Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, has gained popularity for its ability to automate complex and time-consuming tasks. But introducing RPA into your organization can itself be time-consuming, expensive, and outright confusing if not approached correctly. Before you buy into the promises of automation, make sure you can answer these 10 questions that will prepare you for the rewarding journey ahead.
- Is automation already being considered in your organization?
While the concept of RPA may be new to you, it may not be new to your organization. It is surprising how many large organizations have several different RPA pilots running simultaneously across different departments and with different software providers. While there may be some benefit to seeing how different vendor’s technologies perform in different environments, this disconnected approach (whether accidental or by design) makes expanding automation across the organization more difficult and more expensive. Why pay for 4 different RPA licenses from 4 different vendors when you could have automated all of them with the same license? How do we account for a knowledge transfer in case of employee turnover? Make sure the organization approaches RPA with a unified vision so the initiative starts off right and scales effectively.
- What is your organization’s appetite for automation?
Once you are sure RPA hasn’t already been introduced and adopted by your organization, you need to confirm if there is an appetite for automation in general. Sometimes a seemingly obvious improvement is absent because someone higher up previously considered and rejected it. For RPA to be initiated and adopted, key stakeholders need to see the benefits and be willing to invest in change when it matters. While it is easy to digest the benefits of RPA, many automation projects are halted at the executive level due to a lack of knowledge, interest, funding, priority, or some combination thereof.
- Is the team prepared for change?
Ironically, it takes more than just robots for an automation initiative to succeed; it takes people. Sure, people design and implement the bots, but more importantly the team whose processes get automated need to be informed and on board. Many believe the myth that if RPA comes to your company, it will outright replace people. In reality, RPA automates the repetitive and rule-based activities that people do which enables them to focus their time on more productive and thought-provoking activities. While a few positions may be at risk of downsizing, most people will merely be relieved of the tasks computers should have been handling all along.
But even if the impact is not as severe as people make it out to be, introducing a new technology that alters the routines of team members requires a company culture that is flexible and receptive to change.
- What is your vision for automation?
What are you looking to accomplish with RPA? Perhaps you are personally frustrated with a single task that you think could be automated quickly and cheaply, such as sending notifications or manipulating excel files. Or maybe you are an IT professional who knows about RPA and you are trying to fit it into a long-term digital transformation strategy. Clearly defining the project’s scope will significantly impact how you proceed. If there is something simple you want to automate and you have no intention of scaling beyond that single process then you may want to hire a (relatively) cheap freelancer who can automate it in about a week. If the plan is to introduce RPA into a department (or several departments) with multiple process stages that affects dozens of people and millions of dollars, it would be in your best interest to consider an implementation partner.
A common mistake is starting somewhere in-between these two scenarios with a quasi-complex process that doesn’t require a leading RPA vendor, but inevitably causes issues when trying to scale. Depending on your organization’s size, interest, and budget, sometimes it is better to invest early to prepare for growth – as opposed to stumbling through upgrades, improvements, and new vendors and licenses down the road. Correctly defining your RPA goals early will enable you to select the ideal RPA vendor as well as scale the initiative at the appropriate pace.
- What is RPA capable of?
While it is important to have goals for what you hope