The Challenges of Implementing Robotic Process Automation and How to Overcome Them
Modern technology has brought us to the point where robots can imitate humans in terms of performing tedious tasks. This, in turn, enables humans to concentrate on the tasks that require creativity and human intelligence. Yes, we are talking about robotic process automation aka RPA.
Today, businesses are increasingly relying on RPA to streamline their operations and reduce operational costs. However, if implemented incorrectly, RPA can bring you more harm than good. Therefore, before investing in RPA implementation, business owners need to learn about the possible challenges and ways to successfully resolve them.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA for short) is a form of software technology that enables developers to design and deploy robots that can imitate certain human actions. The biggest advantage of RPA is that robots can perform work without interruption, in a much faster manner, and with greater reliability and accuracy.
Robotic process automation is normally used to automate processes that are repetitive, involve predictable steps, and are voluminous. By automating such processes, companies significantly save time, reduce operational costs, increase overall productivity and help employees focus on more critical work. To show how widespread RPA is and why many organizations within various domains invest in this technology, we've compiled a list of several RPA use cases for various industries:
- Finances: RPA helps automate such tasks as account opening and customer knowledge checks (KYC), query processing, and fraud detection.
- Retail: companies automate pricing and inventory adjustments and use intelligent bots to collect customer data in real-time and detect fraudulent activities.
- Healthcare: RPA automates complex and time-consuming tasks for payers, hospitals and health systems, and long-term care facilities while reducing necessary resources.
- Manufacturing: RPA helps manufacturers modernize production processes and business functions, including procurement, inventory management, customer communication optimization, and more.
- Telecommunication: RPA helps reduce errors, speed up customer service and improve overall operational efficiency.
RPA challenges to consider before implementing the technology
Companies can automate their tasks either with robotic process automation or with traditional solutions like Business Process Management Systems. RPA differs from traditional process automation solutions by two key characteristics:
- RPA works at a user interface level: RPA software does not require internal integration with existing systems/databases because it uses existing application logic and interacts with them just like a human user.
- Ease of setup for non-IT users: setting up a robot is more similar to process modeling rather than programming, so employees can quickly be trained to set up an RPA process.
These two features make RPA a more flexible and cheaper automation solution so no wonder companies take great interest in it. However, RPA is not that simple to implement. Let's take a look at the biggest challenges of RPA implementation and ways to overcome them.
Lack of a clear RPA strategy
How can a company make sure that robotic process automation helps meet the company goals? The answer is an RPA strategy which is a comprehensive plan of how an organization will implement and manage RPA in its work processes. The implementation of RPA without a well-thought-out plan will result in mismatched expectations and can derail the success of automation.
Solution: companies need to design a detailed implementation strategy that will articulate clear RPA goals. Such strategies normally include guidelines for defining processes as well as task evaluation and prioritization. Here is a list of actions to take in order to bring the RPA strategy to life successfully:
- Department heads should determine which tasks are to be automated;
- Technology teams should provide employee training on the use of RPA tools and self-deployment of robots;
- Organizations should set up constant monitoring and management of processes in order to timely implement any changes;
- An organization should create a plan that would address possible issues related to the RPA implementation and list down methods for their mitigation and elimination.
Lack of suitable infrastructure
Without the proper infrastructure to support RPA deployment, companies may not get the results they want. If the existing infrastructure system is outdated, inflexible, and slow, it will be difficult to adapt a modern RPA tool. Unfortunately, not all companies analyze their infrastructure before implementing robotic process automation and as a result, automation brings more harm than good.
Solution: a company needs to think about the needed capabilities and whether the existing infrastructure can support RPA. The main requirements for an RPA-friendly infrastructure are:
- RPA tool support for virtual environments;
- RPA tool licensing;
- Application update policies;
- The infrastructure must be powerful enough to run all your scenarios;
- The infrastructure must work 24/7.
Also, make sure that your system is centralized, unaffected by external factors, and that any installed updates won't damage it.
Technical support for RPA is critical to avoid possible errors in the system. If the system is not updated and regular protocols for RPA maintenance are not followed, the system will degrade over time, causing numerous issues.
Solution: to control RPA processes and ensure they perform as intended, companies need to assign a responsible specialist who will perform the following tasks:
- Ensure that all necessary changes are made to the system and that the RPA software is updated correspondingly;
- Take care of the data integrity by copying data from temporary storage to larger storage.
- Run endurance tests to see if the system can provide the same stable performance over an extended time.
If possible, all these processes should be automated and the specialist should monitor them and intervene when necessary.
Lack of coordination between the business and IT
Misalignment between the business and IT is one of the most frequent causes for RPA implementation to fail. When the IT department solely manages RPA, employees may not be responsive enough to business needs and may not fully comprehend them. On the other hand, when the business solely manages automation, it may not understand certain technical aspects, which leads to poor RPA tool selection and maintenance errors.
Solution: to ensure that business and IT understand each other and communicate freely, companies can create an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE). CoE allows all stakeholders to share expertise to optimize process selection, prioritization, and RPA development. While IT can focus on providing software that matches the company's technical needs, the operations department can focus on organizational support and implementation strategy.
One important aspect of RPA implementation that companies tend to overlook is that their system should often support a large number of RPA robots that perform multiple processes. These processes can be difficult to scale due to regulatory updates or internal changes. According to a Forrester report, 52% of customers say they have difficulty scaling their RPA program. Therefore, companies should consider how they will scale up once the workload starts growing.
Solution: the best practices for scaling RPA automation include:
- Educate and train in-house RPA developers and analysts: companies should provide an internal employee training program and, as a result, build an internal talent pool.
- Scale by increasing the number of robots, not by complicating the processes: intelligent distribution of processes among robots and gradual increase of the number of robots contribute to more efficient scalability.
- Consider process mining tools: data mining can help businesses optimize their processes before automation and thus facilitate scaling in the future.
Since robots perform specific internal tasks, they normally have access to the company’s sensitive data. Consequently, managing security risks is one of the top priorities when it comes to RPA management. If access to data and validation of robots are not managed properly, this may lead to vulnerabilities in the system and the possibility of data leaks.
Solution: There are several ways to mitigate security risks related to RPA:
- Separate data access by assigning different roles to the RPA team and provide access to authorized users only;
- Assign a unique identifier to each robot;
- Constantly check bots for vulnerabilities or inconsistencies;
- Use encryption to enforce passwords.
Choosing the wrong automation process
While some companies prefer automating everything, others may automate just one or two small processes and it will lead to significant improvements. Failure to choose the right processes for automation often leads to financial losses, poor results, and a mismatch of expectations and reality. So how to select the right process for automation?
Solution: proper evaluation of processes for automation is necessary, so companies should look at the following:
- Frequency of changes: if the process changes frequently, it will be difficult to automate it.
- Frequency of execution: it is worth prioritizing processes used frequently, weekly, or even daily.
- Process complexity: if a process requires high-level cognitive tasks, it is not very suitable for automation.
- Resiliency: fault-tolerant processes are better suited for RPA than error-sensitive tasks.
- Business impact: to get quick results from automation efforts, choose processes with high business impact (time-consuming tasks that directly serve customers).
Robotic process automation, along with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, is rapidly gaining popularity every day. In 2022, global spending on robotic process automation are expected to reach $2.4 billion, according to Gartner. These numbers once again prove that RPA is a highly efficient and reliable solution that companies should consider implementing. However, it’s always a company’s choice whether to rely on human employees solely or let robots do some work.
Have you already implemented RPA in your organization or are you considering it? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
Thanks for sharing your valubale knowledge with us. You described this very well. Keep sharing such blogs!