Why does RPA Fail? 5 Reasons Automation Can Get You Into Trouble


robotic process automation, Intelligent automation, RPA fail, RPA failures, automation fail
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Introduction: What is RPA and how does it work?

In 2020, in the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than half of all U.S. companies were planning to increase their investments in automation technology. This was to stay competitive and keep pace with changing market conditions. At the core of this shift is robotic process automation (RPA).

RPA is the use of software robots to automate repetitive, routine business tasks. It can give important time back to back to the employees and help them focus on high-value tasks. RPA software sits on a server or user desktop and interacts with the user interface (UI) as a human would. 

It is technology agnostic and works with websites and desktop applications. It is great for task/process automation, but it should not be regarded as artificial intelligence. Yet, is becoming more intelligent (more on that in an upcoming article).

Globally, around 30 to 50 percent of initial RPA projects fail. According to RPA vendor, Robocorp, 11 out of 12 automation projects fail. This is an unacceptably high rate. With technology companies claiming they transform business operations and outlining clear advantages, why do so many RPA projects fail?

RPA fails because companies and those who propagate the technology misunderstand how to implement it. In this article, we’ll cover just 5 of the reasons why RPA fails, and how to prevent it.

The 5 Reasons RPA Fail and How to Prevent RPA from Getting You into Trouble

1. Governance

Usually, when an organization points to an inability to deliver sufficient ROI, it’s because it did not invest in adequate management and oversight for the program. 

While RPA can replace many manual tasks, project management isn’t one of them. When RPA was first introduced, it was surrounded by significant hype. This caused many companies to believe it would be a silver bullet. In this case, they may not have approached the program with the rigor it required. They assumed the business workforce need only attend a few training courses and they would – without the support of the IT group – generate enough extensive automation to scale a program. 

Experience, both our own, and that of the market, have proven this wrong. While RPA can successfully be used by citizen developers (non-technical business users who create their low-code automation), without enough oversight and partnership with IT, needless automation with poor ROI can lead to significant extra costs, maintenance, rework and even risk. 

At SilkFlo, we recommend establishing ongoing alignment mechanisms between your business and IT. There are several organizational structures for RPA governance, including centralised, federated and hybrid – we’ll cover them in an upcoming article. 

The main aim should be to build a solid RPA Center of Excellence. A cross-functional team including both experts in RPA, with experts that have process-specific knowledge, is key during any implementation. 

SilkFlo gives both IT and the business transparency over the entire automation program, while enabling employees to collaborate and contribute effectively. 

2. Poor choice of process

It’s important to evaluate the ROI of automation before implementation. It’s one of the main bottlenecks in RPA development and is a crucial step in deciding whether or not to implement RPA. It is easy to find basic tasks that can be automated, and many managers are keen to push for automation as a way to increase efficiency. Yet, you should consider the true cost of such an endeavour. 

One must factor in: the FTE of the process, it’s frequency, the current rework and review time, application and process stability, input variation, data quality, fully loaded employee cost and a whole host of other factors. 

The aim is to discover the fitness of the process for automation. Then how well-primed the technical environment is. Finally, to understand the potential for automation. Using this data, you can estimate how easy it will be for your team to implement and how much of a return on investment you can expect in the years ahead. 

Silkflo makes this process easy. Once an automation idea is submitted, our inbuilt algorithms immediately qualify it. If you decide to conduct a more in-depth assessment, they will also calculate the benefits for you and provide advanced charting. SilkFlo reduces the risk of automation by putting all the data that you need before you to make the right decision.

3. Failing to scale the program

What happens when you achieve some measure of success and want to scale this across the business? How do you do that? Grow your RPA team? Find more opportunities? 

Deloitte reports that only 8% of organisations are able to scale their RPA initiatives.

The majority of RPA projects today focus on improving the efficiency and accuracy of administrative work. With increased automation, organizations can now free up time for employees to work on more complex and important tasks that will lead to greater organizational success.

Why not do the same for your internal Center of Excellence? 

A survey we performed of over 34 RPA professionals via Linkedin showed that over 84% of intelligent automation programs are run, managed and tracked using excel spreadsheets and various repositories. 

The best way to scale is by giving your employees the tools they need to run the Automation Lifecycle efficiently. 

SilkFlo provides your team with a single, collaborative environment from which to plan, qualify, and implement new RPA opportunities.  We bring together all the steps in one place, using an industry-driven method and advanced analytics.

4. Unrealistic expectations

The failures of RPA are often rooted in the unrealistic expectations that businesses have of their automation projects. Many people think that they will be able to see immediate results on day one, but this is rarely the case. 

Although such expectations are less prevalent than a few years ago, these still exist. The process of automation takes time and planning, but the benefits are worth it in the end.

RPA is no different to any other technology initiative and you need metrics to measure success and ensure ROI is on track. Just be sure to set achievable goals, and not try and do too much with one tool or RPA project.

Organizations that want to use RPA should be aware that these solutions are not SaaS services that work right out of the box. You might need some help upfront, so you don’t have any problems with supplier relationships later on (yes, there can be fallouts with RPA vendors when frustration sets in).

Set realistic goals when launching an RPA project – but these expectations need to be managed. We’ve seen companies expecting to save over £3million in year 1, before they’ve even accumulated a sizable backlog of ideas – they had a big reality check. RPA can be very powerful and bring great benefits, but when working alone, it can only be used for automation, and expectations must be aligned with what is realistically possible.

5. Siloed RPA deployment

Most digital transformation projects fail because those who rely on it don’t understand how it operates or felt that they were left out of the planning process, said Prince Kohli, CTO at Automation Anywhere. 

Some organizations still prefer to work in archaic silo structures, which conflicts with the agility required to support faster RPA deployments.Typically, RPA activities are undertaken in a waterfall approach. This prevents communication and collaboration between different stakeholders. As a result, these stakeholders are unable to effectively play their part in accelerating the process for deploying RPA.

It’s important to have an organizational structure in place so that communication doesn’t falter. Replace silos with permanent channels of communication and collaboration with your remote employees to ensure work is done efficiently. 

The dual-mode operation, DevOps, and the dynamic systems development method are all techniques that can offer greater agility and faster RPA implementation. 

Capitalize on the skill of non-technical employees who appreciate being involved in bot development and can offer insight into how automation technology can advance business goals. It’s important to have the team that will be using RPA daily to be involved in the process at its conception. This will increase the likelihood of them utilizing and adopting RPA right from the start.

Conclusion: Robots could replace humans one day but they’re not there yet

Automation is a key area for improving productivity in small-medium businesses globally. Many have started their automation journey, yet when they realize their ROI is not as expected, and they need to improve their governance, they are disappointed by the results or abandon the project entirely. 

That’s why we at SilkFlo want to offer scalable implementation and strategy tools to truly support MSPs and small-medium businesses on their journey towards automation success.

Interested? Join our waitlist today!

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