While business operations drive robotic process automation (RPA), IT must accept and understand its purpose to ensure maximum returns, says Marius Tîrcă, CTO, UiPath.
Organisations are increasingly recognising the value in robotic process automation (RPA) and its ability to launch them towards new heights of success. RPA will deliver organisations increased efficiencies and streamlined processes. According to a recent Deloitte report, 72 per cent of organisations around the world intend to implement RPA within the next two years.
Yet, just as any journey above the clouds is prone to turbulence, organisations adopting RPA are experiencing resistance in their own upward trajectories. According to the same Deloitte survey, RPA adoption is hindered by general aversion from IT departments, with less than one third of respondents stating that their IT departments support the implementation of RPA.
For IT teams, it’s a matter of juggling priorities. With their minds focused on challenges such as compliance, business continuity, technological innovation and other large scale projects, IT teams are already coping with conflicting pressures coming from various directions. A project driven by business operations – such as RPA implementation – is rarely likely to be met with enthusiasm from IT.
The moment the business comes to IT with a technical solution, the team is naturally sceptical and mistakenly suspects that Shadow IT is in preparation. All too often, IT staff feel RPA encroaches on their area of expertise and is little more than unsupported macros and screen-scraping tools (pejoratively known as ‘sticking plaster’ applications), or an unnecessary addition to a software solution that has already been developed in-house.
Collaboration is key: both sides must be encouraged to make RPA a genuine success
To ensure RPA projects are delivered as effectively and rapidly as they should be, these IT attitudes have to be dispelled through education, preparation and especially through collaboration. RPA is a team sport. The business side may captain the game, but the IT team has a crucial role to play in helping the business realise the many financial, and non-financial, benefits of automation.
A company’s business operations staff should therefore make sure that IT is able to visualise the role RPA will play in attaining their company’s goals. This runs across everything from cost-reduction, to higher processing quality, advanced operational analytics and increased efficiency through reduced cycle-time, and more.
Taking the time to “on-board” the professionals in IT is one of the main keys to unlocking sustainable RPA programmes, because while RPA is business-driven, it needs to be IT-governed. IT and business leaders must fully and jointly understand the project's aims as well as current and future capabilities of RPA solutions. This will allow IT to incorporate goals of scalability, security, reliability, and continuity into its IT set-up and enable business leaders to drive up productivity and achieve transformation benefits quickly.
Accept any differences and continue moving forward
It is important to be open about the differences in outlook which often relate to the view that RPA initially emerged from the frustrations of business people in large organisations when faced with IT’s resistance to helping them achieve what they needed. This variance in viewpoint leads to differences in areas of focus.
A business user, for instance, will examine whether the processes to be automated are properly understood and optimised. A business operations team tends to concentrate on goals, carefully selecting optimised workflows for automation, closely monitoring business analytics to ensure that process-accuracy, cost-reduction, and customer satisfaction benchmarks are met during implementation.
The IT decision-maker, on the other hand, will consider whether the RPA software is up to the job at enterprise level and whether it is industry standard. Will the software be easily integrated with the existing applications and systems? What about security, governance and maintenance?
With its relative ease of development, RPA has tilted the balance of required knowledge towards process rather than IT. This means RPA technology empowers business people to build automation in a matter of days, rather than weeks or months (or even years), and with lower levels of intervention needed from IT than with other software. This can be a source of friction. A company’s IT team, though, contributes its advanced technical knowledge of existing IT infrastructure, testing and maintenance capabilities, along with data security oversight and more.
The value of IT’s knowledge cannot be underestimated
All misunderstandings and differences can be overcome through collaboration and a committed approach to on-boarding. Business users need to be comfortable with the IT infrastructure as well as achieving familiarity with the new software. These are both areas where IT’s knowledge is invaluable. IT should also help business users with the initial RPA infrastructure set-up and access rights, as well as the important issues such as future application roll-outs, changes and decommissioning. Because these elements affect the performance of software robots and ultimately that of the entire RPA project, they are of utmost importance to both IT and business leaders. In fact, most of the technical concerns of business users can be addressed and managed through close collaboration with IT. Working together can mean both teams deliver successful projects faster.
Striking the right balance will help transform the organisation through RPA
Success in RPA implementation depends on the right balance between IT and the business, with RPA governance sitting in the space between them. This puts a high value on maintaining consistent communication so that the implementation goes as planned and that any obstacles, such as potential integration problems, can be dealt with seamlessly. Most importantly, however, these intra-company alliances should (and must) extend far beyond just the implementation section of the overall project.
In order to embed RPA deeply and effectively into an organisation, developers in the IT team must continue to be in charge of developing, testing, and maintaining the automation, working in close alliance with the business operations team to manage strategic goals and expectations, even identifying new opportunities for collaboration.
This is a symbiosis ensuring that RPA brings its full range of competitive advantages to the business. After all, as Melanie Warwick of Google so aptly put it: “Automation is not the destination, return on investment is.” It may require effort to overcome internal barriers and change attitudes in some organisations, but the resulting rewards will make the degree of difficulty truly insignificant.
Marius Tirca, CTO at UiPath
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