Robotic Process Automation, RPA is the use of software to automate human tasks and business processes.
RPA analysts predict a tidal wave of automation in the next 3 years, with some early adopters already employing Robot Armies.
But is it really that easy? We look at some of the risks and mitigation of RPA…
Finance Operations processes are ideal candidates for RPA as they fall into the success profile and criteria of short, repetitive and rules-based activities with a small number of outcomes. But what are the risks, and how can we manage them?
1. Don’t lose your human team, before the Bots arrive.
Communicate your intention to your Finance team and consider them at every stage. Show them what jobs will change and how. Address their concerns and offer training to help people adapt. If part of your RPA sales pitch includes the promise that you are going to free up your Finance team’s time to invest in data analytics (for example), then make sure to do it.
2. RPA creates a more complex software maintenance environment
Change is inevitable, even in a mature finance operations world, and changes to automated processes have an additional complication as the change needs to be made by RPA developers and this might make small changes to a process feel unnecessarily complicated.
The current skills pool of RPA developers is still quite small, meaning that companies may have to compete to attract the best developer resources in the short term. However, as RPA adoption increases, this risk will reduce as more of the Technology workforce will have RPA development experience. Note, this new overhead will be factored into your costs and positive ROI, with one RPA developer supervising and maintaining multiple Bots.
3. Partner with the right RPA vendor.
Things to consider might be reputation, pricing and licensing, how easily will it integrate with your existing IT systems, how easy is the development process, how scalable and flexible is the software and the user interface, what level of support will the vendor provide, and what experience do they have of implementing RPA in a Finance setting?
4. Consider the suitability of processes for automation.
Automation works best with stable, high volume, rules-based, short, repetitive processes containing digital structured data. If the Finance data is of poor quality (missing fields, duplication, inconsistent formatting), this will result in reduced benefits from RPA.
5. Blank cheques don’t exist in business
So decide how you will measure the benefits before you automate. This will ensure that you fully understand the AS-IS and TO-BE process, can build a robust business case, and demonstrate a quick ROI even with new overheads and change management activities.
6. It could be an innovation blocker.
After all, one of the benefits of RPA is we can implement a Bot without fixing the bigger picture, and a Bot will only perform a defined task (which may be a workaround) rather than identify process improvements like humans can. However, the flip-side of this is that your already experienced, qualified and innovative workforce will have more time to focus on the big picture, problem-solving and innovation agendas.
7. Think big.
Often companies will be successful in rolling out a proof of concept but lose momentum for successive phases. Consider the entire end to end process, not just small task workarounds, and create a pipeline of processes for automation and demonstrate the tangible and non-tangible benefits to make the business case for investment in future waves.
Ensure you have a plan for governance and maintenance to ensure continued and controlled delivery of benefits. Consider your Finance target operating model or end state, and build the automation pipeline into your end state and organisational design considerations. Try to link your automated processes together for maximum benefit.
Stay tuned for learning #6: “What does a robot future look like? We look at the trends and impact of tomorrow’s RPA robots.“
More big questions here – #BQs