4 min read

Avoiding RPA Implementation Mistakes and Failures

Removing mundane and redundant tasks through automation is always sold with the value proposition of saving time and money. Conserving and redistributing these important and finite resources towards business expansion are usually the intent when most RPA (robotic process automation) projects launch, with these benefits often expressed as the featured bullet points for a business’ digital transformation journey.

A global company has installed yellow traffic lights on the side of a road.

It’s true that strategically incorporating automation can improve operational efficiency, in fact, Forrester reports that 86% of organizations adopting RPA are experiencing increased efficiency from their automation efforts. Hearing that 9 out of 10 businesses become more efficient through RPA implementations is enough to make any CIO look for processes to automate, but behind this high rate of success lies many late projects and failed attempts that get chalked up to learning experiences – i.e., flat-out failure.

For example, a survey by Deloitte’s revealed that out of 400 global enterprises, 63 percent of participants experienced delays and missed deadlines on RPA projects. Of those same companies, when implementations finally succeeded, return on investment was many times overestimated, diminishing the expected value of the initiative. Another study by EY estimated 30 to 50 percent of initial RPA implementations result in failure.

Three ways to prevent RPA catastrophes

Yes, RPA projects fail but often these failures could have been avoided by using the same basic principles which should guide any project intended to drive business transformation. Let’s look at a few ways of keeping automation projects on time, within budget and out of the “learning experience” zone.  

1. Set a clear vision with goals

Automation without vision and measurable goals is like driving a car without a destination. You will never get where you are going if you don’t know where to go. Although replacing human interaction with bots would have been science fiction in 1954 when his book “The Practice of Management” was first published, where Peter Drucker describes his method of creating SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant,Time-bound), goals are as pertinent now to RPA implementations as they were when they were first applied to business.

2. Know your processes

If you do not thoroughly understand your businesses processes, then you will inevitably choose the wrong processes to automate. This leads to unnecessary expenditures, frustration, disappointment, and guaranteed failure.Not all business processes are equal, and RPA is not the panacea for all your automation needs, In other words, not every process needs to be automated. First determine your process selection criteria, including business value formulas, and then begin delineating between task automation and end-to-end business process automation.

One’s ignorance of their own business processes can cause a bad process made worse by applying RPA. Implementing bots will never fix a poorly designed process and may, instead, shift issues down the line only to create new problems, which may jeopardize the entire project. Bad processes should be uncovered early and reevaluated to determine if they are necessary or can be modified to fit the desired experience.

3. Select processes wisely

Determining where to start is critical to the success of the entire RPA program. After a thorough review and even some ruthless culling of business processes, leaders will have what amounts to an exploded diagram of all the processes they are trying to solve with RPA, with each process depicted individually and seen holistically.

Now, pick a starting point that ensures success, and delivers tangible efficiencies and value. Give your RPA team a win for morale and demonstrate to stakeholders the process is off to a strong start, helping to build organizational buy-in. Prioritize next implementations and iterations into a delivery pipeline around opportunities for success designed for sustainability and value.

Implementing RPA, when done well, delivers what is promised: reduce operational costs; improve customer experiences; reduce inefficiencies, errors, and cycle times; improve business processes; generate new revenue; contain costs; or improve your workforce and their productivity. These are all possible when you have established an enterprise vision around concise and measurable goals, identified, and prioritized the right processes for automation, positioning them within a delivery pipeline that balances value and sustainability.

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