Makarand Pande
Makarand Pande Sep 26, 2017

The golden way to RPA: Sidestepping the seven deadly adoption sins of robotic process automation

A multimillion-dollar commercial loan gets approved in 45 minutes. A voice command to your intelligent personal assistant pays your credit card bill. A trade settlement bot reduces the time to reconcile a failed transaction from several minutes to a quarter of a second. Time is indeed money, and here’s the source of the payoff: These examples showcase how banks and other financial services companies are putting robotic process automation (RPA) to serious use.

To date, cost containment and headcount management have proven to be automation’s main attraction. But now we see banks express increasing interest in using RPA to achieve other business goals—frictionless interaction, customer acquisition, product innovation, compliance and more.

As with any new technology, RPA deployment will present challenges. Through our work we’ve identified “seven deadly sins” we believe pose barriers to banks fully realizing the potential value that RPA initiatives can unlock.

A good first step toward avoiding these sins is to understand why a bank seeks to implement RPA. As with many a new technology or approach, we see banks jump on the bandwagon because RPA is the flavor of the season. Others take up RPA as a panacea for all the difficult reimagining and simplification of processes and technology they need to undertake. Clearly, neither reason is a valid. Decision makers in banks must be clear minded about what they hope to achieve once they embark on an automaton journey.

Once the raison d’etre comes into focus clearly, the next step in undertaking a significant RPA initiative within your bank is to identify the potential hurdles to navigate.

The seven RPA sins to avoid:

  • Siloed automation efforts
  • Poor process selection
  • Insufficient organizational involvement in execution
  • Underestimation of ecosystem requirements
  • Postponement of planning until after a proof of concept or pilot
  • Underestimation of automation’s organizational impact
  • Poorly defined success and acceptance criteria

Here’s a closer look at how those sins break down.

Siloed automation efforts. Vendor promises of drag-and-drop simplicity may drive a business or the operations unit to take the lead in RPA deployment. Or, IT may claim ownership. But either approach can fall short. For example, the business or operations side may not understand scalability of technology, while IT doesn’t fully understand the pain points in the business—or identify opportunities to optimize processes. It’s essential for both sides to join forces and understand automation in the context of enterprise transformation strategy.

Poor process selection. Often, companies that consider RPA act ion a first instinct to pick a simple process, establish that the automation works, evaluate what benefit it can provide and determine whether it will scale. This approach may overlook a key question, though: Does the process represent the superset of complexities that the automation initiative might encounter? It’s important to identify a critical mass of factors and then determine whether automation delivers the right approach. A process with few touch points to web applications and simple data entry will not provide any inputs for tool selection. But if most processes use virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and involve calculations and seasonal volume, then selecting the simplest among these will provide better insight for tool selection and an overall roadmap.

Insufficient organizational involvement in execution. Leadership may view automation as chiefly a technology play. But if you simply hand off a process to third-party developers for scripting, they’re unlikely to understand key factors adequately. These include how the process affects other areas of the organization, potential liabilities associated with automation, and whether the automation actually supports business goals. Here, the business unit and IT both need to maintain involvement.

Underestimation of ecosystem requirements. Automation can exponentially accelerate the performance of tasks such as data entry, which strains systems’ capacity to scale and respond to demand. You’ll need to assess and implement infrastructure changes in order to integrate RPA into your organization’s IT portfolio, as well as add safeguards to ensure robots operate within established bounds. Consider that a system designed to handle human interaction may show signs of stress when bots begin to execute transactions 100 times faster than a human operator.

Postponement of planning until after a proof of concept or pilot. Picking the right process to evaluate for its automation potential is essential. But a proof of concept is just that: It validates a hypothesis. Waiting until after that happens to decide how to deploy the automation ignores how the solution fits into your planned spectrum of automation. Creating a solid business case for the proof of concept can help avoid this gap. Such planning extends to security, compliance and people requirements, particularly the skills needed to scale the solution for production. For example, a basic question of how to manage IDs for bots will uncover changes required in compliance and security.

Underestimation of automation’s organizational impact. Views of RPA’s potential impact on jobs range from a bounty of new opportunities to dystopian unemployment. By one estimate, about 60 percent of occupations could have 30 percent or more of their basic activities automated. However the future plays out, people will find themselves doing different things and needing new skills. Managing these transitions intuitively and guiding people to prepare for more challenging, fulfilling work can help smooth the shifts.

Poorly defined success and acceptance criteria. A validated proof of concept can suggest to an organization that automation can succeed without human assistance. But automation is not necessarily intended to replace humans. Instead, it can fulfill a higher purpose by providing information that helps people perform their jobs better.

From sin to strength: The right reasons to choose RPA

Understanding the sins can help your organization decide which business priorities to pursue via automation. At the same time, you can easily avoid those sins by choosing the right reasons to undertake enterprise-wide automation—and implementing it in the right way.

Granted, automation is not a silver bullet. In fact, it constitutes just one vital weapon in an overall digital transformation battle plan—which should include other digital capabilities such as analytics, human centric design, the Internet of Things and the blockchain digital ledger. That said, automation will prove essential for achieving future banking and financial services leadership. By understanding the seven deadly sins of RPA deployment--and deciding in advance how you’ll use RPA to achieve business goals—your institution can capture the value of this transformative technology.

In sum, perhaps one overarching sin tops them all: to dive in blind and hope things work out for the best. For behind robotic process automation lies another process—one that depends on humans and achieves seamless automation through thoughtful transition

Makarand Pande is digital partner and automation market lead in Cognizant’s Banking and Financial Services practice. He can be reached at makarand.pande@cognizant.com

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