Secrets of Greater ROI in Robotic Process Automation

More often than business wants, IT organizations are keen on broader enterprise-wide process automation. Yes, there are good reasons for this view. Business case in favor of enterprise-wide strategic purchase is driven by IT executive’s desire to shorten delivery at a lower cost – pooling of business requirements with a common theme, volume license, support contract and one-time implementation cost. Such business case makes IT look good. That’s where it stops.

Operationally, ROI on enterprise-wide efforts are much hard to demonstrate. Consequently, CFOs, industry experts and even ERP vendors raise doubts on large scale technology implementations. Cost overruns are quite common in such projects. Specific to RPA projects, since some of the processes provide far less cost savings, broad process improvement efforts seldom deliver great financial value. Focusing on smaller projects where there is greatest reduction in complexities, time savings and more automation gives the best value for the business.

Side note: Many of the author’s peers in consulting world prefer longer-term, enterprise-wide process improvement efforts due to their predisposed thinking. Readers must not get influenced by the biased views. Insist on short-term results and progress towards longer-term value in RPA projects.

Where does one start to find the best RPA candidate? In practice congregation of people (virtual, remote or in open floor) exchanges and hub-and-spoke transactional processes are good candidates for Robot Process Automation. To substantiate the selected process as a candidate, beneficiaries of the process (typically someone outside of the process) must have the full opportunity to bring out the practical challenges, areas of quality improvement, speed of processing and seasonality-volume swings. It is quite easy to get passionate about possible ways RPA can ease the complexities, but it takes experience to translate these frustrations to realistic RPA success qualifiers. Remember, RPA project deliver speed, implementers need to think of bullwhip effect upfront to avoid new processing delays elsewhere.

A business assessment assignment is typically abstract – focuses on process, performance and gaps. But, in RPA projects, engagement with processing staff require intuitive insights, predictors – why things go well, what does it mean when the staff says “it is a good day,” and how do they intuitively know things go right or wrong. For instance, “What does it mean if you were to finish your posting all the entries before 3pm instead of waiting till 6 pm and 7 pm for entries to come?” It is of great value to the process participants if they can finish work at a reasonable time and go home early to spend time with their family. The intangible benefits are important. Selling future state with personal benefits has a far greater chance of long-term success in delivering RPA results.

The combined value of tangible process improvements, intangible employee benefits and phased IT implementation is a good recipe for RPA success.