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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers tremendous potential for businesses to accelerate and streamline their operations, improving the work experience for everyone involved. Even so, as with any tool, RPA must be used properly to get the maximum benefit. To that point, here are six of the most common regrets businesses experienced last year in how they approached the technology. Those regrets offer valuable lessons going forward.

Regret #1: Choosing the wrong processes to automate

It’s critical to understand processes before choosing the ones to automate and to make sure they’re rule-based and highly predictable, without the need for much thinking or decision-making. As mentioned earlier, although RPA has lots of potential, it can’t do everything. Even intelligent RPA, which infuses artificial intelligence (AI) into basic RPA, has its limitations. 

RPA is not a good fit for a process that:  

  • Frequently changes—whether due to the whim of a supervisor or market fluctuations, changes force one to constantly edit software robots (bots) to match the new scenario. 
  • Lacks impact—A process seems perfect for automation—clear, repetitive, rules-based, etc.—but in the end, the automated process doesn’t offer much benefit over a manual one.
  • Requires automating too-high-level, cognitive tasks—again, asking RPA to do more than its current capability can result in failure.
  • Would be better suited to a custom technology solution—Sometimes, applications—such as those targeting a specific process within a particular industry—work better and can be deployed immediately, without weeks of development time.

Regret #2: Not optimizing processes before automating them

Then, there are the processes one simply automates without thinking about them. Let’s say the customer service people are tired of swiveling their chairs and cutting and pasting. By this time, you are wiser on many fronts (see #1). The only problem is that you don’t question the process. You just automated the manual one—which turns out to be Byzantium and inefficient, requiring numerous approvals and escalations along the way.

The lesson here is that RPA is only a means of automating processes—not necessarily improving them. If the processes are slow, inefficient, and illogical, RPA can only do so much to speed them up.

Regret #3: Not securing enough high-level buy-in

Imagine a director of sales wanting to automate the process of how fresh incoming leads are distributed to salespeople. But it turns out her ideas for managing this critical aspect of the sales funnel don’t jive with those of senior management. Oops—a lot of work down the drain.

Yes, RPA—and, especially, intelligent automation—can help you achieve digital transformation. But you need support from the very top of the organization. Businesses that embark on their RPA journeys without a holistic vision and leadership commitment risk implementing their program in departmental silos. When this happens, the program will yield limited results.

Regret # 4: Not aligning RPA projects with business’ strategic objectives

This is closely aligned with Regret #3. Even if one has a senior vice president signing on the dotted line of RPA plans, that executive might not be paying enough attention or have the bandwidth to oversee every move. It’s important to schedule monthly—or even weekly—strategy meetings between your center of excellence (CoE) and your executive sponsor so that RPA initiatives are aligned with plans on how best to grow the company, improve business performance, and serve customers better.

Regret #5: Poor communication with the employees who will be affected

You know that RPA is a job booster, that it augments and improves the lives of workers. But employees may not realize this. They should be trained and educated about RPA and its capabilities to help reduce change resistance and speed up the implementation process. Understanding RPA capabilities not only helps in managing expectations but also in identifying new automation opportunities.

Regret #6: Forgetting to plan for after-implementation maintenance

What happens after bots go into production? Ongoing maintenance can be the greatest post-implementation challenge—and the most overlooked. It’s a mistake not to allocate time to manage and maintain those bots. Needs can change. Glitches can happen. RPA adds a new responsibility to process owners.

Be prepared

Regrets, and missteps, noted. Lessons learned. Put the lessons to work to help smooth your RPA initiatives and make the most of the technology in this new year.


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