Common Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pitfalls

Common Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pitfalls

RPA is gaining acceptance especially in the finance and telecom industries however we have spoken to a number of executives and there are plenty RPA failure stories, too. We outlined some of the most common pitfalls and later explain them in detail:

  • Organizational pitfalls:
    • Lack of time commitment from local team
    • Lack of leadership buy-in
  • Process pitfalls:
    • Choosing a process with insignificant business impact
    • Choosing a too complex process
    • Choosing a process where better custom solutions exist
  • Technical pitfalls:
    • Choosing a solution that requires intensive programming

Organizational alignment is key for any project’s success

Especially in projects where there’s no outside implementation partner, organizational alignment is key because your organization will be responsible for the whole solution. Both local team and leadership needs to be fully on-board, with top management regularly reviewing progress and local teams devoting significant time to automating processes getting help from departments like Strategy.

Adjacent teams that rely on automated processes also need to be notified and convinced in advance and especially in the beginning of automation they should be on the lookout for any issues.

The most important decision is the process to be automated

Ideal process is impactful, simple, lacks a custom solution and is difficult to be automated with non-RPA techniques. Let’s explain all 4 points:

Business impact is key to excite the organization. RPA project on a process with low business impact will have little momentum. Processes with high business impact tend to be high volume, high effort processes that touch the customer. Nothing like telling a CEO we can approve loans in 2 minutes rather than 2 days.

Process complexity is important. Processes involving high level cognitive tasks are bad candidates for automation.

Custom solutions tend to outperform generic solutions and RPA is a very generic solution. For example, Anant Kale from AppZen recently mentioned how some companies are trying to use RPA for expense audits. I think that’s a great example for a process where a high quality custom solution exists. No RPA solution will be able to go into as much depth as AppZen can over an expense item.

AppZen has a database of fraud patterns and built a knowledge layer of where and how people spend for travel and entertainment (T&E). An RPA solution will not have access to any of that data and will likely perform poorly compared to a custom expense auditing solution. However, managing multiple solutions brings new IT complexities so better make sure that the new custom solution is worth the effort of migration.

RPA is not the only mode of automation. Replacing legacy systems or building powerful API interfaces to legacy systems can help you automate numerous processes with less effort than building RPA solutions. Because RPA systems use imperfect screen scraping solutions, upgrading legacy systems offer faster and more accurate automation solutions.

RPA is an evolving field, don’t buy outdated solutions

Bankers, especially those on the technical side, like to boast how they are actually running tech companies and using the state of the art. However when we start discussing how they implement RPA solutions, some have not even heard about self-learning automation solutions. Newer solutions called cognitive automation or intelligent automation (depending on the company promoting the solution) are able to watch as automatable work is performed by humans, learn the automation needed and takeover when ready.

Especially when you are outsourcing your RPA setup to a consultant or BPO, keep in mind that they may have a conflict of interest. Programmable solutions take longer to implement and therefore result in longer billable hours, however such programming may not be needed if cognitive automation is used.

So far these have been the cases I frequently heard from the trenches. Will keep on updating as we hear more implementation stories. Please leave a comment if you have other stories.

Now that you know what to avoid, it may be a good time to learn how to design your RPA implementation or choose the right RPA vendors for your business.

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