“Your RPA | Intelligent Automation project will almost certainly fail if you don’t mitigate against these risks right now”​ – Part 1 of 6

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“Your RPA | Intelligent Automation project will almost certainly fail if you don’t mitigate against these risks right now”​ – Part 1 of 6

Automation, like any technology program, is fraught with risks. Therefore, the success of any intelligent automation or digital transformation program will depend on removing risk from an organisation’s transformation program or at least mitigating their impacts.

“The success of any process depends on the identifying the risks for each phase early and eliminating or mitigating the same, Intelligent Automation is no exception.”

Manish Rawat, Intelligent Automation Technical Manager

Recognise the risks

Step one involves recognising the risks, putting counter measures in place to mitigate risk and having plans in place to cope when something goes wrong. This six part series talks to the risks you will come across when rolling out a Robotic Process Automation or Intelligent Automation program. Today we look at strategic risk and implementation partner risks.

“To mitigate risk is to have better controls over the variables.”

Doug Shannon, RPA Product Lead

Strategic Risk:

If organisations are to succeed with automation they need to think strategically and big (i.e. end to end digital transformation) otherwise they will achieve limited benefit from any investment in automation. They also need to understand what RPA can and cannot do.

1. Align automation plans with business strategy.

“It is a bit of the “chicken or the egg” situation once you get into the swing of transformation. Technology will influence your strategy and strategy will dictate automation priority. But, f you are just getting started you need to align your automation with a strategic priority to get buy-in behind your program.”

Ema RoloffDigital Transformation Expert 

2. Did not setup a Centre or Excellence (COE); then wondered why your organisation’s automation program failed to scale.

“Digital transformation projects are doomed to failure if you do not have the right framework in place to support the transformation efforts. CoEs is the scaffolding needed to keep the project on course and to scale quickly. Assemble a cross functional team project team in advance of the starting the project to detail how and where the tech will be implemented, adopted and scaled. It will also be a useful go to resource for learnings, knowledge and people be needed for continuous improvement and new projects.”

Sharan Kaur MBA, Global Architecture and Automation Lead

3. Treating RPA as an IT only tool and not a business tool.

4. Lack a digital, data analytics or automation strategy but blamed a vendor went wrong

5. Limited impact projects that don’t excite – select big bang wow projects

“Do not be tempted to start with or only consider radical change projects. It can overwhelm the team and lose momentum quickly. Consider starting with processes that are repetitive and ones that will not be disruptive to the organization. Chip away slowly at the wider process. Celebrate the successes however small. This will bring people along and be an effective launchpad for the bigger radical projects.”

Sharan Kaur MBA, Global Architecture and Automation Lead

6. Misunderstanding what RPA can and cannot do

7. Outsourcing automation to a third party and neglecting to keep the management of the overall program within the organisation

8. Focusing on RPA as a tool to remove jobs not augment jobs or as a tool that can deliver a range of benefits.

One of the major risks in implementing an RPA initiative is lack of stakeholder buy-in. There are some sections within the organisation who will try to dismiss RPA as a hyped up technology, with a potential to threaten their jobs, hence they may try to stall or derail the implementation. RPA initiative is going to be successful only if there is executive sponsorship, with finance, IT and business units on board, and on the same page. 

Neeraj Satpall Managing Director

9. RPA | IA not aligned with organisational strategy and not an executive priority.

“I have often witnessed that RPA programs are kicked off with an involvement of C Level however the implementations are often managed by the second in line.

These implementations often fail when you under resource the RPA programs with age old mentality of hiring freshers or individuals with less salary packages. This results in decreased knowledge levels , less of implementation experience and market trends.

Cost saving shouldn’t be initiated with the Setting up of RPA COE itself as its an investment that you make to reduce the cost and improve the business process efficiency.”

Shrippad Mhaddalkar, RPA Expert

10. Treating automation as a tactical fix not a strategic solution.

“When thinking about RPA risk, methodology, and deliberating on how best to engage value-driven ROI. I have not come across a more value-added thought experiment than viewing your RPA journey with an “infinite game” mindset. Simon Sinek identifies two different kinds of games: finite and infinite. Finite games, such as football or chess, have known players, fixed rules, and an agreed-upon objective that often ends the game with a winner and a loser. Infinite games, on the other hand, can be played by known and unknown players, have no exact rules, and an infinite length of play.

In terms of RPA, I believe that teams need to stop thinking about what process wins or who is the best and start thinking about how to build and sustain strong and healthy RPA pipelines. Within RPA there can be a lot of variability. The goal is to make those variables more accessible. The better your RPA team and infrastructure can handle variability the better your pipeline will continue to grow steadily.”

Doug Shannon, IT Product Lead

11. Moving too slowly, following old implementation patterns, when digital demands organisation dexterity.

“Be agile: Don´t remain glued to your sacred RPA-solution, but look left and right whether there might be easier tools for automation of your client´s needs”

Johannes Becker, Partner 

Implementation Partner risk:

A great number of system integrator (SI), consultancies and partner firms claims to have exceptional RPA staff yet the industry suffers from a lack of real world, hard nosed, experienced talent. Therefore, selecting the right partner is key and must be done at the planning stage for automation not when a program has started or an organisation has bought licences.

“Intelligent Automation (IA) is the next step in driving digital transformation through your business. But it’s not just about the technology. Explore providers methodologies to implementation and deployment and ensure they fit in line with your own agile approaches and acceleration programmes for 2021.”

Janine Gill, Intelligent Automation Client Director

1. Pick the right System Integrator or partner. Select a partner with staff who have real world experience of the organisations business vertical. Ask for reference sites and then check references and business outcomes from the organisations who used the partner and their staff.

“When selecting an automation partner, ask the hard questions before your organization moves too quickly to selection. Key requests may include: asking for a walkthrough of their implementation methodology, discussing their communication and reporting style, walking through how knowledge transfer (KT) sessions occur at the end of the automation build, and, most importantly, confirm, in writing, that the team presented during the bid will be the team your organization will engage with.”

Adam Cranmer, CPA, PMP, Intelligent Automation Senior Manager

2. Different cultures: People are often the forgotten part of an organisation or a partner organisation. There is a saying ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. This is true of an organisation staff and the staff of partner organisations who may work with an organisation on a regular basis.

Organisations must ensure that there is a cultural fit between their organisations and the staff within a partner business. In order for an automation program to work partner and organisation staff will need to engage on a daily basis. It is impetrative that staff get along. Ensuring there is a cultural fit from day one and that team building exercises are an enduring feature of an automation program is key to its successful execution.

3. Finding an excellent partner is often a recipe for mutual gain and success. But it is not unknown for a partner to attempt to use automation to ‘land and expand’ within an organisation with no risk to their bottom line. Consultancies and/or system integrators quite often use RPA programs as the foot in the door to gain access to businesses wider transformation programs. This maybe fine if this develops into a fruitful partnership for both organisations but not when there is a great deal of cost existing the business with no return visible. Organisations can avoid this scenario by introducing shared risk reward models or outcome based model where risk is more evenly distributed or passed to the vendor.

Market hype poses a real risk in RPA. Just because a vendor has many customers, doesn’t mean they must be right for you. A cookie-cutter approach won’t work; what can work for you is a partner willing to invest time in understanding your business processes, and collaborating with you for a solution that addresses your specific needs.

Neeraj Satpall Managing Director

4. Organisations mistrust partners and don’t actually engage with their staff. A relationship with the right partner should be win-win for both parties. Were one partner gains all the advantage at the expense of the other partner then this is unfair. In order for a fair and fruitful long term relationship to persist, both parties must benefit from a ‘win-win’ relationship.

“The clue is in the word ‘Partner’. So often the word is used for a business relationship which is in fact just a customer – supplier relationship. That is OK for commodity products and services, but not for a trusted partner. Once you find the right partner, nurture them and jointly share the benefits of success and when things don’t go so well don’t just throw them under the bus if they are not fully responsible.

Partnership means shared gain and shared pain – sometimes in Automation there can be pain. Good partnerships grow and become more effective getting through the pain as much as the gain. Also understand that building such a relationship does not happen overnight, it takes work from both sides over time, you can’t just jump in expecting it to be productively close from the outset.”

Simon Frank , RPA Lead

Vendors need to make money to remain in business to be able to support your organisation

If an organisation is willing to go to the expense of hiring a partner then they must trust them and their staff. Partner staff must fit culturally and be integrated into a business as any existing staff member. Knowledge must be openly shared with every effort made to make the relationship work.

Don’t hire a partner simply to blame them for everything that goes wrong. There are bumps in the road with any automation program; how you deal with those bumps together over time, will establish the likelihood of the relationship working or not working over time.

“Selecting a vendor is the foremost Risk . You must choose the ‘right partner’ for you. A MOU must be created, accepted & signed and it must talks about shared risks if the project has gone

  1. Right or wrong
  2. Successfully achieved More than 100% or Less in ROI
  3. Time frame for the project to be completed is lesser than the other vendors/partners
  4. Cost of the project offered compared to other partners/ vendors (Stakeholders will evaluate multiple Partners/vendors before choosing one)

Moral of the story is, it’s not the products or services, it’s the PEOPLE who make any company great. Companies need to trust and treat partner staff their employees. Likewise for Partners/vendors. Their Customer Success team must be top notch. They must look after the client as if they are assisting one of their co-workers complete a project on TIME without any compromising on security and quality”.

Srinivas Ranganathan, Technologist and Sales Manager

5. Partner reluctance to hand over knowledge leading to a long term dependency on the partner and its staff. Insist all intellectual capital is owned by the organisation. Insist that code and methods etc. are well documented, codified and that knowledge is transferred to internal staff who are capable of taking the automation program forwards at pace.

“Ensure a contractual agreement is in place with the partner to share all knowledge gathered during the implementation process for the betterment of all parties. Keep close to the implementation partner during the entire process to record your own learnings. The sharing of knowledge should be a key requirement so put a documented process in place. Have regular sessions with your implementation partners for a full understanding of what works well and more importantly when and why implementations stall or fail.”

Sharan Kaur MBA, Global Architecture and Automation Lead

6. Lack of automation strategy: A suitable partner can help design an automation, analytics and digital strategy that maps to an organisations business strategy. But a partner must not be blamed for an organisations lack of business strategy.

“Firms need to think beyond what they are currently doing if they want to out compete your competition. Don’t just automate how you currently work. Digital has opened a host of opportunities that allow you to truly reinvent and transform how you deliver value to your customers.”

Faisal Iftikhar, Cognitive Automation Expert and Global Vice President

7. Expert staff presented at bid stage don’t materialise at the implementation phase. Ask to see a partners automation staff CVs, interview these staff and then lock those staff into the contract delivery program and/or equivalent staff should the initial staff leave during the program delivery phase.

“This cannot be stressed too much! The people working for you (whether internal or external) are critical for your success and this counts for almost any outsource type arrangement. In RPA it requires a very close relationship across the team. Don’t just interview the account team, interview the entire delivery team. Hand pick the people who will make you successful. Put as much effort into it as an internal hire.”

Simon Frank , RPA Lead

There are inherent risks in any sizeable technology, transformation or business program. Organisations need to accept and plan for risks so that they can avoid or mitigate them. The next part of our series will dig deeper into more risk and mitigations. Keep watching;

My Expertise: I’m an intelligent automation, data analytics, robotic process automation and digital transformation expert. For the past 25+ years I have been driving business transformation across a range of industries using; common sense, digital technologies, intelligent automation, data analytics, artificial intelligence and robotics process automation. This has generated millions of dollars of value. I solve complicated problems others can’t. I am happy to help advise you to support solve your unique business challenges.

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