Why Companies Fail with Their RPA Program: 3 Common Mistakes | SYKES Digital Insights Skip to main content
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RPA (Robotic Process Automation) has been a hot topic in digital transformation, and rightfully so. It can drive out costs, improve customer experiences and return a significant number of hours to the business. RPA’s capabilities can even be leveraged for digital business needs such as real-time analytics. In fact, already in 2018, Gartner coined RPA the fastest growing software category in digital transformation.

So why have less than 15% of companies scaled their RPA programs? 

A common misassumption with RPA is that you will achieve quick and continuous ROI, regardless of solution or implementation, when in fact as much as 50% of companies fail with their RPA programs.

As a digital transformation specialist with a robust partner ecosystem of automation solutions, companies often look to us for help after failing with their first program. From assessing their first automation run, we typically identify three common mistakes:

  • A lack of vision and senior leadership support
  • Not being able to scale transformation
  • Following ‘false prophets’

Whether you are just starting your RPA journey or are already far into your RPA program, you’re more likely to succeed by avoiding these common pitfalls.

A Lack of Vision and Senior Leadership Support

Our experts at SYKES Digital Services, points out that the most frequent mistake made in any automation program is kicking off without a clear vision and senior support.

While Intelligent Automation (IA) can drive transformation, initiatives without a vision, specific to automation, are set for failure. All too often, RPA adoption happens based on ‘heads’ or ‘leads’ of departments without consulting someone with the right expertise, knowledge, and vision. A strategic alignment between senior leadership and subject matter experts is key to driving success.

Early executive commitment and support will lead to a broader and more robust transformation with realistic budgets, stronger adoption, and more measurable results. Furthermore, the importance of looking to automation with an enterprise-wide strategy and developing a clear purpose for your program to solve specific problems should not be underestimated.

Businesses that embark on their RPA journey without a holistic vision and leadership commitment risk implementing their program in departmental silos. When this happens, the program will yield limited results.

A distinct benefit of automation technology is that it can function as the glue between disparate systems, enabling a seamless workflow. When programs are implemented in departmental silos, you prevent this from happening. Siloed programs are also harder to scale at a later stage, which leads us to the next common pitfall…

Failing to Achieve Automation Transformation at Scale

Achieving scale after piloting a program is perhaps the biggest challenge in any automation journey. Typically, we see a few repeat reasons for why businesses get stuck after implementing a few bots.

The most common setback of a siloed program is when it hits the department limits of where it started. That’s why developing a cross-functional vision and alignment from the outset is key to achieve scalability.

Another roadblock is the lack of proper planning. Without a solid implementation plan and clearly defined KPIs that support goals and objectives, organizations struggle to set the needed strategy to scale successfully.

Finally, automating the wrong processes is a key hindrance to scalability. While many leverage process mining to identify organizational inefficiencies, uncover cost drivers and tasks prone to human error, it can also be leveraged to find the best automation fits or to fine-tune an existing process so that it becomes automation-ready with a clear opportunity to scale.

Following ‘False Prophets’

There’s a lot of hype around RPA, and a lot of competing claims that promise extraordinary results based on the use of robots. Typically, we see two common misconceptions arising from this hype: (1) purchasing a few robots will solve all your problems, and (2) all robots are made equal. Those who start their automation journey holding onto these beliefs are in for a disappointment. Because, as with any aspect of digital transformation, there is no magic button and certainly no “one size fits all” solution.

Before getting swept up in the RPA craze, there are some important questions you need to address. What is the size of your organization? How do you sell and deliver your products and services? What problems do you want to solve? How much support and governance do you need? The answers to these questions will all be influencing factors in adopting the right automation solution fit for your purposes.

It’s essential to understand where RPA shines and where its limitations are. For instance, while RPA can work with existing systems and environments, it relies on structured data to operate optimally. If the limitation of a solution is not recognized, you risk driving more friction in your organization.

Moreover, when bots are used to process tasks they are not designed for, their true capabilities will be marginalized. “It’s no different to building a ‘human based’ organization, where there are very different skills at play including finance, sales, supply chain, and customer service roles. The same is true of RPA, so before committing to a tool, think about the process you want to transform and then pick the appropriately skilled robots,” our experts emphasize.

It may be tempting to start to scale your RPA program before addressing the stickier questions required to set your program up for success, but laying the right foundation is a game-changer. Finding the right tech stack is only half the battle; the rest entails aligning your chosen technology with the right strategy and implementation methodologies. Only then can your RPA program achieve truly transformative results.

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