Consider this situation: the head of operations for the finance function at a leading insurance company had heard from both his BPO provider and several technology companies claims of robotic process automation’s (RPA) ability to deliver significant operational efficiencies and cost savings. He decided to take the plunge, obtained leadership buy in, made elaborate RPA implementation plans, set the investment rolling, and finally directed his team to implement RPA across the function in all geographies. A year after deployment, he was still struggling to see significant evidence of the promised benefits. Have you heard stories like this before? Perhaps experienced it in your own organization? Unfortunately, it’s all too common. Various factors contribute to the glaring gap between expectations and reality. They can be broadly categorized as follows:
- Process – This includes lack of process standardization and an improper process viability study for automation. For example, process-specific differences due to delivery location-specific nuances require greater RPA tool customization. This drives costs higher, and can significantly impact the automation ROI and expected benefits.
- Delivery – This includes factors such as service placement across locations that can affect the automation levels in a process. For example, if FTEs are fragmented across different locations, they cannot be released because of minimum FTE requirements to service those locations.
- Governance – Similar to any major transformation initiative, success with RPA depends upon various governance specific factors like buy in from IT, organization alignment, etc. For example, we have seen IT departments causing considerable delays in providing the prerequisite security clearances for RPA environment setup and deployment.
Automation assessment, or lack thereof, is the most critical factor
The paramount contributing factor to a successful – or unsuccessful – implementation of an automation project in your enterprise is automation discovery, i.e., the assessment of automation potential in your organization’s unique environment. In all too many cases, BPO or RPA tool providers look first just at process viability, e.g., if the process consists of rules-based, rather than judgment-based, activities, and then base their assessment on experiences with other clients or on a pure numeric automation benchmarking exercise provided by an analyst firm. However, mere replication of the same RPA tool across a similar process will not necessarily deliver similar automation benefits.
Our recommendations for enterprise buyers on how to help optimize their RPA investments and achieve the potential ROI include:
- Make sure your RPA vendor or BPO service provider addresses topics specific to your particular environment, including an assessment of impact of a fragmented technology landscape, regional language-specific nuances to be considered, etc.
- Obtain a robust automation benefits benchmark mapped to your organization’s context, and safeguard yourself, if possible, with contractual obligations
- Set the right expectations with internal stakeholders on potential benefits
Our primary recommendation for service providers looking to satisfy their clients’ expectations is to leverage a comprehensive automation benefit benchmarking model that is based on benefits delivered and the underlying context of RPA delivery. This will help them not only better estimate but also realize the potential benefits on their clients’ behalf. Service providers that correctly estimate, communicate, and deliver these benefits consistently will ultimately have more RPA success stories to tell.
Do you work for an enterprise or service provider that has implemented RPA? If so, our readers would love to hear about your automation journey experience, and if/how you were able to achieve the intended benefits!