Four reasons you could be under-utilising your robotic process automation (RPA) investment

Would you employ someone on a full-time contract to work two days a week? Is having a team only work three out of seven hours a day good business practice, especially when there is other work to do, or you could have fewer people do more? Under-utilising Intelligent Automation (RPA) investment is no different. Your software robot(s) should be working as close to 24/7-365 as possible.

Whilst software automation (RPA) is mature/stable; many are at the beginning of their journey and making costly errors. There is a learning curve with all new technology, and software bots are no different. Software automation is an operational software, designed to support people to help run your business so requires a blend of IT, operations and strategic leadership to make the best use of it.

If your bots are underutilised, the business isn’t making the most of their investment in licencing, hardware and support – you are wasting money. This oversight means other parts of the company are also deprived of additional capacity or support. If Accounts, HR, Contact Centre are too busy (or you can reduce headcount in the teams because of extra help), then you should be allocating a proportion of time to each section. i.e. dedicate the morning to HR tasks and in the afternoon, Contact centre, and in the evening, Accounts.

Time and time again, we speak with clients; they invest in RPA and don’t make the most of their investment. Wasting money on RPA and depriving other parts of the business of support. You can acquire a robot (also known as Hyper Automation/Intelligent Automation/RPA (robotic process automation)), but then use it for 2 hours a day when it can run 24/7-365. This software can process thousands of transactions a minute, relentless, never deviating, error-free, full reporting and can easily out-perform up to five full-time employees, and under-utilising it in your business is costly. 

Four reasons you could be under-utilising robotic process automation:  

Lack of understanding of the capability of robotic process automation 

Robotic Process Automation is still a relatively new concept. The technology is mature, but use cases are still presenting themselves as they differ from team to team. Businesses know that robots/AI are “the future” so they are starting to investigate/dabble. Fragmented approaches or simply employing an RPA developer won’t work as “coding” is not the challenge; understanding business operations and having strategic input is the real automation challenge  facing businesses. Then comes experience in building: if you know what you’re doing, bots can be programmed to mimic decisions. You must also, often, redefine processes, so when incorporating automation, you get the most value from automation. Additional steps, governance, and resilience can be leveraged so that you are not just poorly mimicking, your redefining. Input from business leaders around strategy is paramount, as what might be the right process to support today may not be tomorrow. Without using a specialist to train you (not to develop) in real-life conceptual capability and practical applications to redefine business processes, you will not get the most from your automation project, so will not receive the support your business requires. 

Internal capacity to perform robotic process automation functions

Our future workforce is a blend of people/bots and AI. It’s simple, today, you employ five people in a team to deliver an outcome; when you integrate some automation, this footprint will be reduced to two, and it will be a slicker, more resilient team. The reality is every team, and part of your business can be supported by automation and AI. However large or small you can optimise as bots work anywhere. The remaining staff will handle issues that sit outside of robotic process automation/AI capability. Talk to people, deal with problems, new teams will be formed to leverage soft skills that people possess. To achieve this, you need the internal capacity. 

Without knowing everything about your robots and have full control over what you have implemented to run your business, you will not use them. You must be entirely comfortable using software robots, embrace a new way of working to reap the rewards. Reduced operating cost, improved resilience, minimised errors, standardisation is all possible. I’m not referring to RPA developer capability (I will argue this is of least importance). Its operational and strategic understanding. There are predefined rules, guidelines, metrics, governance in place for your staff (lead by HR/Resourcing), and the same should in place with your digital workforce. Knowing limits, capability, and expert knowledge as to how to integrate into your teams. It is imperative to use a proven framework to work based on the nine pillars to do.

RPA has been mis-sold to you

When you look online, there are masses of information on how easy bots are to code, integrate and use. Metrics to confirm speed, security, reliability, and resilience. It’s all true they are easy to code, resilient and robust. 

This is not the issue; the reality is to make the best use you need a different set of skills to integrate them into your business. If you do not have strategic input, you may automate processes that will be changing and waste money. Build out automated workflows without full visibility of governance and business obligations, so they can’t be used and relied upon. You may also miss opportunities to automate things that can add more value to the business, like improved reporting to show your customers. 

You can easily miss the point, just buying bots for the sake of it to automate “everything “but not being able to do it adds little value. Intelligent automation licences have a mass of capacity if managed correctly; it will take time to max out five or ten! In years to come, we will be using hundreds, but it will take time to get there and going about it the right way will ensure that happens. 

A simple process is more straight forward, but invariably, this will not add value until you build in reporting, governance, metrics, step-outs. It would be best if you had the internal capacity/strategic leadership, a framework to work in accordance to. This enables you to identify, manage and implement both complex and simple processes. Without a framework (based on the nine pillars), you will make mistakes, waste time and money. Worse miss out on supporting the business as hoped and lose ground.

Your company simply has too many bots

At an average of £8,000 – £15,000 a licence (when you factor hosting/capacity), whilst cost-effective they are not cheap. As with all expenditure, it must be justified and through a lack of understanding each (bot licence) may not be maximised. Using three robots when two are sufficient, allocating too much processing capacity to processes, and leaving nothing to use elsewhere. Not building according to best practice, so bots are not efficient. 

You would not employ additional staff until required. First look at what the team is doing, how they are working and why. Then review potential approaches to amend the work, identify areas to improve. This approach must be replicated when looking at RPA. Robots have the capacity, and this capacity can be prioritised, ranked, and manipulated. Just like people one bot can work in twenty places if you use them correctly. Operating cost will be reduced, resilience increased, and scalability will no longer be an issue. 

At the end of the year when budgets are reviewed, deliverables assessed you should be able to evidence what your investment has delivered clearly. Licencing, build, hosting, support should match against achievements. Accounts are now running with eight instead of ten, customer service running with four instead of six, additional reporting built into logistics and acquisition. Every expenditure reflected in an outcome. With this extra data budget to “scale” won’t be an issue and it will happen quickly. One to two years is what we see, and the budget is freely allocated. 

Software automation, when managed correctly is phenomenal; Lower operating cost, resilience, scalability, improved service is all possible. Make sure you do not miss out!

 

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