Many companies have been introducing IT-supported automation for some time, for instance in accounting or HR. The overarching goal of those initiatives is to automate tedious repetitive processes and free up employees to focus on tasks with a bigger value-add. Many RPA programs were introduced in the last two to three years and now need to get to the next maturity stage. Niklaus Wildberger, Managing Director and expert for Robotic Process Automation (RPA), provides four key items that companies should now use to review their RPA strategy to date.
Typically, I see that RPA initiatives are conducted from the operational level. There, decisions often cannot be taken autonomously, for instance on priorization and allocation of resources. Many steps must be signed off “from the top” which leads to a considerable delay. However, quick implementation is one of the key benefits of RPA, and delays can have a significant impact on the bottom line. Therefore, review if you currently grant your RPA programs sufficient decision-making power and creative leeway.
One challenge I often observe is that RPA programs are run somewhat separate from the organization and therefore not fully leveraged. As a best practice, you need to ensure that RPA is not operated in a silo but rather part of a larger set of optimization tools that business and IT are actively considering. This ensures that maximum benefits can be derived from RPA. Additionally, part of an holistic approach is to consider the potential impact on staff required – both additional automation experts to run the program and a potential reduction of staff in other job profiles.
In communication on RPA initiatives I often witnes a prevalence of vocabulary like “trim down”, “save”, and “focus”. For many recipients of such message especially in the wider employee population, this will trigger a negative reaction: ultimately, a successful RPA introduction is difficult without employee backing. If ones job is perceived to be under threat, there will be little support. Communication must therefore be designed from the target group perspective and include balanced information about how their workplace will be impacted by the RPA initiative. In my experience, it is key to follow a fair process approach. This means to highlight the positives (e.g. new opportunities and job offerings), but also to be open about potential negative consequences to those who may lose their jobs. With a clear and respectful communication – even during a time of transformation for the company, the basis for a successful next stage of the RPA program can be laid.
Until now, the RPA market was primarily divided between three providers – UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blueprism. While UiPath has recently launched their successful IPO, large players such as SAP and Microsoft have entered the market, are investing heavily and are offering RPA for a very low additional cost as part of bigger package. Currently, their offering is not at the level of the technological market leaders, but expect the gap to shrink rapidly in the next couple of years. If you are currently considering to substantially expand your RPA program, it is worthwhile to review your software provider, either as a complement or supplement. Some current players might not survive in the medium term. It is worthwhile to consider the options to keep your technological options open.
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