Robotic Process Automation (RPA) like any other change initiative deals with people and one thing is clear — people don’t like change; at least not when it is forced upon them and especially not when it is threatening job security. In this article, we will go through a couple of strategies on how to implement RPA without resistance from the employees.
How companies typically implement RPA?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is usually being implemented in the companies by recruiting RPA developer or hiring a consultant. RPA developer reaches out to individual department leaders asking them to analyse processes. Once the analysis is done within the department then RPA developer receives the list of processes, tries to find the most time-consuming processes, validates the feasibility for RPA automation and starts the development process.
It is a fairly straight forward setup, used by most of the companies. However, it is prone to some errors.
Why RPA Implementation Fail?
Lack of Full Process Oversight: As a rule of thumb, if the process is not 100% digital and requires human input, the automation doesn’t give significant savings and defies its’ purpose. Many times process has the potential to bring huge savings but one small non-digital hick-up on the way stops the initiative. It is thus, essential to have a single person to follow through the whole process and make sure it is well suited for automation before automation starts.
Employees Resistance: It is not a secret that the purpose of RPA is to automate processes and reduce the headcount. When people are asked to describe their workflow with time estimates and share with RPA team — rightfully so it feels like digging your own grave. As a result, unreasonable delays, inaccurate time and processes estimates are being presented to hinder or prevent RPA implementation altogether.
No more Low-hanging fruits: Once the processes that have the biggest potential for savings are automated, RPA teams don’t have much to do. As a result, they get back to the department leaders asking for more processes, but it is not certain that big wins will be found again.
How to avoid mistakes when implementing RPA?
One of the ways to minimise the resistance from employees and ensure that the process is well thought out is to use a different setup for RPA implementation. Instead of recruiting a new RPA developer or consultant, companies take one of the employees at a large department and train them to become RPA developer.
Side note: biggest RPA software providers like UIpath, Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere offers online and offline courses for anyone who wants to learn to use their software for automation. UIpath Online courses, for example, have around 130h of raw video lesson footage to become a professional RPA developer. Offline courses at the office of a company take from a few weeks up to a few months.
Once the employee became RPA developer, then they are sent back to the department to collaborate with others and automate the processes within the department. The benefits of such a setup are numerous. Since newly trained RPA developer used to work at the department before and knows all the employees, it is much easier to spread a positive sentiment and improve technological adoption. At the same time, the person is also familiar with the workflow within the department so mapping out the full processes becomes an intuitive and fast task. As a bonus, shortsightedness in terms of process complexity and process digital readiness can be avoided due to the fact that the same person does the processes outline and RPA implementation. Even if all the most significant processes end up being automated, then the developer can undertake the old role.
That being said, there are several drawbacks of such an approach to be considered. Since the person needs to be trained on the theoretical side and learning curve on a practical side is quite steep as well, it is likely to take considerable time before results will be seen. Although newly gained skills could be used on other RPA implementation projects in other departments as development support, it is generally limited to single department automation.
How to implement RPA on a budget?
There is always a smart and resourceful way of doing things. Process analysis is a very time consuming, tedious and analytical work. It does fit really well though with the University Master Thesis project scope and there are also numerous advantages for doing analysis in collaboration with students. To start with, student research projects are usually welcomed internally by employees who reminisce about their good old study days. As a result, no one feels threatened by sharing working processes and on contrary spirits are being lifted. In 5 months time (A typical Master thesis project length) students are capable of covering all the main processes in a fairly large department and conducting an analysis:
Data collection — interviews with employees to understand the processes and observe actual work at the premise to track the time spent for each task.
Analysis — Mapping out all processes and analyse automation viability with RPA, AI, Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) or other means in the literature. FTE and ROI calculations of each process taking into account organisations IT capabilities.
Conclusions — Recommendations for the top 5 processes that could be automated, savings realised and investments required.