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Why RPA Initiatives Fail Without a Top-Down Approach

Starting an RPA Program and successfully transitioning past the pilot stage into a scaling stage is a tricky task. If not set up for success from inception, a lot of programs fail after a few processes are put into production and support for automation within the organization fizzles out. But why does this happen?

As an RPA service provider, we have seen many RPA Programs at various stages, for those just starting out, the most common thing we see is programs failing because of a bottom-up approach. Every RPA initiative has a champion or a handful of people supporting it and driving the automation efforts. They sit down and discuss a handful of tasks that are tedious and the part of their job that is undesirable; from there, an RPA initiative is born. The champions take their use case for automation to management and, intrigued by digital transformation and the ROI benefits that accompany RPA, the C-Suite gives the green light to start an automation program. Again, the mistake in this scenario is the bottom-up approach. This is because the champions came up with the initiative, thus they are responsible for its execution. So, after getting approval, they are given key performance indicators (KPIs) from the C-Suite to hit in order to consider the RPA deployment a success. The champions then go into their pilot program with all of the control and are tasked with deciding what processes to automate first.

One may ask how this set the organization on a path to failure. What happens is that the champions behind the program want to automate the processes that sparked the need for RPA, so they suggest the processes they do not want to do themselves and are unlikely to consider other options as they are determined to remove the hassle from their daily jobs. The issue is that these processes were picked based on the want to eliminate them and not selected for the appropriate automation reasons. Even more so, the metrics for these processes and yielded returns are extremely low, inevitably leading to the program’s demise. Once the pilot program is completed and the poor-suited RPA processes are automated, the C-Suite sees very little value and low ROI causing them to ultimately lose faith in RPA. Without C-Suite Support and budget, all progress is halted, and the program is cancelled overall as the time and investment was not worth the return.

So how can an organization avoid this problem and ensure that their initiative will succeed past the pilot stage well into an ROI-heavy and scaled automation program? The simple answer is to take the right first step. The C-Suite needs to have the initiative to deploy automation in their organization, aka a top-down approach. This strategy allows the C-Suite to set their KPI’s before processes are proposed for automation and use a process discovery methodology to appropriately find processes that will meet those KPIs. This ensures that at the end of the pilot stage the desired results are met and there is substantial proof to continue on and grow the digital workforce.

Process Discovery involves a trained business analyst scoping out potential automation candidates and measuring their expected KPIs prior to development. They map out criteria such as ease of implementation for expected development time, testing time, and difficulty; feasibility to measure how possible it is to automate a process end to end; and of course, time and dollar amount savings as well. With these metrics and other variables such as mistake reduction, increased sales, elevated employee productivity, and more identified from a thorough process analysis, the C-Suite can determine which automations are priority and will best meet their needs. Not only is this the proof needed to continue along the digital transformation journey with large ROI driving the initiative, but the priority rankings and continued analysis practices help to build a robust pipeline of proposed processes for the automation team to develop and deploy well into the future.