Tech Pro Unicorn Podcast: Ten Rules for Success in RPA

Forrester released a great article pointing the way to be successful in RPA and laying a great foundation for Intelligent Automation.  The unicorn analyzes the article and discusses his perspective on RPA.

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Tech Pro Unicorn podcast brought to you by RPI Consultants. A podcast about the magic of digital transformation through technology. Each week we’ll cover topics related to ERP, RPA, business transformation, leadership, healthcare, and unicorns.

Michael:

Hey guys welcome back to another episode of Tech Pro Unicorn. It has been awhile and I do apologize, but we’re back on track. We’ve specifically today are going to talk about some of the noise that’s out there in the RPA space. As RPA gets more and more established, more and more people are trying it and rendering their opinions on it. And I challenge you to be careful about the information or misinformation that might be out in the markets place. And I challenge you to look to some trusted advisors like Gartner, like Forrester. Speaking of Forrester, they did release a really great article that had like to point everybody to it’s called 10 golden rules for RPA success. I’m giving them credit. This is their content. I’m not making any money on this. Forrester didn’t pay me in any way to talk about their article. But when I read it, I thought, man, this is the type of stuff that needs to be out in the RPA sphere right now. So that people really have a good idea.

Michael:

I want to highlight some of the things in the article. And again, I challenge you to go to forrester.com and download this article. One of the key takeaways that they had was RPA is easy to get into, but hard to master. So true, right? With low cost of entry, to get a bot from any of the major players being in the 10 to $15,000 range, it’s relatively easy to get a bot. That’s not the challenge, right? Maybe getting 10 to $15,000 approved from a budget or capital perspective might be a challenge. But once you got a bot, you’re sitting there going, okay, now what do I do? And maybe you get one process up and running, and then you’re left with, now what? There’s a lot of road mapping, a lot of scaling and planning for it that has to absolutely happen.

Michael:

People cut corners all the time, which is another one of their takeaways from the article. And I challenge you to stay the course when you start cutting corners and start looking for cheaper products or cheaper ways to do it, or it’s got to go faster, that’s where people get frustrated, disenfranchised, and eventually their RPA program falls apart. And then they go, RPA doesn’t work. RPA works, your process, your methodology, your approach, your roadmap, your strategy, that didn’t work. Sometimes they sit there and they’ll say, it’s all about the bots. And there’s a human element. And there we don’t want bots because it’s going to affect our workforce. And we’re all about the people. We’re all about the people too. I just want the people to be happier. I want them to spend their time doing meaningful things at a lower cost to the organization where you retain your best resources and you have them do really amazing things for your customers.

Michael:

I’m all about the human too. When I talk about automation, trust me, those of you that know me, I am highly connected to that workforce and making sure that everyone has a great job, that they’re happy to come to every day and they find great work to do in a job that’s very rewarding to them. So let’s look at some of their top 10 things. One of the things that they put out there is scaling. Where are people falling down? They’re falling down on scaling this. They get a robot. And then they’re like, why aren’t we saving tons of money? Well, because you only have one robot. And when I look at it, you probably only have it doing a few things. You want to have a pipeline backed up so that this robot, totally is utilized 24 hours a day and you buy another robot and you buy another robot and you buy another robot.

Michael:

Because you’re just automating all these processes and freeing up your people from doing this stuff that they don’t want to do. I always say, let’s go find the angry people and look at what they’re doing. When we find them, let’s go automate that so that they don’t have to do the work that’s making them angry anymore. Right. Then people don’t have to be angry about all of this and they can focus on the work that they would rather do. Scaling is important, comes to a strategy. Know what you’re going to do know when you’re going to do it now, what order you’re going to do it. We want to do the lowest effort, highest reward stuff first. And then the complex things that are going to take us a while to code and get right and tests. Let’s put those off a little bit.

Michael:

Well, let’s sprinkle those in along the way. So we get some quick wins, we get some momentum and then we can tackle the harder things. So really a great article. And they talk about three components that I talk about a lot as well, process. If you have a terrible process, the last thing you want to do is just automate it. We want to make that process better and then we want to automate it. And we’ll talk more about that in a second. Governance, you have to have a plan on how you’re going to secure control, maintain, and update this digital workforce. You don’t just hire workers and set them free in your organization. You supervise them, you direct them, you maintain them. You review them. Same type of thing with digital workers a little bit easier because they don’t talk back.

Michael:

The cultural and organizational readiness is another area that I see people falling down all the time. They have one department or one sponsor, and it’s not at the C level and it’s not high enough. And they don’t understand the vision and they’re not bought into it. And they maybe are just appeasing somebody and letting them try something that doesn’t work. We need the right level of organizational readiness. We need the organization to understand the opportunity here, and we need them to seize it and really line up those processes for us. So that when you want to get across the organization to those departments, those people are bought in and they’re ready. And they’re like, Oh, thankfully, you’re here. Here’s the things that we want to work with. You notice I said, work with you, not have done to us, that they want to work with you on, in automating their processes, so their people can do more with less.

Michael:

Let’s get into the 10 rules. Rule one that Forrester points out is, align the RPA efforts with the broader digital transformation goals. And I love this. We’re going to do a series on ERP and RPA. Because what’s happening is people are upgrading their ERP and they’re moving to cloud ERP. Okay, great. And then they’re like, Michael, that didn’t save us tons of money. And that didn’t create all this automation that reduced our workforce. What doesn’t? RPA is about getting you the latest and greatest… I’m sorry. ERP is about getting you the latest and greatest functionality. You want to move to a cloud ERP because it’s more secure. It’s more accessible. It’s faster. It’s better. It’s cheaper. Got it. You also get all the latest and greatest functionality so that you can better serve your customers and your internal business needs.

Michael:

That’s what ERP gets you. It doesn’t necessarily get you this automation that reduces your workforce. You’re still going to have accountants. You’re still going to have people doing reconciliations. Where RPA comes in, is it sits on top of the ERP and it then automates that. It logs into your ERP for you. It does the automation. It pulls all these files from everywhere. And does the uploads. It does all of that. That’s where the synergy comes. That’s where the secret sauce is, is in RPA, coupled with a modern cloud-based ERP. That’s where you’re going to get it. And so rule number one spot on, I talk about holistic digital transformation all the time. You can’t talk to me about one thing and not be willing to talk about the other. And I get it. You go, Michael, it’s really expensive already. You’re not going to save a ton of money by moving to cloud ERP.

Michael:

That’s not where you’re going to get your cost savings. So how do I pay for the $5 million to go to cloud ERP? You pay for it with a $15,000 robot that allows you to reduce your workforce or repurpose your workforce, or do more with less with your workforce without having to add additional labor and that savings in labor offsets over a three to five-year ROI, the investment that you just made into your ERP. That’s how this synergizes, that’s how this works. Both of them working together, you can’t do one without the other. Well you can, and most people do. And that’s why they’re not getting the ROI that they want out of either of these. So rule number one, glad it’s number one. It is super important that you think about all of this holistically with a broader digital transformation goal, where you’re looking at things like machine learning, chat bots, artificial intelligence, but don’t try to take them on at once, we’ll talk about that.

Michael:

Building a pragmatic case for RPA start small. That’s what I’m going to say about that. Get one robot in there and prove that it works right. Once we got worm robot in there and it’s working and people see it, it becomes a reputable. People can’t people can’t disagree with it then. People go, Oh, is that an RPA environment? Yes. Oh, you’ve taken away and diffused all of their excuses. Then they’re like, Oh, well can this be better? Can this work more? How do we do this in our department? And now you’re starting to build internal champions and momentum. Really think about what you’re going to do when you’re going to do it and then do it. And I really want to highlight that, do it. Oftentimes people go RPA is going to save $10 million.

Michael:

Be realistic about the business case that you’re building. Don’t overinflate it. And then tell people by year by process, how much you’re going to save and how much it’s going to cost. And if you do that, that’s where you’re going to get your business case. And once you’ve proven that it works in a small case, then it’s just chunking at it. And you want to approach the things that are high reward, low costs first, obviously. Rule number three, treat RPA as an enterprise platform. Yes, yes, yes. Oftentimes I see this department doing RPA and I’m like, Oh, well, what are they doing over here? Well, they’re not doing RPA. Why? Why is this not a tool that is spread across the organization? Why are one department benefiting from it, and no one else is? And then people go, well, they don’t want it.

Michael:

Okay. Well that tells me your sponsorship of RPA is not high enough. You need to get higher in the organization. Go talk to the CFO and go, “Hey, look at this. We’re saving all this money. Look at all these other opportunities across all these other areas. Shouldn’t we go save money there?” And they’re going to go, “Absolutely. How much is it going to cost me to save that?” If I tell you it’s going to cost you a dollar, but I’m going to give you $5, you know what you’re going to do? You’re going to hand me a dollar. Make sure that your business case is sound, not overinflated. And then treat this as an enterprise tool that everybody can benefit from. And then really look at where RPA is best served. Don’t use RPA for everything, but use RPA where it makes the most sense. And there’s a ton of areas.

Michael:

Secure your bots. This gets back to governance. A lot of times I see all these bots and they’re sitting on people’s desktops because that’s, where it was installed. They have no strategy. They don’t have IT involved. It is a complete mess. And these are IT assets. They need to sit in IT so before you react and go, “But Michael, we the business want to develop bots.” I hear you. I totally agree with you. I want to support that position, but they need to sit in IT so that they are secured, error handling, maintenance, software license renewal, all that is being handled by IT. Get IT involved, make sure your sponsorship is there first so that IT doesn’t react and go, we are not having bots in our environment. Sometimes they’ll do that because they’re threatened.

Michael:

They don’t understand, they’re overburdened. They don’t want to do it. They have a whole host of reasons. They have better ideas. We can do this ourselves. We have a whole team of developers. That’s what you’re trying to avoid. Right? You want user-based people building bots. Get it involved, make sure they understand their role in this and that they can help secure it and such that we don’t have a problem. That’s rule number four. Rule number five, build a pipeline of processes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. So many people go, well, I have this one thing. You don’t want a bot for one thing, you want a bot that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week without taking a break to be full. To make it full and it’s not full on day one, we don’t buy a bot and then all of a sudden everything’s automated.

Michael:

We have to develop all of these processes. It takes time. I’m not trying to downplay the amount of effort here, but what I’m telling you is, you need to have a prioritize a list that you know what that bot is going to move on to next. And there’s all kinds of strategies around, well, we want a bot for HR, and a bot for finance, and a bot for rev cycle, and a bot for this. Okay, you can do that, but now you have the expense of a whole bunch of bots and they’re all operating at 10% capacity. Or you could just say, okay, we’re going to use one bot and we’re going to fill up that bot. And then we’re going to buy two. Lower way, lower expense to get into it.

Michael:

Oftentimes there’s a better way. And then you can always, as you bring more bots online and you get those four bots or whatever, then you can start moving processes to different bots. Again, governance, know what bots are doing, what processes. Rule, number six, look for opportunities to improve, standardize and automate. Again, very important that we improve, standardize and then automate. Do not automate your 50 step 15 year old process. I spoke at a conference once about 100 people in the audience, and I asked them to raise their hands, when the following statement was true. When was the last time you completely from the ground up designed your business processes. Pick payroll, pick finance, pick HR, but just from the ground up, not modified what you add today, but really rethought from the ground up. How you want your business processes to operate.

Michael:

Was that a year ago? No hands five years ago, one or two. 10 years ago, a couple of hands. 15 years ago was when almost everybody had their hands up. And I said, I want you to think about what the world was like 15 years ago, we had flip phones and Pentium chips. Technology was nowhere near where it is today. We didn’t have OCR technology that was really reliable. When you’re thinking about your processes, there’s a huge opportunity. Again, partnered with like a cloud ERP that there’s now so many new tools. You really have to rethink everything. Stop trying to take what you’re doing today and put in just pave that cow path and stick it in a cloud ERP and then automate it with RPA, epic fail. Take the tools that are available, rethink the possible on how you want this process.

Michael:

You’re going to take 40 of those 50 steps out. I guarantee you. Because the people that wanted all these reports and all this stuff, they’re not even employed at the company anymore. No one’s even looking at those reports or if they are, they’re looking at them because that’s what was given to them when they took over the job from the person before them, that had that created. Really think about these processes. Now is the time to rethink this, and really hone these processes, using a lean six Sigma type of type of process improvement opportunities. Okay. Improve them, standardize them across your enterprise. Yes. Even that location that says they’re so different, too bad, so sad. You now get standardized and then we’re going to automate that. And those people won’t be there to complain about it anyway. I’m joking of course, I’m joking.

Michael:

Rule number seven, plan for AI, but do not rush in. Yes. Dip your toes in the water. Start with RPA. When you say artificial intelligence, I don’t even know what that means. It means so many different things. I call it a wrapper for things like machine learning. And there is true artificial intelligence. There’s even emotional artificial intelligence now evolving. Chances are you don’t need that. You’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck by doing simple RPA. Focus on simple RPA and let’s get that done first. Plan for an evolution of that into some of these other things, if you need it, but don’t feel you need to buy all of that, all at once. Okay? Keep the humans involved too. Really enable the humans to be the decision makers, have the bots, go get all the information they need and bring it together for the humans to go. Here’s where we should go with the company, make managerial decisions. Bots aren’t going to do that. Humans are still going to do that. Plan for how those two complement each other.

Michael:

Rule number eight, take an innovation view of intelligent automation. I love it. You should be innovating all the time because if you’re not innovating, you are declining. We are in a weird time, obviously with COVID, lots of businesses are closing. People are now working from home. Lots of business opportunities in the economy are totally changing. Innovate. Make sure that you’re really looking at your business and really asking yourself, why are we doing this? How can we do it better, faster, cheaper, and develop those in-house skills. We use what I call a six months, six months, six month model. And you’re going, “Why isn’t that just an 18 month model, Michael?”

Michael:

Because it’s not. Because I’m a unicorn, and because unicorns don’t like the number 18. Six months, you’re going to hire a consultant. They’re going to come in, they’re going to help you set up governance. They’re going to start developing your processes for you. And you’re going “Well, Michael, we want to develop the processes.” Totally get you wait for the next six months. First, six months, let’s get some quick wins in your environment so this thing starts offsetting the costs. Because then when people see like, Ooh, we’ve reduced costs. Yeah. We’ve spent more in RPA, but look where we’ve offset that. Next six months, you’re partnered with that partner and you’re training up your people as well. Now we’re partnered, side-by-side, we’re doing RPA together. It’s totally awesome. You’re learning, we’re learning. And again, we’re delivering value, right. We’re putting more bots out there. More processes are being automated.

Michael:

And then the next six months we start fading back and it’s your team, that’s now had 12 months of exposure to RPA, opportunity to do it and third, developing the of the bots. And we’re just in a support position. We can go home and you can continue on and be successful. Six months, six months, six months, less successful way to do it. I don’t care what anybody else says. They’re not a unicorn than I am. There you have it. Rule number nine, design for humans in the loop. I love this. Sorry, occasionally have to drink too. Unicorns do drink water. Design for the humans. Really think about what you’re going to do with your workforce. Because the reality is, you are going to shorten the amount of time that humans need to spend on these processes because the bots are going to be doing it. Have human assisted AI.

Michael:

Understand in that process where human intervention is needed, maybe to make a decision and tell the bot to go do something or maybe it’s the bot goes and does stuff and brings all that information to a human. That goes, this is very interesting. I decide this. Keep the humans at the center. Let people know, especially from a change management perspective, exactly how the bots are going to be used and how they’re going to compliment the humans. If you keep the humans at the center of this, they’re not worried about losing their job as much. There is no way to avoid the fact that people, when they hear about RPA are thinking about losing their jobs, there is no way that you’re going to avoid that. You’re trying to minimize it. All right.

Michael:

Rule number 10, develop the right automation mindset. This is an organizational problem. Because oftentimes you get a sponsor. They don’t appropriately tell the organization what we’re doing, and your team that’s enabled as a center of excellence or center of intelligence for this, they’re struggling to just get stuff done right and the communication just gets messed up. People feel challenged, people want to challenge this whole bot thing. Change management is wicked important in all of this. Keep the focus on delivery to the customer, the customer, internally, your employees, the customer externally, whatever you happen to sell, those customers. Whether you’re in healthcare, or lumber, or manufacturing, I don’t care. RPA is appropriate for all industries, but make sure that we’re doing the right thing for the company’s mission, vision, values, and for the customer.

Michael:

Make sure that we have the right leadership. I see a lot of this being sponsored out of IT, wrong sponsor. You need an executive sponsor that understands the business value and is going to drive this across the business. Absolutely important. And then, so that was rule number 10. RPA is just a great entry into intelligent and Forester highlights that. You really do want to start small and get some quick wins and build some momentum. Don’t go buy 100 bots. Don’t let people sell you 100 bots. And again, the unicorns on your side. I’m happy to help you. I’m happy to share my experience with it. I’m happy to do whatever I can do, but I really wanted to highlight this Forrester article.

Michael:

It’s possibly the best piece of information I’ve read in a long time on how to be successful with RPA. Because let me tell you, I haven’t seen a lot of failures. It is a bit of a show out there right now. I appreciate you all. Thank you all for tuning in to Tech Pro Unicorn. We are going to do a series next, which is talking about how ERP and RPA complement each other and why it is important to attack both of those simultaneously. And you can go big with ERP and start small with RPA at the same time and help pay for your ERP journey. I’m going to give you that tidbit in the next episode. So you want to stay close. Thank you all. Appreciate you. Go unicorns.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for joining us this week on the Tech Pro Unicorn podcast. Make sure to visit our website at www.techprounicorn.com, where you can subscribe to the show and catch our latest blog articles. While you’re at it, if you found value in this show, we’d appreciate a rating on iTunes. Be sure to tune in next week for our next episode. Remember, unicorns represent the magic of digital transformation that occurs when business process is enabled with technology.