When you’re a C-level executive, every decision counts. When the business isn’t hitting its performance goals, you can’t just shrug your shoulders and pass the buck to your boss. The company’s future success depends on your ability to find a solution.
That’s why robotic process automation (RPA) has become such a hot topic in boardrooms across the world. It promises to solve one of the most long-standing problems in business: the fact that as a company grows, the scale and complexity of its administrative processes tend to increase. The larger the company, the more time people spend on routine tasks, such as manual data entry and reporting. Employees spend countless hours fiddling with spreadsheets and copy-pasting numbers from one system into another, instead of focusing on value creation.
RPA offers the potential to eliminate whole swathes of this busywork by using automated bots or digital assistants to handle all the heavy lifting. As a result, your employees only have to manage the complex tasks and exceptions manually, increasing their productivity by orders of magnitude. If you’re managing an admin-heavy area of the business, such as operations, finance or HR, you’ll know this is a tantalising prospect.
However, once executives start looking into the realities of RPA, a tiny voice of doubt often pipes up. “Will the benefits outweigh the up-front investment? How do we actually implement a successful RPA initiative? How will it look if the project fails to deliver? Is it really worth staking your career on this?”
Are these doubts justified?
To a certain extent, these doubts are understandable. Many companies find that their RPA projects start successfully, but soon lose momentum or go off the rails. As a result, there’s an undercurrent of opinion that RPA is not the silver bullet it initially seems to be.
However, these problems aren’t inherent to the concept of RPA. There’s no doubt that the technology works, as successful RPA adopters like Technicolor and Scanlog will testify. The problem is that the approach to implementation that most RPA vendors recommend is only part of the answer.
The traditional RPA strategy is big-bang, top-down, and heavily front-loaded with investment in new software and related infrastructure. This can be a sensible option if companies know where to start and are confident they will be able to maintain momentum—but all too often this is not the case.
As a result, after the first and most obvious use cases have been covered, a centralised RPA initiative often runs out of steam. That’s because RPA isn’t given a chance to grow into an organic part of the business: instead, it’s transplanted into users’ workflows from outside. And like any transplant, there is always a high risk of rejection.
Unless the business knows exactly what it’s doing, and has previous experience of successful automation projects, it’s very difficult to guarantee success with a top-down approach. That’s why it’s quite natural—and sensible—for executives to think twice before potentially gambling their career on this type of RPA strategy.
Sowing the seeds of successful RPA
Fortunately, there’s a better way. Softomotive’s People1st approach for RPA emphasises the importance of starting small, learning quickly, and scaling seamlessly. Instead of driving everything from an RPA Centre of Excellence from the start, you instead begin by empowering your line-of-business teams to automate simple tasks for themselves. Instead of investing in an enterprise-scale automation platform, you start with intuitive automation tools that users can run on their own desktop PCs.
These tools—like Softomotive’s WinAutomation—make it possible to develop digital assistants and automated workflows without writing a single line of code: users can simply record and replay their own actions, or access a library of prebuilt actions and drag-and-drop them into a custom workflow using our visual process designer.
The benefits of this bottom-up, grassroots approach are twofold.
First, it builds engagement with the line-of-business, making them advocates for automation instead of resisters. This is critical to help the business develop an automation mindset, where RPA becomes second nature: every existing process is seen as a potential candidate for automation, and all new processes are designed with automation in mind.
Second, it keeps your automation initiative focused on meeting users’ real-world business needs. This dramatically reduces the risk of failure and increases the time to value—and helps to dispel any doubts about whether RPA is the right path forward.
Of course, there’s more to the People1st approach than this. Once you’ve embedded RPA into the line-of-business, there’s still the question of how you scale, manage and govern automation at the organisational level. That’s where your RPA Centre of Excellence comes in—their role is to identify and incubate the most successful grassroots projects, connect them together into larger-scale processes, and productionise them for wider deployment across the business. But that’s a topic that we’ll dive into in more depth in a later blog post.
The main takeaway for today is that championing an RPA initiative at your next board meeting doesn’t have to be a make-or-break career move. With a People1st approach, the initial investment is lower, the potential benefits are huge, and the risk of failure is easy to mitigate.
To learn more about how the Softomotive People1st approach can guide you to a successful RPA strategy, or help you get your existing RPA initiatives back on course, download one of our new guides today: