“Your RPA | Intelligent Automation project will almost certainly fail if you don’t mitigate against these risks right now”​ – Part 3 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 3 of 6

Recognising the risks. Putting counter measures in place to mitigate risk. And having plans in place to cope when something goes wrong are all key to the successful implementation of a Robotic Process Automation and Intelligent Automation digital transformation program.

Part 1 looked at strategic and implementation partner risks. Part 2 looked at tooling selection, testing and stakeholder buy-in risks. Today we look at people, cultural and financial risks.

People or Cultural Risks:

It can be a false economy for an organisation to attempt to introduce automation technologies, if they have no prior experience. Organisations that have not implemented automation before tend to lack the staff and knowledge to implement, govern and scale an automation program.

1. Not enough trained staff e.g. not enough automation staff, wrong hires, paper certified developers, or assuming anyone can become a developer. It is imperative companies hire based on attitude, aptitude and experience. Great developers create more great developers. Hire those who are curious, excited by tech, who want to learn and share.

“The fastest way to evolve RPA is to share our stories with each other, be it a lesson learned or a success achieved. When we learn from each other, our opportunities increase significantly.”

Balint Laszlo Papp, RPA Delivery Lead

2. HR training, incentives and messaging unclear. HR strategy needs to be aligned to the business strategy. It is incumbent upon the CHRO to ensure they understand the direction of the company, help shape it and prepare a staffing plan that allows it to get there. If we believe that an organisations greatest asset is its people then we must treat them as a precious resource. We must put employees front and centre of everything and every decision we make. We must hire the right people, put them in the right role, provide direction, as well as develop, coach and mentor them for as long as they choose to remain with the business.

3. Not having or replacing automation champions. Everyone in the organisation needs to get behind a digital transformation program. Cheer leaders are particularly key. Automation programs need champions and evangelists. They are key to hunting for opportunities and explaining the purpose of the program in a way that everyone can but into.

“There is a secret to success with any automation program and that is a strong business advocate with the authority to make decisions. When you have a champion within the organization that can inspire excitement, help remove roadblock and advocate for the business you will be able to make things happen, and quickly. Without those champions, it will be difficult to move the needle without significantly more effort.”

Ema Roloff, Digital Transformation Expert

4. Culture not ready for automation, digitisation or transformation i.e. siloed. A siloed culture is a broken culture. Digital transformation requires everyone in the organisation to work openly and transparently with each other to make change happen. A transformation program must be ran from the top down and the bottom up. We must select rising stars for the project; implement cross functional Agile teams; redesign employee and exec scorecards and lots more. Transformation wont happen if people are unwilling to work together and make change happen.

‘I’ve been banging the drum about this one for years. An RPA programme will only succeed when both IT and Business Operations form a collaborative partnership to deliver the capability. I should know, I have implemented RPA from an IT, Business Operations and Consultancy perspective, and had to deal with the aftermath of IT feeling like the technology has been implemented ‘side of desk’ or forced upon them. Form a trusted partnership rather than having to fix broken relationships further down the line ‘

Allan Surtees, IPA Specialist

5. If a business gives zero executive support to an automation program they they should not wonder why no one wants to get involved (i.e. time, money, verbal). People watch and listen to the executive team to determine what is key and what is not. If an automation program is an after executive afterthought then that is exactly how the business will treat it.

6. If your organisation is not ready to transform (e.g. it is siloed); is resistant to change; or has IT and business teams that simply won’t ever talk to each other; then don’t read any further. Stop now. Don’t invest in RPA until your solve your people issues.

7. Not engaging the right teams or people to begin. People want to get involved in projects in work. Ignoring or not engaging colleagues, compliance, IT, risk, CISO, finance etc. will only result in a broken program. Engage everyone from day one.

8. Not training managerial staff to manage robots and people. The future of work is people and machines. We should not assume managers know how manage teams; and we should not assume managers know how to manage digital workers. Provide training and support.

9. The multidisciplinary execution team is not suitably diverse and representative of the very best talent within an organisation.

10. Removing control room staff as it all works. Firms often reduce their control room staff levels as things appear to just work. When this happens, things break as no one is monitoring or knows how to fix things. Resource teams appropriately and leave that time in place.

11. Under resourcing the RPA program leading to little value being delivered.

12. Didn’t have a talent & hiring plan to support the RPA programme. Hire and develop the wrong people and you will get the wrong outcome.

“Most of the times when Team leaders and executives mention automation, there is a cold silence and employees cringe hearing this over and over. But on the bright side, automation shouldn’t mean loss of job, it should be centred around freeing up employees to focus on other core BAU activities as well as spend more time developing new products and also learning for self development. Automation should be done in a way that employees appreciate the value that comes with certain tasks that consume their time on daily can be reduced significantly and this time can be allocated towards other meaningful activities.”

Stephen Mboroto, Data Analyst and Projects Automation Lead

13. Not clearly defining and supporting new career paths. Address automation as a project, not a process or product. This includes creating career and development paths for everyone involved in the automation program so they feel invested in.

“People are the main focus areas when you intend to start the Automation Journey. People in Orgs are the main source of information for process understanding , re-engineering and also running and managing BOTs.

The goal of automation should be “augmentation of your employees experience ” so that he gets a promotion in his day to day tasks.

“Automation Propels creativity in Humans , it doesn’t side-line Humans.”

Shrippad Mhaddalkar – RPA Expert 

14. Underpaying intelligent automation or digital staff will result in their exiting. The market for automation staff is hot. Underpay and folks have the option to walk away.

“One of the biggest risks firms make is to underpay their RPA team when others are paying more. Your team will leave and you will have lost your investment in training, platform and process knowledge. You will then have to invest in training new people once again. Pay what you need to pay to reap the rewards.”

Gavin Price, RPA Process Specialist

Financial Risk.

Whilst better quality data, reduced risk, higher employee and customer NPS all matter, it is the ringing of cash tills that is the only true sign of a healthy Robotic Process Automation (RPA) program. If your program is not making money, the kind that a CFO will validate, then it has failed financially.

What are the financial risks your organisation may face when digitally transforming using RPA, IA and data analytics?

1. The inability of RPA program leaders to report on the actual value delivered compared to the business case that was used to approve development of an automation.

2. No business case – Went ahead with an automation program without a business case and wondered why it did not pay for itself when your CFO came asking.

3. Under estimating the cost of an automation program to start, sustain and scale.

“If you are embarking on a digital transformation agenda, start by building a robust business case, backed by metrics, about why, how and the impact the changes will have. Ensure that you have senior management sponsorship. It helps accelerate wider adoption. Help your employees succeed- give them the room to understand, accept and adapt to the new ways of working. Remember there isn’t a one size fits all for all employees and organisations. Invest time in determining what works best for your organisation. Be open to pivoting as you get feedback and come up against unanticipated obstacles- there will be several.”(Edited)

Sharan Kaur MBA, Global Architecture and Automation Lead

“Your RPA program should be making many benefits that amount ultimately adds up to a cost saving. It can be as straight as forward as converting FTE savings per hour into a monetary value. Their are other benefits such as staff retention (staff’s jobs are no longer mundane, lower turnover lower hiring and retraining costs), fine avoidance (the companies processing more efficiently with less mistakes, less complaints, less fines).

If you have not clearly set out a measurable success story from the start then the benefits will not be realised and cannot be reported on.

You will soon firm up the power of automation and more and more teams and departments will hear about the good work of your robots and get on board – snowball effect, but only if it is done correctly. Equally a bad deployment can send negativity around the business get an export in from the start.

Now you are up and running, accelerate forwards:

Once all the low hanging fruit have been turned into processes and the service is paying for itself you need to expand. You can create nanny bots so the platform looks after itself this will reduce the cost of ownership. You can start creating bots that build themselves reducing the cost of creation and deployment. You can then revisit your processes and rescore them especially if you put a line in the sand from the start where you would only develop a process where it meets a certain FTE saving. Due to the cost reducing of a new deployment this figure can be reduced thus bringing in more processes.”

Gavin Price, RPA Process Specialist

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.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 👇

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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