Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has its fair share of challenges that we need to be aware of and take steps to overcome.
Some or all of these challenges have resulted in organizations stopping their implementation after the first wave of bots. Being cognizant of these challenges and addressing them ahead could help you be one of the RPA-AI scale champions.
Just as you understand the benefits of automation, and have secured management approval to invest, it would be wise to understand the possible challenges.
This is one of the biggest challenges I have seen to implement RPA. We have real benefits but people at all levels fear job loss and its impacts. A proper Change management plan with education and frequent communication is crucial. It should keep the employees informed right from the POC/POV stage. This is essential to successful adoption.
Let us face it – RPA is still an emerging space and the tools do have their limitations that you discover as you get into the weeds of implementation:
- Many use cases are hampered by the inability to handle unstructured formats reliably. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is improving especially with AI/ML but still has challenges. eg. complex formats, handwritten documents, etc.
- Intelligence (AI/ML) is starting to get incorporated into the tools. We may still need to wait some more time before we see truly cognitive automation. AI could remove a lot of RPA limitations (including OCR) in the near future though.
Process variation and Complexity
RPA is simple but not easy. One of the biggest problems crops up when the teams discover that the processes are more complex than expected. This is generally caused by multiple exceptions and system variations. Unfortunately, this is not understood until the Process discovery or even the definition phase. It is important to understand the processes, look for ways to Consolidate, Standardize, Optimize and then Automate.
Many organizations go with the hype and jump in only to be disappointed later. It is important to have sponsorship and executive buy-in on the RPA journey and Roadmap. All the stakeholders should jointly own the results. This is easier if this is a strategic direction and everyone is rowing in the same direction.
I like to say that there should be a “Pull” from each of the business groups involved rather than being a “Push”. It’s much easier that way.
RPA is a business tool and ownership should be with the business with IT involvement. If IT considers this as another software tool and goes through typical evaluation cycles, the Business benefits may be delayed or even be a non-starter.
This is a major mindset shift and probably the most important one for successful RPA implementations.
Right stakeholder involvement
It is important to ensure all Stakeholders are involved right from the beginning. Key stakeholders include:
IT: IT’s role in RPA implementations is to ensure proper technical governance (eg. Hosting, Security, etc.). If you do not involve IT early, you could have issues when it comes to IT architecture, infrastructure, and security.
Procurement: Procurement needs to be involved to understand the benefits of RPA and be co-creators of business value.
Audit/Compliance: It is advisable to have compliance teams be involved from the POC/POV stage so that they are onboard and help nip compliance issues early.
Interacting Platform Changes
RPA works through existing interfaces – mostly screens – which can change as the application is upgraded or enhanced. This could break the automation if the RPA tools or the interacting application do not provide the necessary flexibility. The best solution, for now, is to ensure proper coordination with application development teams or vendors to take care of such changes ahead.
RPA thus has multiple benefits and also has a fair share of challenges. It is important to navigate the challenges to realize the complete benefits.