Four Errors Businesses Make When Considering RPA

You may have come across people asking “what is RPA?”, regarding the game-changing robotic process automation technology that allows certain workplace tasks to be automated using software “robots.” 

RPA is on the rise across industries, with a growing number of businesses and verticals finding that these bots can prove transformative when it comes to making their daily operations easier, cheaper, and more effective.

But while many people appreciate the value RPA can bring to a business, often with minimal up-front costs, that doesn’t mean that mistakes aren’t being made along the way. Here are four errors that businesses frequently make when considering introducing automation tools:

#1. Assuming that everything can be automated

RPA tools can be used for a variety of applications across myriad industries. But, while these tools are getting smarter and more capable, not every job is a candidate for automation. The tasks RPA will excel at the most are those high volume, repetitive, rule-based jobs which are carried out the same way each time. 

If you’ve got a job that involves unstructured data, that requires large amounts of human subjectivity to carry out, and/or isn’t carried out in high volume there is a good chance that it might not be an appropriate task for automation. 

This doesn’t mean that RPA isn’t evolving all the time, and that a task that’s impossible to automate today won’t be automatable in the near-future. What it does mean is that you shouldn’t assume every task can be handed over to RPA bots to carry out. That’s a reductive attitude that will only land you in trouble.

#2. Rushing into RPA deployment

Enthusiasm is good. So is a willingness to shake up the way you do business and embrace new solutions that can make your life easier. If you’re convinced about the potential of the technology, no-one would blame you for wanting to incorporate RPA bots more widely into your business’ workflow. 

But, as the old saying goes, fools rush in. Trying to implement RPA processes throughout your organization in one go can be a recipe for problems. RPA rollout should be gradual to allow you to minimize disruption, demonstrate success, get employees on board, and win over any stakeholders you need to convince. A phased RPA deployment will result in longer term success than rushing to introduce bots that may not be capable of delivering what you hope they will.

#3. Automation will improve suboptimal processes

Let’s say that one of your team’s tasks involves data entry, and that this task often results in manual entry errors because your overstretched employees leave it until the end of the working day and then try and squeeze a three-hour task into less than an hour. This is a suboptimal solution to a problem -- and it’s one that RPA bots could help with. 

However, what if the process being followed is actually the one that’s flawed and resulting in unnecessary complexity and wasted time? That’s something RPA won’t necessarily solve. Simply put, RPA bots automate processes that are already in place. They may be able to carry them out more quickly, and with fewer errors, than a human operator. But if the process itself could be streamlined and made more efficient, then cementing this process by turning it into instructions that are followed every time isn’t the best way to solve it. 

To solve this problem, it’s essential that existing workplace processes are examined during the assessment stage of any RPA deployment.

#4. Failing to sell colleagues on RPA

For a business owner or operator, the benefits of RPA may seem obvious. Time savings, error reduction, and being able to slash costs all make RPA seem an immensely valuable proposition. But employees aren’t necessarily going to view it in the same way. For many, the prospect of RPA deployment may seem like a preamble to replacing human employees with bots, sparking fears about their future employment prospects.

In fact, RPA offers plenty of benefits for employees by automating mundane, repetitive tasks they likely don’t enjoy doing, and giving them the chance to instead pursue more rewarding, meaningful jobs for you. But for this to be made clear, you need to effectively communicate your RPA strategy and what this is likely to mean for the flesh-and-blood people working for you. Describing benefits like reducing the number of dull tasks they have to carry out (hopefully meaning happier, more stimulated employees) and the opportunity to reduce errors and increase regulatory compliance will make perfect sense -- so long as you explain them.

You may also need to sell more senior stakeholders on the benefits of RPA. Getting people on board with your initiative will make it easier to build compelling business cases, which could be crucial for getting the required resources made available to you -- especially in scenarios where you don’t have the final say over how every aspect of the business is run. Communication is key. 

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