RPA Study Reveals Difficulties in Achieving ROI | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On June 14, 2018

Everest Group conducted a comprehensive study on enterprise Robotic Process Automation (RPA) adoption. The study provided us with important insights into what allows companies to realize value from investing in RPA. For instance, at the outset, executives believe RPA is an easy way to automate tasks and thus increase productivity. But the study participants’ experiences reveal that, in theory, RPA is simple but, in practice, it’s difficult. Why? Because RPA is a digital transformation journey, and there are complications when trying to unleash digital transformation.

A company that wants to realize much value from implementing RPA must invest in the capability to drive automation. This involves more than configuring the robots. It requires process redesign, navigating the different stakeholders that have purview (security, IT, audit compliance, etc.) and navigating the business unit with the problem. Often the opportunities and problems span multiple business units, which requires coordinating and focus on multiple units and departments.

The technology itself is simple, but the problem of driving change is difficult. To overcome this, companies are establishing RPA Centers of Excellence (CoEs) – one of the best practices evident among 52 participants in our Enterprise RPA Pinnacle Model study. Getting IT involved early in the adoption effort is another best practice.

It’s very clear that companies that make the commitment and invest in resources to enable change to achieve a higher return on their investment. Pinnacle Enterprises™ – those that achieved superior outcomes as a result of their advanced capabilities – achieved 4X greater ROI than enterprises that didn’t take the RPA opportunity seriously by investing in such success factors as a COE, partners to do the configuration and coordinating the numerous stakeholders that need to be aligned to drive change. 4X is a huge difference in benefits!

A Surprising Outcome of the Study

In our detailed interview discussions with the companies participating in the study, we found significant frustration among the executives sponsoring RPA adoption. They discussed their struggles in trying to communicate with boards of directors and with the business units the need for adequate investment, support resources and the amount of change necessary to capture the value of RPA. The depth of the change and the extent of the investment is difficult for executives to convey to their organizations and their boards.

Interestingly, companies get a robust return from these investments in driving change. But because of the perception that the technology is simple, executives expect that value can be extracted without investment, without resources and without stakeholder alignment. This study clearly proves that is not the case.

One of our goals in the Pinnacle study was to investigate the participating companies across six dimensions of change required for RPA success so that they and other companies can learn from their experiences. A second goal was to develop an assessment tool. Any company can take the 30-minute questionnaire, followed by a four-hour workshop, and compare its RPA journey results against others’ experiences and against the Pinnacle companies, which are the most mature and achieving the most value from their investments.

We anticipated that people would compare their experiences against others, which would then give a practical road map where people can understand the investments and activities they needed to do to get a greater return from their RPA investment. In fact, this happened. Clearly, the people who take the assessment quickly identify the gaps they have against the best practices and build a road map to close the gaps.

The surprising outcome is that we didn’t anticipate how effective the assessment tool is for the executive sponsors of RPA to help communicate the level of effort and resources required. It’s a helpful communication vehicle for justifying the kind of investment and budget necessary to be a high-performing organization in extracting value from RPA and for getting the support for change and aligning stakeholder interests.

Assess Your Company’s Gaps

If your company is undertaking an RPA adoption journey, we believe you’ll get great value from going through this assessment process. Comparing your company’s results to other industries and leading companies will help you understand what you’re doing differently and help you build a road map to close the gaps. It will also provide a tool to help you discuss the business case for the appropriate amount of investment and the appropriate amount of resources necessary for top performance.

Each company progresses down the RPA adoption curve at its own pace. But there’s always something a company can learn from others. Even the best-performing companies – the Pinnacle Enterprises – benefited seeing what others had done and knowing where they should double down on investments and activities that capture value from RPA.

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