Top 8 risks associated with RPA and how to mitigate them

Robotic Process Automation like all technology and innovation initiatives come with disruption and risks associated. In this blog, we will be diving into 8 risk categories that Dr. Mary L. Lacity and Dr. Leslie P. Willcocks described in their book "Robotic Process Automation and Risk Mitigation: The definitive guide".

RPA strategy risks: RPA is a powerful technology that can drive innovation, improve customer service and maximize competitiveness for its organizational adopters, but often times businesses fail to deliver its full value by setting up the wrong goals and expectations, or misusing it for one-off, isolated areas. These can lead to under-resourcing the RPA initiate, inhibiting it from reaching its full potential. Examples of some of the worst strategies is to see RPA only as a way to cut down spending by reducing FTEs instead of using it to innovate and improve how work is done, this can also lead to a bad reputation for the organization.

  • Missed value
  • Lack of strategic intent
  • Absence of end-point design
  • Isolated/one-off goals
  • Under-resourcing your RPA projects
  • Damaged reputation

RPA Sourcing risks: Using the wrong sourcing model can lead to excessive costs, this happens often when organizations decide to do everything internally lacking the required skills to govern, develop and enact without relying on external advisory, choosing inexpert advisors or bringing them in after some key decision have been made.

  • Lacking internal skills for DIY
  • Selecting the wrong consulting partner
  • Bringing external advisors too late
  • Relying on BPO providers - they get to keep most benefits
  • Cloud data / compliance risks

Tool selection risks: Just like cloud-washing, RPA-washing can be a real risk due to the market hype. Many tool vendors claim automation capabilities that lack basis. For example, some vendors just offer screen-scraping which can lead to high maintenance for error correction or changes if it lacks full screen automation features. Due to its nuance, companies can end up often times choosing the wrong tool/s for their needs.

  • Selecting the wrong tool
  • "RPA washing"
  • Crowded vendor offerings

Stakeholder buy-in risks: Implementing an RPA initiative requires stakeholder buy-in at different levels across the enterprise. Typically buy-in from the executive suite, IT department, business unit employees, and external stakeholders such as customers and service partners. It is not uncommon for IT departments to write off RPA as a hyped up technology with low value and potential to threaten stability and security. There would also be risks of the grass-roots to look at RPA as a threat to their jobs, hence actively stall or derail its implementation.

The key is to understand that ALL stakeholders active engagement is integral to a successful RPA delivery.

  • Employee pushback
  • Non-cooperative IT
  • Union backlash
  • Lack of visible progress and results

Launch/project risks: To mitigate risks of a project launch fail, organizations would need to prevent technical failures, financial failures, and political failures. For example companies that chooses to adopt RPA in departments with the most headcount in order to generate more savings fail due to large load of changing processes and exception handling. Companies that aim to reduce headcount speedily for immediate FTE savings fail because it did not have the resources required to build a robust RPA solution, buying the wrong tool, making wrong assumptions, taking shortcuts and jeopardizing security and compliance.

  • Wrong use cases
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Aim for too much automation
  • Bad shortcuts - testing, documentation, etc.

Operational/execution risks: Operational risks occur when robots get deployed into operations without a proper operating model. If enterprises don't define roles, and rush into training, responsibilities can be blurred when bots go into production, humans can find themselves confused on their roles.

  • Robots stop working or don't function as intended
  • Not enough bot force
  • Costly maintenance

Change management risks: Change management strategy is key to the success of a disruptive implementation such as RPA. A poor communication plan and lack of executive and grassroots buy-in, and lack of operational models. Underestimating and under-resourcing change management activities can jeopardize a proper alignment between the strategy, processes, technology, and people in the implementation lifecycle, leading to HR issues, delays and missed opportunities.

  • Not building in CM strategy into RPA
  • HR messaging not aligned
  • Blurred roles
  • Lack of know-how
  • Lack of communication plan

Maturity risks: When companies reach maturity with their initial deployment, and begin expanding RPA across different business units and geographies, they can start facing sustainability risks, such as rapid proliferation of automation requests, duplicated efforts across divisions, and under-utilization of bots. Other risks can include unchanged labor and process silos, lack of preparation for automation progress into cognitive technologies, shortage or leakage of RPA talent, etc.

  • Momentum stalls
  • Underutilization of bots
  • Duplicated efforts
  • Skills leakage/shortage
  • Lack of integration

In conclusion, innovative solutions are meant to be disruptive and along with their benefits come risks. Having a realistic view of RPA and preparing for such risks mitigation can make a big difference in reaching its maximum potential.

Need help in planning and delivering a successful RPA initiative in your organization? We can help! Contact us for a quick complimentary call with our RPA experts today.

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