RPA market now provides a wealth of vendors, tools, sourcing and purchasing options to choose from. For example, RPA software and solutions can be installed and run on premise or hosted and can be purchased on license, subscription and utility-based models. Initial Capex investment can also be avoided by opting for a more lease-based approach and an RPA-as-a-Service model – Lawrence & Wedlock and other vendors offer very competitive services in this space [#robots-as-a-service]. The key is to start small and then scale, purchase only what’s needed and is of value, but don’t focus purely on cost. If a process automation has the potential to generate value to the company, through savings or returns which payback in 3-4 months with a benefit-to-cost ratio of 5:1, the investment pays for itself and is a serious investment opportunity to consider.

  • “Not Scalable” – It’s generally misunderstood that only large companies with hundreds of robots running thousands of transactions a day have the ability to really scale automation. However, scale is relative and with the right approach, small and medium enterprises can also benefit. In some respects, this is even more important for SME’s, who generally operate with fewer available resources and if they’re to compete and grow, scalable automation is essential. The trick is to adopt a truly scalable robotic operating model, one which deploys and optimises the use of multi-skilled robots and strikes the right balance between automation priorities – cost, value, employee, etc.

  • “Don’t Know Where To Start” – Given the hype around RPA, this is understandable. Admitting this blog is another in a long line of articles on how best to implement RPA, which the world seems awash with right now, but at the risk of showing bias, the most effective way is to engage expertise at the earliest opportunity. Time invested early in the automation journey will save a great deal of time and mistakes later on. Critical first steps are to: Establish sponsorship and automation objectives FIRST; Run a POC with a couple of vendors (this also sorts out IT infrastructure); In parallel, identify and assess processes for suitability, prioritise into a pipeline with sprint deliverables; Select your automation tools and begin…simple really! Find a partner who offers a number of flexible options to help you get started, such as Lawrence & Wedlock Automation Advisory Service.

  • “We Need To Document Our Processes First” – Is a really common and understandable myth, which the RPA industry is unfortunately guilty of cultivating. Whilst it’s important and essential to first have a clear view of the existing process to be automated, asking the subject matter experts to produce a detailed desktop procedure (DTP) is not the only answer. Besides the fact that most DTP’s only ever capture 70-80% of the actual process accurately (at best), there are a number of more suitable and often more successful approaches including process recordings, user workshops, structured walkthroughs and robot drafting. In addition, even the best documentation will need some augmentation. Any decent RPA vendor or partner will have a tried and tested methodology to extract the essential information in the quickest possible way, so don’t let a lack of documentation hold you back.

However, there are some genuine obstacles and challenges that will arise. Forewarned is forearmed, follow these simple rules to help kick-start the automation journey:

  • IT Governance – From experience, setting up the internal IT environment for RPA, on average takes twice as long as it does to actually build and deploy the first automation. Whether opting for an on premise or cloud hosted solution, engage IT early to cover all eventualities and requirements, set clear expectations, listen and understand their concerns and agree a plan to resolve them. This is where RPA partners and expertise is truly invaluable, as they should not only have a thorough and in-depth knowledge of intelligent automation in the corporate workplace but a pretty sound understanding of IT infrastructure generally and speak the same language as your IT team. Discussions must cover architecture, firewalls, user accounts and passwords, security, system access amongst others.

  • Skills & Resources – Will vary according to specific needs, governance frameworks and chosen operating models. If developing in-house capabilities, it will take a while for the automation journey to grow and mature sufficiently and any robotic operating team will be small to start with, in which case either broader-skilled individuals are needed or can be supplemented short-term by external expertise. If engaging a suitable RPA partner, they should have access to all essential resources as and when required. The critical roles and responsibilities to cover initially include: Solution Architecture; Process Analysis; RPA Development; Project, Delivery & Change Management.

  • Managing Change – Time and again, this is the one area most overlooked, but with the most potential to cause issues and derail a successful automation journey.  All business transformation involves people and the change impact on them. When removing the human elements from a process, be sure to communicate clearly what will Start, Stop and Continue in their roles and interactions with the automated process.

  • Robotic Operating Model – Quite simply, the robotic operating model and structure defines who, how, when and where the robotic workforce will be developed and managed for a successful automation journey. This includes: Automation Pipeline Management; Ongoing Design, Build, Testing & Deployment of Robots; Monitoring, Maintenance & Support of the core product and solution deployed; Changes, Optimisations, Enhancements & Modifications to the Robotic processes; & Reporting Dashboards. Most importantly, an RPA journey isn’t a technology project, it’s a new operating business unit and whether it’s run by IT or Operations, it cannot be run part-time, when time away from the “day-job” allows, it instead requires dedicated roles and responsibilities. For all these reasons, the most recommended approach is one which is “Operations Led” (robot vision, selection & delivery) and “IT Supported” (IT environment controlled, approved, supported).

This site uses cookies to provide you with a more responsive and personalised service. By using this site you agree to our use of cookies. Please read our cookie notice for more information on the cookies we use and how to delete or block them. Accept