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  • Pauline Yeo

Why the hesitation to Robotic Process Automation? How to overcome it?


Workplace automation is nothing new to us. We have seen physical machine automation in factories that transforms the post war business landscape globally. Now , we see technology like Robotic Process Automation (“RPA”) transforms the office workplace by automating traditionally manual business operational tasks.


We have achieved great success in physical machine automation where we could manufacture the volume of products that no manual work can possibly achieve with the level of consistency in quality. Ideally, “Automation” should be such a proven concept that we should see immediate embracement of RPA. However, things are not that straight forward. Despite the wide adoption by mostly very large businesses, we still see a significant hesitation in RPA.


Let’s do some deep dive into some of the common reasons for hesitation and how can we overcome them.


(1) We have done a preliminary study and there is insufficient ROI


Most businesses would adopt a Pilot project approach to try out new technologies for adoption. Similarly, this is also a common approach for RPA adoption. As cost savings is often one of the key success measurements, there is a great emphasis on it. With the hype of the technology’s ability to deliver huge savings do fuel unrealistic expectation from the few processes at pilot phase. When the few processes fails to deliver a large cost savings or in some extreme cases immediate headcount savings, the management quickly becomes disillusion with the technology and fail to see the real potential.


Not to be mistaken, the many press releases and announcements that businesses have achieve huge cost savings, double digits efficiency gain are real. However, those often materializes with a good automation strategy, enterprise level strategic roll-out and a robust target operating model, governance and change management plan.


In short, the few processes at Pilot phase would realistically deliver a modest cost savings. The main aim of the pilot project is to demonstrate that the technology works in your environment and you can leverage on it to work on an enterprise business case. At this early phase, it would often pay off to work with a trusted consultant who is sincere in partnering your organization through the journey to drive the vision of your automation strategy. The expected ROIs would then be easily substantiated in a good business case.


The first step at strategy is often the hardest. Once we can overcome this, the benefits, not just cost savings, would be exponential as we see in many of our successful clients.


(2) We don’t have the budget for such a big investment


We have been through the “Enterprise Resource Planning – ERP” era where there often a large initial investment is required to acquire the software license and to implement it. Hence, its not surprising that businesses would sometimes jump into conclusion that the automation technology is going to be a mega investment and gets put off by it, especially when economy isn’t doing that great.


Quite the opposite, RPA can be started with a very modest of just a single robot in many of the top RPA solutions in the world. The single robot then runs on a completely user environment, meaning just on your own laptop or computer. The very first robot would create the first footprint of robotic automation in your office and you can then decide the next step to take it further. Its just this small and simple!


The democratization of automation also drives RPA solution companies to simplify how process can be automated. Business users without coding knowledge can also automate simple processes on their own. Materials for learning are easily available online. It leaves systemic enterprise processes, especially those that are regulatory governed or business critical to professional developers. This can help businesses invest optimally on this technology with professional help only on critical processes, leaving the business users empowered to do their own personal automation. The empowerment of business users also helps to drive acceptance through participation and skills upgrading.


Hence, the investment roadmap is fully in control by your organization. You can choose to do it slowly with a modest continuous improvement budget or a large enterprise roll-out.


(3) We value our staff and want to keep them


There is a lot of information on the internet that tells people that software robots is coming to take jobs away. It creates a negative image of the RPA technology.


This is far from the truth.


“RPA takes the robot out of the human, so that the human can do higher value work”.


There are a lot of manual repetitive tasks in business operations that burdens the human worker, makes work boring and limits skills development and career progression. RPA technology is here to take away the boring repetitive tasks so that humans can be liberated to learn new skills, bring higher value to the organization and pave their own career progression.


Many of the successful adopters of RPA have managed to expand their businesses to more products and markets without increasing their headcount. Employee satisfaction is often better as a better work-life can be achieved with automation.


Hence, there is no need to remove your valued employees with automation. On the contrary, automation can help better achieve their career aspirations.


(4) Our staff are not receptive to the technology


Similar to the point above, people develop a fear of the RPA technology with news like robots coming to take your job away.


Without staff support, the RPA strategy cannot be successfully executed. Hence, this is where a good change management strategy can help. It can start with just providing more awareness, communication and transparency with your staff on what is going to happen would help alleviate fear and improve acceptance. This can be jointly driven with the human resource department as part of the talent management plan.


The change management cannot be an after thought but a carefully considered part of the overall automation strategy. At this point, it would be beneficial to engage the help of an experience consultant in driving change management on emerging technologies to partner your organization to drive the change.


(5) We don’t have internal capabilities to manage such a technology


Most organizations that are not in the IT industry are unlikely to have ready resources to transform into automation experts. The top RPA solution companies are aware of this and most of them work through capable professional services partners to provide a one stop shop for software, implementation and consulting services.


Businesses have the choice of developing a full internal team, do a hybrid model of a small internal team with a partner professional service firm or let the automation services be fully managed by an external professional service firm.


Each choice has its own merit and businesses can find a model that would best fit their aspirations.


(6) There is plenty of time we can wait and see


The “wait and see” approach is more common than we thought. It is of course important to take time to consider and build a vision and strategy. In some cases, we see this “considering” phase drag on for months if not years. There is no right or wrong to the duration an organization takes to consider the technology. Just that each moment delayed also mean a harder time to play catch-up.


In many industries, automation is a one of the key game-changer. For industries that traditionally leverage on large pool of human resources, automation can bring on a sudden drop in prices (due to cost savings from efficiency), setting new competition bench-mark like faster turn around time (i.e. instead of a 3 days turnaround for services, it can now be 24 hours). This would immediately give the earlier automation adopters an opportunity to disrupt the market and win market shares.


With automation now moving from rule-based towards Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and hyper-automation. The catch-up is going to be steeper in a short amount of time as we speak. Hence, decision agility and responsiveness do matter in automation. A good approach would be to speak to an experience consultant who would be able to effectively advice and partner your organization in planning the next step.


We have discussed most of the common hesitations and how we can overcome them. I hope it helps to bring on a more accurate perspective on office automation. Unlike a system implementation, automation is not a standalone project but a journey that help transform your business into one that is relevant to the future of work.

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