Robotic process automation: Why so skeptical?

Written by Jordan McMahon in Software robots in the workplace on April 21, 2015

RPA is a hot technology. It’s in Fortune 500 companies. It’s in BPOs. And now shared services organizations are talking about it too. The benefits that RPA promises are a slam dunk for any company: cost savings, a near-zero error rate, quality and compliance improvement, extending the value of existing investments, processes that can run themselves 24/7, re-focusing the workforce on value-added work, potentially limitless’s seems to check all the boxes.  

Yet there are the Agent Mulder-like skeptics who “want to believe” but are struggling to separate hype from reality.

And, and like any new technology, this is completely normal. 

RPA skeptics have posed plenty of valid questions, many of which you might also might be asking yourself. And we think we can help answer them.

Let’s start the de-mystification process with these 3 FAQs: 

If RPA is this amazing, then why hasn’t everyone adopted it? 
It’s less about “adoption” and more about “awareness.” RPA software is still in its infancy, to a degree, a fact that is magnified when it comes to new markets, like the outsourcing community. When it comes to actual adoption, there is typically a bottom-up approach first. At a departmental level, teams can download the software and start automating the very same day. When it extends to the entire organization, automation becomes more of a top-down approach where goals are defined, awareness is created, and executives determine what type of efficiency needs to come from automation initiatives. 

We already automate in our company. Why use this? 
It’s a safe bet that plenty of automation already exists in a variety of mediums throughout your company. But many of these systems are script-based, require intensive manual labor, or don’t save people from performing the rote work automation is supposed to free them from. 

If you have BPM or BPaaS systems in place, you could still have 50 people creating automation scripts manually. If you have IT people coding automated tasks, they are probably doing it very well, but are doing much more work than necessary. What the IT guys create is usually good, and there’s absolutely no need to discard what they already have going. But RPA can keep it going—faster and on a larger scale—so that they don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. 

Speed and repeatability is what gets you the ROI, and having to get teams of programmers to automate won’t get you there fast enough. It could take 6 months to a year to automate that way. And that is precisely why people often aren’t automating—ROI is too protracted to make it worthwhile. RPA software is designed to combat that problem. Out-of-the-box functionality and scriptless technology make it possible to achieve the same results in a fraction of the time. 

Is it really “drag, drop, go?” 
RPA software makes it much, much easier to automate tasks since it is a scriptless form of technology—meaning business and IT users can both learn and utilize it. The technology is absolutely drag, drop, go, repeat. But the amount of time it takes to automate tasks depends on the level of complexity. Automating complex tasks requires putting time, effort, and thoughtfulness towards the process, and can take several weeks from just musing about automating to having the process fully automated and tested. However—as anyone who has automated a business-critical process will tell you—the gains are almost immediate. (Want proof of this? We’ve got some examples here, here, and here). And weeks to automate a complex, business-critical process far outweighs 6 months to a year to complete the same one without the technology. 

What are some questions you have about RPA software? Ask us! We’ll be doing more in the “skeptical” series— stay tuned.