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Losing the ROI on your RPA – it's time to make your investment count

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(Image credit: Image Credit: Centtrip)

It’s no secret businesses have been ramping up their digital transformation initiatives in the last year. Investing in the right technology has helped companies fare far better during the pandemic and will ensure they thrive beyond it. 

Achieving optimum efficiency and productivity is critical right now. Businesses are working hard to keep their people productive and processes running smoothly while keeping up with the competition. This is why many businesses have turned towards robotic process automation (RPA) to save both time and money. But while RPA promises to transform the cost, efficiency, and quality of many back-office and customer-facing processes, it’s not without its challenges. 

There are numerous common mistakes that cause as many as 30 to 50 percent of companies’ initial RPA implementations to fail. To prevent your next RPA or intelligent automation project from failing, here are the top automation pitfalls to avoid and ensure your investments count every time.

A rush to automate bad processes 

According to an SSON study, the process selected to automate during the initial pilot is the leading cause for failure. Offering more insight into why selecting the right process matters, our research found not fully understanding the intended automated process was to blame. Instead, many organizations select low-hanging fruit initiatives without taking the time to understand their workflows and how they impact other processes. 

The main goal of RPA should be to use bots to reduce human involvement in manual, time-consuming tasks that don’t require cognitive effort. Extracting data from a document, classifying it, and inputting it into a business system, such as transferring data from an invoice into an ERP system, is an example. This is where the sophistication of an intelligent document processing solution makes the difference in speed and accuracy. If pertinent information is missing or mislabelled, the process is broken, and the bot will continue to make a mistake or stop working because these exceptions weren’t included in the rules. Rushing to target the wrong process can result in delays, additional costs, or the project being abandoned. In a time where businesses need to make every investment count, understanding how the technology will make the most impact, is crucial.

Most businesses are stumped by what seems to be a deceptively simple question: which are the right processes for automation? Determining where to start with your RPA program is critical to the success of it. Using tools such as process mining to do a thorough analysis of your business processes will give you a “digital twin” of how they work, and let you know which are best suited for digital transformation. Businesses can then safely select processes that range from rules-based and repetitive in nature to data-intensive and high error rates. 

Prioritize focus on high value-tasks  

Leaders and pundits talk about empowering employees by reducing repetitive work, but some enterprises have been using it to reduce headcount and select projects with that in mind. Arguably, the greatest benefit of adopting RPA is that it allows your talent to devote their skills to higher-value tasks. This removes the burden of performing manual operations that contribute little to the organization’s growth or improving the customer experience.

Take the role of compliance officers, for example. Many banks use RPA as a first step to automate the collection of data from documents, but the compliance officer still must sift through documents and find data needed to make decisions. Instead, robots with content intelligence can quickly read the contracts and pick out relevant data to execute decisions faster. 

To prepare highly skilled knowledge workers to work alongside their digital counterparts, they will need to obtain more digital skills themselves. A concerning 75 percent of global enterprises in IDC’s Future of Work report said it was difficult to recruit people with digital skills, and 20 percent cited inadequate worker skills and/or training was a top challenge. Every organization must step up to meet the future skills and developer shortage to remain competitive. The introduction of no-code platforms with the ease of drag-and-drop to train bots will help a wide variety of professionals to augment and improve their work productivity, from the legal team, HR, accounts payable, claims adjustors, customer service, and more.

Depriving RPA of content intelligence

Since organizations are consumed with both structured data and unstructured data that fuel all business processes, it requires bots to be smart enough to “read,” “understand,” and “make decisions” about the content it is processing. Similar to humans, you wouldn’t hire an employee that couldn’t read or understand your content, and you wouldn't hire someone who could only do one task.

Furthermore, RPA on its own cannot understand unstructured documents and requires AI to enable bots to have content intelligence. This is where content intelligence comes in: it allows bots to carry out tasks such as reading and categorizing a document, routing a document, extracting and validating data from documents, and other tasks related to understanding and processing unstructured content. Using content intelligence with RPA will speed your processes and ready your organization to add more experiential opportunities to engage with customers such as interactive mobile apps, cognitive virtual assistants that combine voice and conversational AI, and chatbots.

Don’t forget to check up on your RPA 

It’s important businesses don’t let their intelligent automation projects fail by not continuously monitoring projects once they are in action. Many organizations are using process mining to help businesses keep track of what their bots are doing best and reveal where they could perform better. This combined with bots' event logs and their analysis will help identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, control and data quality issues, and more to give leaders comprehensive process intelligence.

What’s more, process intelligence also identifies room for continuous improvements of the processes running in your company. With monitoring, you can evaluate the performance compared to the original process. Additionally, keeping track of already deployed and active bots will help you monitor your KPIs, while also taking immediate actions if the goals are not being met or you run into issues. 

It is clear that RPA can be a helping hand for businesses who are working to streamline ongoing transformation across the entire organization. But first, businesses must take an integrated approach, one that includes AI and process mining technologies to provide a 360-degree view of your business workflow from the ground up. With a broader, more holistic digital intelligence strategy, businesses will start to see the fruits of their investments.

Neil Murphy, Global VP, ABBYY

Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY.