Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is potentially one of the most low-risk and high-value automation approaches available to the enterprise. RPA tools let you program a bot to perform any number of tasks typically performed by humans, freeing those people up to devote their time to more important tasks.
Among the possible benefits of RPA: cost reduction, operations optimization, improved customer experience, fewer errors, easier management and control, and quick implementation and ROI. Those benefits are driving increasing RPA spending: Gartner projects spending on RPA software to hit $1.3 billion this year, and Forrester forecasts a $2.9 billion RPA software market in 2021.
At the same time, a number of challenges can thwart the greater adoption of RPA in the enterprise. Among them, according to an RPA primer from Everest Group: a lack of robust RPA strategy, limited business understanding or investment, challenges finding experienced RPA resources, organizational change management, IT security and compliance concerns, confusion over tools, trouble identifying key requirements and optimal processes for automation, and unexpected time involved in ongoing maintenance and monitoring.
[ What’s the difference between RPA and AI? Read: Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vs. AI, explained. ]
8 smart RPA habits
How can you beat such challenges? Study how leading organizations scale their use of RPA across the enterprise and their approaches for mitigating or overcoming these issues. Let’s examine eight healthy RPA habits:
1. Develop a clear RPA strategy and roadmap
“Enterprises [with successful RPA teams] establish clearly defined automation charters that outline concrete business objectives and goals that are quantifiable, measurable, and achievable in defined timelines,” says Siddhartha Sharad, director at technology consultancy Pace Harmon.
Taking that a step further, their team members also understand how their work aligns with that strategy and those goals, Sharad says. Tapping RPA vendors or consulting partners to understand how RPA will fit into their existing environment and customize their roadmap can be a good first step, says Everest Group.
[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ]
2. Earn executive buy-in for RPA
“RPA programs have a greater chance of success with C-suite and senior executive commitment,” says Sharad. Sponsorship and energy from the top fuels the funding and focus required to move from initial experimentation to RPA at scale. It also eliminates organizational bottlenecks to help RPA programs grow in prominence, he notes.
It takes effort to educate and align senior leaders and stakeholders, says Everest Group, using industry-specific reference materials and use cases and developing a solid business case.
3. Partner across business functions
End-to-end business processes often cross functional and business unit lines – and so does the related automation. “Regardless of where the sponsorship comes from, successful enterprises are able to ensure multi-functional collaboration to run automation programs,” Sharad says.
RPA leaders assemble cross-functional teams that comprise representatives from business, IT, risk and compliance, operations, and HR in order to align quickly, commit the resources required, and work together to execute RPA programs.
4. Work with compliance and security
Both groups will need to participate to enable robots to access systems and processes that may involve sensitive data, Everest Group advises in its RPA primer. Successful RPA teams bring in these partners early to address concerns around data protection.
5. Build a strong process foundation
“Enterprises that have achieved success in scaling and sustaining RPA do it based on a strong operational and process foundation,” Sharad says. Chances are they have amassed a smart set of reusable tools, have embraced agile and DevOps practices, have robust change and incident management processes, and have strong governance and production controls in place. That enables them to run consistent, stable, and reliable RPA programs, Sharad says.
“Having a change management and governance program in place from the beginning of the journey is crucial for success,” Everest Group notes in its primer. “Effective communication, proper training program (reskilling & upskilling), process ownership and who handles day-to-day robot operations and exceptions, setting up relevant IT infrastructure, division of roles between IT & business functions, and mitigating risks to accommodate a robot+FTE environment are some of the key factors.”
6. Take advantage of complementary technologies
Process mining or discovery technology can help enterprises identify RPA prospects and maintain a healthy automation pipeline, for example. Reusable automation modules, self-healing capabilities, and predictive analytics can enable more effective robot development, maintenance, and monitoring, according to Everest Group. They may also take advantage of RPA vendors that are leveraging AI to improve core RPA functionalities.
[ Want to experiment with RPA without committing to one vendor just yet? Read also: Robotic Process Automation (RPA): 6 open source tools. ]
7. Look to partners for help with RPA skills
You have a number of options for boosting training and education: training programs provided by vendors, online user communities, or even bringing in experienced RPA resources from services providers or systems integrators to get things going while the organization trains its own in-house teams. According to Everest Group, vendors are investing to onboard more certified training partners to offer greater training flexibility and accessibility to clients.
[ Want resources for RPA training? Check out 8 Robotic Process Automation (RPA) training and certification courses. ]
8. Democratize RPA
Having teams across the organization trained and capable of deploying RPA bots to automate basic day-to-day work tasks is a sign of real maturity.
“Automation becomes less of a top-down program and morphs into a foundational capability,” Sharad explains. “A healthy pipeline of automation ideas is generated by ground-level employees. There is widespread adoption of RPA; bots are truly integral to how employees perform work.”
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