While meeting with clients, they tend to focus their attention on trying to understand the benefits of RPA and how to go about capitalizing on the opportunities this technology provides by asking questions such as:
- What’s the best use case?
- What’s the best vendor?
- What kind of infrastructure do I need?
- What’s the best way to get started?
- Can my employees learn to build and maintain bots?
These are all great questions, but they overlook something very important. The one factor that can make or break your automation program is people. The most common concern we hear employees express is: Will the bot eliminate my job? Because people are at the heart of any RPA program, if you don’t adequately address this question, your plans can be derailed. Any program that ignores the importance of ensuring that you are meeting the needs of your people will experience struggles and obstacles.
In our continuing series of key considerations when scaling, we focus on enhancing the experience of your process owners, employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
People1. Invest in RPA evangelism throughout your organization.
Developing advocacy within business teams will help build trust, manage expectations, and speed adoption of RPA within your organization. Building a network of champions will ensure people are aware of the technology and can learn about it in a very organic way. Establish digital ambassadors in your Robotic Operating Center of Excellence (ROC) who can own the relationship between your program and each individual department.
Recruit people to serve as digital warriors who reside within each department to magnify your voice and ensure your message is getting out there in a consistent and sustained way. Start with an education program for the key points of contact and influencers in the teams and departments that you want to reach. Confirm they understand the basics of RPA, and show them real examples of how a bot can improve their team operations.
2. Set clear expectations with your stakeholders.
The initial excitement of RPA can wane when stakeholders realize what it takes to successfully build, implement, and manage bots. Some common misconceptions of using RPA include:a. Myth: Developing bots is easy. Anyone can do it.
Reality: It takes more skill than advertised to build a robust bot for most business processes.b. Myth: Bots just show up to work and don’t require much supervision.
Reality: Just like employees, bots require support and supervision to ensure that they continue working correctly.c. Myth: RPA can replace people and whole jobs.
Reality: RPA automates tasks, not jobs.d. Myth: If RPA saves me 40 hours a week, I can eliminate a position.
Reality: The real efficiencies are seen after RPA is implemented, more broadly enabling you to reallocate work across your employee base.
With every use case you tackle, ensure there is transparency and agreement regarding the goals of automating that process. Ideally, you should be able to tie the benefits of each use case back to one of the program goals. One way to do this is to build criteria into your use case assessment template that evaluates automation ideas with your program goals in mind. For instance, if one of your objectives is efficiency, ensure the template includes questions dealing with the number of steps, people, departments, hand offs, and process duration. You can apply a higher weight to use cases that include many people and steps, allowing these ideas to rise to the top of your automation candidate list.
3. Adapt your goals to incent the behaviors you need.
First, establish goals for your program and get buy in from your stakeholders. Then, measure the performance of bots against these goals.
- If most of your use cases are targeting processes with a low number of manual hours, build metrics to track the median hour savings on production bots and compare that with the use cases in your pipeline.
- If the bots aren’t consistently running, resulting in the actual savings falling short of the expected savings, measure the average bot utilization of those in production.
Publish these metrics during your stakeholder meetings and on your digital dashboard to show how each department is doing relative to each other and to program goals. Your objective is to get each department to take ownership of the results and work with you to improve when they are falling behind. The digital warrior role can be pivotal in gaining this buy in and ownership.
4. Celebrate success.
Consider gamification strategies to incentivize the behaviors you need to drive the program forward:
- Bot birth certifications to announce the launch of new bots.
- Bot retirements to remind people of the contribution made by the automation.
- Badges for employees who complete training, received a certification, develop their first bot, or develop a top-producing bot.
5. Anticipate resistance to process optimization.
The promise of RPA is to transform the organization, but the temptation will be to automate the current processes as they are. Take the opportunity to consider how RPA can breakdown silos and reimagine the organizational structure. Get creative; with RPA you are not bound by the traditional constraints of people performing manual tasks.
When we talk with clients, we share ideas about including value added steps in the automated process that would not be feasible to ask an employee to do, such as taking screenshots of a journal entry posted in your general ledger and saving it as backup support. Showing how an optimized process can not only be more efficient, but also include more business value is a great way to convince someone of its benefits.
6. Sustained executive leadership is important.
Senior leaders need to create accountability for promoting a digital mindset at the middle management layer by:
- Highlighting digital program goals and successes such as individual or team accomplishments at all-hands meetings and in other communications.
- Building accountability around nontraditional factors that measure engagement rather than just results or returns. Consider building metrics to track the number of employees who have submitted automation ideas, the number of people in each department who have built a bot, or the number of people in each department who have completed training.