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Updated by Charles Bystock on 02/12/2020

Many enterprise organizations are leveraging robotics process automation (RPA) to automate workflows, reduce costs, and improve worker efficiency. Automation is controversial; even the idea of automation can cause anxiety among employees who worry they’ll lose their jobs to machines. Yet, RPA remains a good vehicle to improve workflows in small increments at the departmental level, ensuring that change occurs in smaller ripples versus a disruptive tsunami. To gain the most value from RPA, some best practices must be followed.

Start small and scale

Often, enterprise organizations are simply too large and too global to automate simultaneous workflows. Instead, RPA consulting allows organizations to start small and scale changes that will automate individual workflows. This improves stakeholder buy-in for incremental change while saving companies time and labor.

Understanding RPA is the first step toward transformation. RPA is a subset of workflow automation that uses computerized robots to perform manual human work in technology platforms. Redundant human tasks that have multiple interactions with several non-interoperable systems are good targets for RPA. Bots can perform mundane tasks at lightning speeds, from parsing data cells in Excel to mouse clicks and keystrokes, data transfers, and even simple interactions with customers. But the drawback of RPA is that it cannot connect individual tasks to streamline work. Instead, RPA can perform individual tasks while workflow automation pulls it all together.

Some simple tasks for RPA applications include:

  • Collecting statistics
  • Copying and pasting
  • Moving files
  • Opening emails
  • Culling structured data from documents
  • Writing to databases

Together, RPA and workflow automation can improve many manual corporate processes, freeing up employees to refocus on more skill-based tasks. But launching RPA process improvement is tricky; without buy-in from stakeholders, the project will fail. 

Develop stakeholder buy-in

Chief information officers (CIOs) are investing in RPA process improvement, but both McKinsey and Deloitte found that very few of these bot-driven processes succeed.

Concern over automated workflows is not isolated to individual employees; managers and other leaders may echo the concerns as well. For example, if RPA is used to reduce costs, managers may worry about a corresponding loss in budget. Understanding the reasons behind RPA is the key to stakeholder buy-in at every level. Presenting digitization as a way to allow individuals to work smarter and spend less time on redundant tasks is ultimately the goal of RPA. Ensuring all stakeholders understand the reason for the new automated process is crucial to the success of any RPA initiative.

All technology implementations require stakeholder buy-in, but particularly RPA. Overcoming fears of “the robots will take my job,” is crucial to the success of these initiatives. Overlooking the interwoven politics in these endeavors will potentially sabotage successful outcomes. Employee backlash, insufficient funding from senior players, or an uncooperative tech team could sink your project. Developing robust communications that address the benefits of RPA as a tool to optimize skills and processes is critical to these initiatives. Establishing governance structures that clarify roles, relationships, and accountabilities also is crucial for RPA change management.

Use RPA to continually improve

Robotic process automation rests firmly within the construct of continual improvement. These tools can affect not only process improvement initiatives, but also customer interactions and company use of structured and unstructured data.

RPA is not about replacing, but rather reskilling — empowering employees to add more value to corporate processes. For example, instead of processing transactions, employees can concentrate on improving the customer experience. As such, RPA is directly correlated with continuous improvement of both data and tasks to create workflows that are more efficient, less costly, and higher quality.

The significance of RPA over the next decade will extend across every area of business, from sales and deliverables to logistics, data capture, and management. The next phase of RPA will accelerate as it joins forces with machine learning and artificial intelligence to create cognitive automation. Understanding and preparing for the impact of RPA can help your organization succeed. Contact Windsor Group Sourcing Advisory today.