5 Change Management Best Practices for RPA

Do you know that a lack of effective change management is the leading cause of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) failure? According to the Global IA Report by the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON), 44% of enterprises—a plurality—reported that was the case.

What is change management? As we explained in an earlier blog, “Choosing a SaaS Technology Partner for Enabling Change Management,” change management can take many forms. But in terms of technology, according to CIO, it’s “the process for reviewing, approving, testing, and installing a new piece of equipment, a cloud instance, or a new release of an application.”

In this blog, we'll go over five change management best practices for implementing RPA in particular.

#1: Pay attention to people and processes as well as technology

Change management is especially important when implementing RPA because of the people and process angles. To approach an RPA initiative solely from the point of view of technology is to doom it to failure. Yet, that is what many businesses do. In such cases, you’re likely to get resistance—from employees and managers—who don’t understand and are fearful of the technology. RPA requires process changes, too, because you should be improving processes as you automate them. Poor change management when it comes to people and processes can result in users resisting or even derailing your RPA initiative.

People, processes, and technology—in that order—are needed to achieve successful change management.

#2: Have a clear “after” vision—and real-world examples—before presenting RPA to your employees

In theory, automation allows a business to re-envision how it operates. It should seize the chance to reorganize and reinvent processes for the new digital age. But in practice, this is scary stuff for employees. So, you should announce your RPA program only after you have a demonstratable vision. In other words, be prepared to show, not tell. Otherwise, your employees won’t understand what automation looks like, what it can achieve, and why it’s to their benefit for it to be deployed. You can’t expect them to get behind something unless they have some tangible evidence to chew over. If you do this, by the time you have communicated and educated in an effective follow-on strategy, your employees will hopefully get behind the initiative.

#3: Get essential institutional process knowledge out of employees’ heads and into RPA bots

Traditionally, intimate knowledge about processes and the best ways to complete them has been stored in employees’ heads. Even if procedures have been documented, changes there are some tips and tricks that only your experienced workers are aware of.

By capturing, documenting, and digitizing process knowledge, RPA does more than just streamline manual tasks—it is now a valuable repository of institutional knowledge.  

#4: Verify technical feasibility and business value

Feasibility and value are important. Technical feasibility is critical, or you won’t get the business value you’ve projected in theory. The best way to do this is to work in short, iterative cycles that deliver rapid results rather than the traditional waterfall development approach. These “sprints” can validate the business value even as you verify that you are technically on track.

Additionally, the RPA solution should integrate well with your existing infrastructure and shouldn’t need you to modify or upgrade it significantly.

#5: Get executive buy-in

By starting at the top of your organization and getting a senior executive to back your project, attempting to change your culture, your organizational processes, and, perhaps, even your structure will go much more smoothly.

Getting this buy-in from senior management and making sure all employees understand the bigger picture will go a long way to getting them on board.

Keep people and processes in mind

Time after time, businesses have learned that even the best technology, applied ineffectively or in a vacuum, won’t achieve sustainable change. What’s needed: an integrated strategy that attempts to change the organization by understanding how people, processes, and technology interact.

In the end, businesses that get the most from RPA will consider employees’ needs as well as those of the business. Rather than trying to sell them on advantages to the balance sheet or income statement, try to communicate how the technology will help them by making their jobs less routine and freeing them up for higher-value work. This will win them over—and add up to winning for your company.

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