Process automation systems that use RPA (Robotic Process Automation) technology are now more than mature. Gartner, in a recent publication on the subject, speaks of enthusiasm among stakeholders about the "potential of a tool that reduces costs, increases accuracy, improves compliance and automates work". But it is the same Stamford company that warns, in the same document, about the errors that can prevent RPA projects from achieving the expected results by virtue of their adoption. There are 3, in particular, which risk nullifying their enabling ability to replace manual tasks with automatic actions. The first concerns the choice of processes that can be optimized through a process automation solution; the second the tactical and non-strategic approach when implementing an RPA technology in the organization; the third the lack of governance deriving from a weak commitment on the part of business decision makers. Let's analyze them in detail below.
To operate process automation in the wrong places
Unlike classic business applications (CRM, ERP, IT Service Management, etc.), RPA solutions are not created for a specific area, but can be used in any business process. This means that in theory all processes are likely to be automated, but their "eligibility" must be the result of a reasoning that is not limited to the application of robot or bot software instead of a human operator. In other words, it is advisable for the company to focus not on a mere RPA vendor, but on a partner who combines consultancy skills of an organizational nature with technical skills on the subject. The shift of operational and control activities from personnel to a digital workforce should take place, in fact, after the company has answered two fundamental questions with the help of said partner:
- what are the activities on which it is convenient and is it possible to intervene?
- how do the organizational models for managing and controlling the workforce change in a digital context?
Process automation as a tactical and non-strategic approach
The possibility offered with the process automation tools to reduce latencies and lead times, as well as to reduce costs, often pushes the manager of a business process towards RPA technologies. In this case, it is a tactical and not a strategic initiative, because it focuses on solving a single problem with the aim, for example, of buffering the excessive load of manual work and making it sustainable. This may also be fine in the short term, but can generate critical issues in the medium-long term because it does not take into account the interdependence between multiple processes or their correct hierarchy in daily workflow. The criterion, therefore, cannot coincide with that of petty automation, but must be based on an overall method, guided by the partner mentioned above, which identifies the automation opportunities, connects them to the potential optimizations related to the implementation of process automation and finally define an enterprise RPA roadmap.
Adopt RPA without global enterprise governance
If a methodology such as the one just indicated is not adopted, process automation will take place on the basis of the greater or lesser "contractual strength" of those in the company who request it or will simply follow the emergency rule. This is why a governance is needed in which a clear commitment on the part of the top management emerges. Shorter latency and crossing times, which are typical of lean management and its guiding principles in removing small or large pockets of inefficiency, must be sought as objectives at the service of a higher purpose, that of creating value. Consequently, it is not enough to replace human workforce with digital workforce if this replacement is not governed upstream and downstream by a vision not only departmental, but at the enterprise level. In perspective, therefore, automation must lead to the end-to-end control of business processes closely related to new organizational models. To act as a glue between the two, the right RPA technologies used when and where they are needed.