Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is often touted to be the time-saver of the century, and it sure can be. But let me tell you, challenges arise when you first start down the path of RPA. Here are 6 challenges to expect when implementing RPA, and how to overcome them:
1. Identifying the right processes.
One of the biggest challenges in implementing RPA is deciding which processes to automate. Not all processes are right for RPA, so finding the right ones are key. Here are a few things to look for when finding a process that works well for automation:
- Run frequently. If this is a process that you only run once a month (or even less often), it may not be worth the time and expense of automation.
- Business rules. Does the process follow regular business rules? You’ll have to be able to “train” the bot to do certain things when other things happen. If a lot of human judgment is involved, it may not be a great choice for automation.
- Mature process. If it’s a newer process, it’s more likely to change and get refined over time. Setting up an automation takes quite a bit of effort, so you want to make sure the process is fairly mature and steady before putting in the effort for automation.
- People really hate it. If the process is a big pain for people to run, it’s a great option for automation! Relieve frustration by letting a bot do the work!
- Audit trail. If an audit trail is important to the process, automation is a great way to go. Everything is documented.
- Data heavy. If it involves someone entering a lot of data, it’s a great choice for automation. People will eventually key something wrong or mess up. A bot may run into situations it doesn’t understand, but it never intends to type a “c” and gets a “v.”
2. Upfront investment.
There’s a WIDE range, but RPA software can cost your company anywhere from $5,000 to $300,000. Of course, you’ll need to factor in the savings you’ll gain to calculate the ROI. (Want to know more about calculating automation RPA? Read our e-book!) When deciding to keep automation work internal, many companies will hire consultants to help, and this can be expensive too.
Even using a company like RoboSource to use an automation-as-a-service model requires an upfront fee of at least $5,000, plus a monthly fee.
One challenge in implementing RPA is definitely making sure you have the upfront budget to afford it. RPA WILL save money down the line, but it will take time to see the ROI.
3. Resistance to change.
Change resistance is definitely a challenge in implementing RPA. Though it seems like a no-brainer (“You mean I DON’T have to manually type all of that data in anymore?!?”), employees sometimes feel threatened when a company implements RPA. Change management is essential. We’ve seen the biggest successes come when clients let the team know early and often about coming changes due to RPA. Celebrate the coming change with team members, and then make sure to take time to meet with affected team members about what they’ll be doing once they have extra time.
4. Data quality.
RPA relies on good quality data, so that’s a first step. Before implementing RPA, take some time to ensure data integrity. If data is “dirty,” RPA will only emphasize the issues, not fix them.
6. Support & maintenance.
Sometimes companies make the mistake of assuming that once an automation is in place, the biggest expense is done and they can move on to other automations. But just like regular software projects, RPA projects need support. Though support may get to be less and less over time, at least at first, your bot will encounter all kinds of issues that you weren’t expecting. Each one will need to be dealt with. In addition, even the most mature processes will have parts that change. The following are examples of RPA support issues that we see regularly:
- Software requires a password change. Or software that didn’t used to require two-factor authentication suddenly does.
- A software company moves a button on a screen your bot interacts with (or makes other UI changes).
- A slower internet connection causes the bot to time out or miss a step.
- Someone that interacts with the bot regularly (maybe sends an email triggering the bot) leaves the company or switches position.
- The data is missing key info and the bot isn’t sure how to proceed.
Honestly, the list could go on and on. These are some common issues, but each process will have other specific issues that you and your bot will need to overcome. One other thing to think about is how you’ll get notified when the bot runs into an issue. You’ll need to build this right into your RPA process. Also, you’ll need to think about what happens if your bot gets stuck during the night or on a weekend. Is it okay to wait until business hours to get the bot moving again, or do you need a more elaborate process of notifying someone?
All of these things can be challenging when implementing RPA. So plan for time/funding for support and maintenance!
Often an RPA bot is masquerading as a team member, so they are sometimes as secure as anyone else using your system. But RPA can absolutely introduce insecurity into your systems. Make sure to plan in a security audit as part of your RPA implementation.
If you’d rather have a team help you through these challenges, we’re always ready for that! Click here to request a free consultation.