What are the common RPA mistakes?

Even though in some cases it is enough to deploy a single RPA project and the investment is paid back in up to 3 months, the actual RPA journey towards digital transformation is rather long and packed with challenges. Some common initial misconceptions or popular myths in the media lead to a lot of failed attempts at RPA. It is usually related to one or more of the following common mistakes:

  1. Thinking that “anyone can do RPA”. Software vendors often say that their products are easy to use, because no IT and coding skills are needed, and the user interface is very intuitive. But this is usually just a marketing stunt to boost their sales. By far not anyone can automate processes efficiently. And it’s even more difficult to do so in a way where the automated processes would be able to handle all possible contingencies. This requires extensive experience and a certain mindset. It can be solved by hiring experienced developers, outsourcing these services, or training internal staff.
  2. Bad change management (or no change management at all). Any change in the organization needs to be handled correctly. If your employees will think that their processes are being automated in order to cut cost by reducing headcount, they will undoubtedly resist. It is thus extremely important to introduce the RPA initiative well, explain its benefits to the staff and spread the word throughout the whole organization.
  3. Attempting to “bypass IT”. Most RPA solutions are famous for being easy to deploy without the participation of IT, which seems like a very attractive way to solve problems quickly. However, co-operation with IT is necessary in order to use the full potential of RPA, administer it and scale it.
  4. Ignoring success criteria and targets. The RPA journey often loses its pace simply because it is pushed towards reaching a wrong goal. Process automation in itself is not a goal. It is a tool use to achieve actual business targets, such as accelerating customer order handling, enhancing legal compliance by eliminating human errors, improving the decision-making process, etc. Establishing high-level targets and defining the means to measure them is pivotal to a successful RPA journey.
  5. Choosing the wrong processes to automate. Not every process can be fully automated. In some cases, user involvement to a certain extent is necessary. And sometimes the existing data is not enough to train a robot to perform a task efficiently. Attempting to automate a process that cannot be completely automated may lead to disappointment and a premature end of the RPA journey.  It is thus important to select the correct processes to automate, in order to meet the expected results.
  6. Attempting to automate processes “as-is”. A lot of business processes are not documented or standardized, they are often performed in the same way for years without ever considering changing anything. Therefore, process improvement (by applying LEAN Six Sigma methodologies, for instance) is an important stage that needs to happen before making the decision on automation. Process analysis and improvement sometimes reveal that the process itself may not even be needed anymore or are outdated and inefficient. In some cases, improvement may lead to a process becoming efficient enough to not need automation. In other cases, it will make it much easier and thus cheaper to automate a process that is already optimized