Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a hot area these days and it absolutely should be in your organization’s toolbox. Constellation Research estimates the market size in 2021 will achieve $2.2B in revenue with a CAGR of 18.8% and grow to $5.07B in 2026. The benefits are pretty compelling—take the basic, repetitive, time-consuming, error-prone tasks nobody enjoys doing—and give them to a “bot.” Bots don’t complain about repetitiveness, don’t make errors as they get fatigued and, through the magic of APIs and microservices, can do everything much faster than the average employee.
As with all other types of automation, another primary goal of RPA is freeing-up more time for humans to focus on higher-value tasks that require creativity and judgement. As an aspirational goal, it seems pretty straightforward. But in reality, the path to get there is complicated.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the interest in RPA hasn’t manifested in the step-change improvement many expected when adopting the technology. HFS Research says it well:
“The ugly truth surrounding the first seven years of RPA adoption is that we’ve simply succeeded in using RPA to move data around enterprises faster with less manual intervention rather than to rewire our business processes and create new thresholds of value.”
You may be thinking to yourself, “Why exactly is that?”
I’m glad you asked.
The answer is the same answer companies face every time a new technology is introduced to the mix. We have a vague idea that this new technology can be a real game-changer (because the vendors told us so). But how we get to this vision is entirely unclear.
Thus, we are left with a new “Law of Three” for RPA, echoing our Law of Three for mobile:
We are holding ourselves captive in the RPA Excitement Phase, akin to Gartner’s “trough of expectations”: delivering moderate value while excitement and hype over the technology are at their peak.
We do this because of the fragmented nature of our business processes, crafted over time with one layer of complexity heaped upon another (like an archeological dig) as new scenarios arose, never stepping back to look at the big picture. This hearkens back to an old Propelics line: “Mobility is not a bolt-on,” which preached against simply replicating existing processes on a smaller screen.
Yet, here we are again doing the same thing—treating RPA as a bolt-on, simply replicating and replacing one process for an automated one—without stopping to think about how we might completely refactor the experience. How could RPA really improve our employees’ jobs (e.g., attended automation)? How might RPA fit into, and even enhance, the company’s larger strategic digital transformation efforts?
I’ve said it time and again about mobile, IoT and other technologies. I’ll say it again now about RPA: we must embrace this unique opportunity to reimagine and reengineer our business processes in order to best take advantage of all that RPA has to offer. But we rarely do. We (almost) always start with a low-risk process (guaranteeing a low ROI) and literally codify (in software) the current, likely sub-optimal, business processes, further negating the potential for greater benefit.
In order to really get the most of RPA, we must break from the constraints of the past. We should follow Kylo Ren’s advice and “Let the past die.” Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. A whole bunch of folks in your company resist changing how things are done—for many reasons. Therefore, more than anything else, this is a cultural challenge. We know how things work today. We’re comfortable with the current processes and with our current roles and responsibilities. Breaking these norms, “killing” them to allow us to reach our true potential (to paraphrase Kylo) is hard, but necessary.
For me, the opportunity to help redefine how things work, how to do things better, how to make life easier for people is a lot of fun and always very energizing. It also helps that working at Anexinet, I’m coming at the client’s problem as an outsider with none of the preconceptions or constraints that come from years of working at the client’s company.
To overcome this common roadblock, Anexinet helps clients define their RPA strategy and a broad set of use cases via our proven ideation process that promotes outside the box thinking and prioritizes ideas according to business impact, organizational readiness and complexity, helping to define your automation roadmap. To learn more about how RPA can benefit your organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Anexinet for more detail. We’d love to help you get started.
But it all starts with Kylo’s quote. Break from the past to build a stronger enterprise and a more powerful RPA strategy.