People have to be enabled to work with RPA, rethinking their business processes in RPA.
One advantage of RPA is its almost limitless scalability
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The installation of an RPA Center of Excellence depends on your company’s overall RPA approach and preferences.
If your goal is to deeply root RPA in your organization, it is essential to have a CoE team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. In that case, a C-level or higher management sponsor from business operations is a prerequisite. The main task of a CoE is to build substantial internal knowledge about RPA. People have to be enabled to work with RPA, rethinking their business processes in RPA. To sustainably transform a primarily analog workforce into a hybrid digital workforce consisting of humans and software bots working hand in hand, an accompanying change management process is key.
Installing a CoE in SMEs would probably take years, especially when there is not yet an established structure for CoEx. Their RPA potential, in terms of processes and labor hours that could be executed by bots, is often more limited than in big enterprises. A careful evaluation of the cost-benefit analysis in the business case is therefore required.
ERP implementations or custom-made front office applications often suffer from budgetary constraints and long lead times, amounting to incomplete feature sets.
RPA can temporarily replace these missing features while migrating to modern ERP or CRM solutions (usually including these automation features out-of-the-box). The temporary character, however, is relative in the sense that the migration to these new systems might take a while.
By the time these missing features are implemented, RPA should have been scaled up to bots performing essential and non-redundant tasks like capturing end-to-end data streams and bridging process data-silos in between these applications (independent of whether they are modern or legacy software systems).
Long before RPA technology was developed, the outsourcing of business processes (BPO) to lower-cost countries was a way to reduce labor costs and achieve efficiencies. Shared service centers were built all over the globe, acquiring expertise in areas like accounting processes, customer service, and general back-office tasks. The business processes that are nowadays suitable for RPA are more or less the ones that have been outsourced.
The answer, if you should replace BPO with an in-house RPA solution, is not straightforward. While RPA bots are more resilient and less error-prone than humans, they are often struggling with exceptions and non-standardized input data.
Although RPA is often confused with AI, bots cannot think on their own and make decisions unless they are told so by humans. In regard to speed and productivity, bots have a clear advantage over people. They can work 24/7 without any loss of efficiency.
Another advantage of RPA is its almost limitless scalability. Nevertheless, RPA will always require human interaction, for example when it comes to processing changes, managing errors, making decisions, or doing quality checks from time to time. Therefore organizations have to weigh up carefully which option is most suitable for their business model or if a combination of both brings the best output.
When looking for a software vendor, keep in mind that they are basically selling their products. Every software has its pros and cons. No one benefits from buying software that does not meet your requirements or over fulfills them. Get support from software-agnostic solution partners to carefully compare offers. They can also help you with project management, process selection, and optimization as well as in achieving the change of mindset. When selecting a software vendor, take the following into consideration:
Can the software be easily integrated into my existing system landscape?
Accepting digital workers is no different from adopting new roles or recruiting new employees in an organization. The predominant question that drives any human to change is usually “what’s in it for me”.
Unfortunately, many strategic approaches to RPA, with few exceptions, take it as a starting point that an RPA investment should lead to a reduction of the unreliable human workforce. In this case, there is no win-win, and RPA is a clear threat to the human workforce, plain and simple. One will have a very hard time capturing the know-how of human workers, essential to developing robots in this case anyhow, leading to failed RPA attempts.
However, if strategic pitfalls like this one can be avoided, a cultural adoption to synergetic intelligence (bots supporting humans to do better, to go beyond their individual capabilities) can be envisioned, where robots are gladly handed over repetitive tedious tasks, allowing employees to extend their know-how to non-happy paths in the process and exceptions. Mind that 'going the extra mile' or standing out in the customer experience journey (e.g. of correctly handling exceptions) is exactly what will bring more customers to a company today from a highly saturated market.
This is the second installment of an article answering ten burning questions on RPA. Read the first installment.
If you have a question on RPA that you want to see addressed, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.