12.19.2017

6 Traits of Successful RPA-Deploying Firms

Six Common Traits of Firms that Successfully Implement RPA Technology

By Ashwin Gadre, Head of Operations Optimization, Capco, and Benjamin Jessel, Head of Innovation, Capco

In these times, no conversation about disruptive technologies is complete without reference to robotic process automation (RPA or robotics). Although the technology is not new – screen scrapers and automated workflow have been around for over a decade – the pace of adoption and the fact that this is now being actively experimented with and piloted in most major financial institutions is a new phenomenon.

As with any rapid mainstream adoption of new technology, success is not always assured. In the case of robotics, adopters have faced mixed results. The institutions that have been successful in adopting robotics have done so not by focusing on the technology itself, but by taking a step back and looking at the actual business problem at hand – and then considering robotics as part of a broad toolset available to them.

Through a survey of numerous organizations, we identified six traits common among firms successful in improving and automating operations.

1. They focus on the process – not the technology

Ben Jessel, Capco

The idiom of “when your tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” often rings true with robotics.

A common scenario goes like this: an ambitious technology executive looks to demonstrate his or her value to their company and will thus procure a robotics tool. The tech executive will then issue a mandate to the robotics provider to help them identify opportunities to use the newly purchased tool. While certainly a noble ambition, these initiatives tend to wither on the vine as the robotics provider is not able to sufficiently understand the purchaser’s business, struggles to identify specific problems to solve, and then become unable to get a buy-in from the business to take the order further?, as the company’s purchasing agents are often confused as to why the technology team appears to be forcing new tools on them, without identifying a real need.

This challenge has become exacerbated by the proliferation of cheap robotics tools easily available. This has also because a potentially dangerous technology, placed into the hands of people in the organization who may not have the sophistication or structured thought process to fully appreciate that the best way to solve a business challenge is to deconstruct the actual problem, versus starting with the technology itself.

2. They understand the business idea they are trying to solve

Frequently, seemingly straightforward processes are, in fact, far more complex than they look at first view, and many organizations in their enthusiasm to adopt robotics do not give enough time to fully appreciate some important nuances. This can be either because they do not involve the business’ subject matter experts, or are simply too aggressive in their approach.

One way successful organizations can mitigate this risk is by bringing the business’ process into the robotics company’s lab, where staff who have the responsibility to improve and automating a process can work side-by-side with an operations professional. A benefits of such labs is that they provide theoptimization team a ringside seat to view how the process is carried out. This is preferable to a process owner, no longer in a hands-on role, simply telling the team how a process should be carried out.

3. They involve technology stakeholders in their automation efforts and thus avoid the dangers of “shadow IT”

The process of making a technology reliable and supportable isslow, complex, and often misunderstood by the technology department’s business stakeholders who perceive the technology itself – not the onboarding process – as being too slow and unresponsive.

Successful organizations understand that technology needs to be part of a solution from design, on through to implementation and support. Getting buy-in from technology stakeholders is hard because they often view the newer technology as inherently unstable. In addition, in many cases this resistance is a way of pushing investment decisions concerning the replacement or integration of technology down the road, which oftentimes runscontrary to the technology department’s desire to avoid quick-fixes in the process of moving an organization off legacy technology that has become expensive to support.

4. They are in it for the long haul

Many organizations make the mistake of assuming they will receive a return on investment (ROI) comparable to other projects in a change portfolio built with mature technology. We frequently experience conversations with clients where they state that they have struggled to get a buy-in for their robotics program because they cannot justify the ROI.

The adoption of robotics is a long journey that starts off with simple projects with limited upside and builds towards a sophisticated efficiency, generating capability over time.

5. They actively manage and do not “set and forget”

For organizations that have gotten as far as implementing a robot in a production environment supported by I.T., there remains one final hurdle. This concerns the misbelief that a robotics journey ends with the transfer into production support. In fact, robots need almost as much care, attention, and management as the real humans they replace, or now sit beside.

Robotics is an inexact science. The nature of the informationthat the tools use to function is often variable. Consequently, the discipline of monitoring the effectiveness of a robot or team of robots needs to be effectively built into any robotic operation. One has to recognize that robots will sometimes fail, that they will need care and attention, and without this support from management, they can cause more harm than good.

6. They leverage their existing technology

Robotics is an effective tool for integrating line of business and corporate systems, but is not well-suited to be a business application in and of itself. We have seen organizations mistakenly attempt to replace core applications with systems they have built through robotics platforms. Robotics is not an effective long-term tool for this kind of approach.

Conclusion

Only once an organization has articulated an intent from the senior ranks of a company to embark on an automation journey – a journey that also takes a structured approach to evaluation and is inclusive of both the business operations and technology stakeholder groups – should such an automation decision be taken. At that point, the step forward is not merely an incremental one, but, in the words of Neil Armstrong, a “giant leap,” which will enable these enlightened organizations to significantly differentiate themselves from their competition.

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