The biggest lie told to RPA customers – 50 robots equals success
There are lies, damn lies and then there are RPA lies.
Just because #RPA is the new shiny object, doesn’t mean the maxims of delivering business outcomes no longer apply. Were an organisation to hire 50 human workers; then have them perform bits of tasks; or work a small proportion of their available time; or ask them to sit idle 80% of the day and deliver nothing of tangible value; then we would not laud that organisation. Why would we consider bots any differently?
When a vendor tells you that 10, 20, 50 or 100 bots equals RPA success then remember to reply ‘we didn’t buy RPA Technology, we bought an outcome. I expect #RPA to reduce the number of person hours expended on this process by ‘A’, shrink the batch processing or cycle time by ‘B’, and cut exception handling by ‘C’. When things break, I expect you to detect the problem, fix it, and have us up and running quickly. How #RPA does it…I don’t really care.’
There are a variety of metrics you might consider when building an #RPA business case including:
Do not to include too many nebulous metrics like ‘improve customer satisfaction’ or ‘increase customer acquisition’. These kinds of metrics are more complex than they seem and often cannot be attributed solely to the success of an automation.
- Up time or down time: Bots can work around the clock at a very high rate of speed so are your processes running faster and/or more frequently than before? Measuring an increase in productive hours per day from the addition of bots can add to the productive capacity of a business. With bots able to work 3 times faster than people, at 100% capacity for 20+ hours per day (there will be down time due to system outages e.g. backup windows) a business productive capacity should increase. Note: The real sign of success is determined by the business outcomes derived from that increase in productive capacity brought about by your digital workforce.
- Employee satisfaction or percentage of time spent on value add per day: Bots allow people to spend more dedicated time on meaningful, value add work. Is your CSAT score higher after automation of dull, routine, boring tasks, and if so by how much? Is your employee retention higher or lower? Is a far greater percentage of daily time being spent on value-add work?
- Process consistency and accuracy: Bots perform the work assigned to them identically without variation. Have bots brought greater consistency and predictability to your processes? Have bots reduced errors or otherwise improved the accuracy of outcomes?
- Reallocation to other roles: number of employees reallocated to other value add roles?
- Average number of bots hired into roles previously earmarked for human labour.
- Life expectancy: number of months or years of extending the life of legacy apps.
Businesses run by making more money than they spend. Setting up an automation program can cost $250k within a very short period of time and that is before you start to scale. Therefore, hard cash return from #RPA must take your primary focus:
Include hard measures of value such as:
- Reduction in overtime bills from people not staying later to complete their work
- Annual labour hours saved or numbers of FTEs eliminated. To date robots have been far more successful in augmenting roles rather than eliminating roles. The idea that technology will replace the need for creative thinking, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, initiative and risk taking is rightly seen as implausible.
- Average annual wage cost savings now RPA has been installed. Robots are typically 1/3 the cost of an offshore FTE and therefore the more robots you employ to cut offshore contract costs the lower your offshore contract bill.
- Process efficiencies: processing time or daily throughput. Bots don’t take breaks (except when your infrastructure or bot application is being updated), they never get sick, and are always ready to work. Have you reduced downtime and/or increased output?
If an #RPA program is to deliver, it must be aligned to a larger digital transformation strategy. A balanced approach that consists of aligning the qualitative benefits of RPA to the larger strategy, while articulating the quantitative impact, is a great way to measure the overall effectiveness of RPA. However, to be truly successful you must be able to quantify the financial benefits of your #RPA program to your executive team.
What measures do you use to prove your #RPA program business case?
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Note: The views expressed above are my views and not those of my employer.