Organisations are struggling to deliver the full benefits of RPA technology

23 February 2018 5 min. read
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Many businesses are failing to meet their cost saving targets as part of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) initiatives. Building on experiences gained at clients across multiple sectors, First Consulting has identified a number of common reasons why organisations are struggling to hit these targets.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Centre of Excellence (CoE) is widely seen as a major enabler of organisational transformation. RPA denotes a process that utilises software programmed to autonomously carry out basic tasks across applications, reducing the burden of repetitive, simple tasks on employees.  The cost effective process is able to be developed and deployed in the space of a few weeks, and can typically demonstrate returns on investment within a matter of months. It has been known to dramatically improve the speed and accuracy of processing, resulting in a quicker and higher quality service for the public.

The exciting prospect that this offers, of greater value being created at a lower price, has seen numerous organisations, including the UK Cabinet Office, join a scramble to deploy RPA, in the search of a silver bullet to deliver rapid automation and operational efficiency. Without the overheads of items such as employee costs, employee management effort, and office space, a robot costs a fraction of a fully costed FTE, whilst working longer hours and at greater speed.

However, the reality of RPA is complex, says Jon Nelmes, Partner at First Consulting, highlighting that the successful delivery of RPA requires careful planning, along with disciplined implementation and operational management. For companies that are either starting out on their RPA journey, or who are struggling to hit their RPA benefit targets, Nelmes and his team at the consulting firm have identified five key areas for consideration.

Organisations are struggling to deliver the full benefits of RPA technology

RPA is not always the answer!
RPA is not the silver bullet for all process improvement initiatives. To ensure business value is achieved, RPA should be considered as part of a broader process improvement landscape.

Don't spend more than you save
Once a process has been selected, a careful balance of cost-benefit must be applied to the automation of each component of that process. If not, diminishing returns will apply to low frequency and high complexity activities.

Make sure your team can deliver and run the robots
During RPA delivery, it is essential that key stakeholders in the robotics maintenance team and the business have a sufficient understanding of the automation to support all aspects once the delivery team finishes.

Know what your robots are doing
As the process is defined, benefit targets must be specified and a methodology must be put in place for tracking and reporting these post-implementation. Are you delivering what you expected?

Robot's don't manage themselves
Make sure your governance is in place to ma nage a nd deliver enterprise wide c ha nges so that the robots can keep running whenever the business or IT needs to change.

What else can RPA deliver?

When businesses are able to avoid the common pitfalls of RPA implementation, the cost savings available through the establishment of a true virtual workforce can indeed be material. However, the benefits need not be restricted to FTE and office space reduction. In addition to these more ‘classic’ cost saving benefits of RPA, embedding the technology in operations can bring rise to a range of other benefits, including:

Quote Jon Nelmes, First Consulting

Data quality
The value of a business’ data cannot be underestimated. Data standardisation is inherent to any RPA initiative and it ensures that consistent, high quality data is governed by clearly defined rules and procedures.

Employee productivity
With RPA, tedious, high volume activities are completed by the virtual workforce with minimal errors. This enables the retained workforce to focus on true, value-adding activities for the business.

Employee attrition
Due to the increase in employee productivity, the implementation of RPA can reduce attrition rates by improving a workforce’s sense of value and achievement.

Reporting & Management Information
RPA can enhance the quality and delivery timeframe of financial reports and MI by reducing the effort required, while also enabling the business to make better informed business decisions more quickly.

Compliance & control
Whether delivered within the compliance function or the business itself, RPA can enhance data accuracy, improve reporting timeframes, improve data control by enforcing defined rules and restrict data or robot access to a limited resource pool.

Despite the fact that a large share of organisations are struggling to deliver the full benefits of RPA technology, there is fortunately also good news, explains Nelmes. “With a clear plan in place, organisations get back on track and fully exploit their RPA benefit portfolio, even during the heat of implementation. We find that a rapid health-assessment against a clear pre-defined structure drives clarity of how well an organisation is performing, what additional benefit can be delivered, and how. This can be done in a matter of weeks.”