Why RPA projects fail and how to learn from mistakes


Companies adopting robotic process automation seek improved efficiency and productivity. However, if RPA projects fail it means businesses are missing out.

Post summary:

  • Why use Robotic Process Automation?
  • Why do so many RPA projects fail?
  • Learning from RPA failures
  • How RPA transforms the industry

Robots are part of heavy industry, that is nothing new. However, its virtual colleague, robotic process automation (RPA), is only getting started within the industry.

The technology’s intelligent software robots fulfil monotonous and time-consuming tasks, offering an abundance of benefits from improved accuracy to cost-saving efficiency and profitability.

Nevertheless, despite their apparent advantages, companies commonly face RPA failure. A habitual occurrence is that companies are not aware of the challenges surrounding robotic process automation. According to a Forbes article, 54% of technological failures are due to poor management, whereas technical problems cause only 3% of failures.

Why use robotic process automation to transform an industry?

Companies use robotisation to eliminate error possibilities during task performance. RPA follows defined rules, meaning it will not fail them unlike a human, who may miss minor things that impact the entire process.

Moreover, robotisation reduces cost. What does the company receive when investing in the development of a high-quality virtual robot? Well, robots are not human and do not seek financial or career rewards for completing tasks.

Plus, RPA is faster in its implementation since it refers to the low-code approach to development. Meaning ready-made modules are utilised to create solutions. Minimal amounts of code are manually written, whilst most of the tedious tasks become automated.

So, RPA implementation has a shorter term of return on investment as it does not require a company restructuring itself.

Why then, do so many RPA projects fail?

Globally around 30 to 50 per cent of initial RPA projects fail – an astonishingly high rate. Yet, with technology companies claiming they transform business operations and outlining the clear advantages – why do so many RPA projects fail?

RPA projects fail because companies and those who propagate the technology misunderstand how to use the technology.

Typical mistakes that lead to RPA project failures include misjudging the groundwork needed before the process begins. Business leaders want a faster, better and often cheaper approach to RPA.

This approach instructs IT to hurry projects, with IT ending up prioritising the fixing of rushed work. Inefficiencies begin to creep into the project, making the entire pilot project go over budget.

The last error is particularly concerning.

Pilot projects are often realised, yet nobody within organisations appears to have the mindset to take ownership, leading to a partial interest in the project, thus not fulfilling its optimal potential.

RPA is commonly viewed as a pure technology solution delivered by the IT department, and yet ultimately, it is a business solution. It is the business department that should lead an RPA project, not in-house IT teams.

Learning from RPA failures

The welcome news is that most RPA failures are the result of human mistakes, rather than the actual technology itself. The critical lesson here is that companies can learn from their past mistakes and altogether adopt a different approach.

Businesses should devise a roadmap of the entire RPA adoption process. This ensures that everyone involved fully understands their role.

Companies should check that all internal and external stakeholders are consulted, so assumptions about the end results are eradicated.

This is especially important in projects where there is no outside implementation partner. Organisational alignment is critical because it is the organisation alone that is held accountable.

All teams and leadership must be fully on-board. Top-level management must review each progress stage, ensuring that local teams are devoting significant time to automating processes. Everyone should be convinced of its use in advance.

From our experience, we recommend seeking guidance from the following departments:

IT teams should be consulted before building an RPA solution roadmap. IT will act as a coordinator between teams, both internal and external if appropriate. IT will also know whether future integration problems with existing systems will arise. If there is already an RPA implementation within the company, IT should bring both concepts together, learning from previous RPA adoption.

Data and analytics are on most management agendas, and bots have the potential to generate significant amounts of data. If analytics is involved from the outset, then essential decisions are considered based on the valuable data produced by the bots, rather than diagnostic information obtained by most bot installations.

HR is crucial to get aligned with, or RPA training programmes may never take place in the corporate training schedule. RPA training is vital to reduce reliance on RPA consultants and empowers employees.

External RPA specialists like us already run numerous processes for large companies. It is only logical that businesses consult with companies like ours as we have accumulated significant expertise in RPA.

The majority of companies do not have their own RPA solutions, so they ask us to develop the technology for them. Either with our turn-key solutions or providing expertise if the client wishes to develop the RPA in-house.

Businesses like Flowit understand RPA processes and provide a hassle-free model for outsourcing RPA implementation. Ideal for companies that do not wish to deal with the complexities of automation. And companies that expect a higher than 90% success rate.

How RPA has transformed the industry

RPA projects that succeeded teach us the same lessons as those that fail. There is a lot to learn from businesses that are thriving as a result of implementing the technology.

By reducing cost, eliminating human error and lessening repetitive tasks, RPA is transforming the industry because it ultimately frees up resources for company employees.

Still, businesses have to apply the right techniques of implementation to guarantee against failure. Otherwise, companies will waste their investment in potential technology.

To implement RPA correctly, companies should be aware of the failures that have occurred from implementing robotic process automation. This will minimise the likelihood it will happen before the project has even been realised.

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