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The four key challenges to RPA adoption

Oct 13, 2019

If you have a strong team of business analysts or people in functions like finance working with manual processes, the implementation of RPA should be a smooth process, but there are still challenges you need to overcome, says John Ward.

Most companies have processes that require manual effort. However, with robotic process automation (RPA), rather than an administrator taking information from one system, analysing and exporting it to another, the technology sits in the middle and automates the process for you. 

Historically, RPA has been best deployed for repetitive tasks requiring little in the way of decision making and intuition, but with the ongoing growth and accessibility of artificial intelligence, synergies are starting to emerge. 

Ultimately, RPA allows staff to do work that adds value, and removes the manual effort that could be better used elsewhere. 

Better experience

Typically, where you have a significant back-office headcount or people answering calls and queries such as in HR, finance and call centres, there are opportunities for RPA. In any of those roles, people are usually working around the constraints of a system.

Let’s take the example of order fulfilment where, if a customer rings, the employee might have an internal system for checking whether an order has shipped, and an external one for checking its location – a manual task the agent must repeat each time. 

An RPA process, however, could obtain the original reference and log in to each system to retrieve the status in one automated step rather than two manual ones. That’s empowering for the employee, and a far better experience for the customer. 

Four key challenges when adopting RPA

While we can clearly see the benefits of RPA in the example above, adopting any new technologies has its challenges, especially when it comes to the finance function. Here are a four key challenges organisations encounter.

  • Selecting the right process to automate: Sometimes there are processes that we think would be the best candidates for automation, but are too complex or require too many decisions to automate easily. You need to decide if there are other ways you can make that a more efficient process outside of RPA.
  • Knowing which software is right for you: Some tools have better capabilities for specific industries or requirements than others. For example, in a regulatory environment, the monitoring and auditing of bots may be high priority, whereas they might not be useful at all in a call centre. It’s important to map out your company’s needs before buying into any one system.
  • Integrating RPA with your organisation: Every development process goes through a methodology. Developing one that’s fit-for-purpose for your organisation is very important. 
  • Scaling RPA across your business: There are different models for scaling RPA, so it’s important to look at how your organisation’s structure and how scaling a project would work.

Lower barrier to entry

The barrier to entry with RPA is lower than for big software change projects because code is not being developed – instead, the people who understand the business process need to be the ones who implement the tools.

If you have a strong team of business analysts or people in functions like HR and finance working with the process, they can help implement RPA more easily. You still have to get the software depinternalloyment and architecture right, but in terms of automating the process, you don’t need a big team of software engineers. You have the talent already under your roof, so it’s important you use it.

John Ward is the Head of Emerging Technology in EY Ireland.