We asked senior RPA leader and digital transformation expert, Ema Roloff, a few questions about her experience with intelligent automation. Here’s what we heard:
Change management is an important component of RPA programs. How can organizations prepare for this and successfully adapt to the changes that come along with RPA?
Even as children, we push back on change or directives that don’t have a strong ‘Why’ attached. Anyone who is a parent knows that ‘Because I said so’ may work occasionally, but you are likely going to be met with a lot more resistance than fully explaining the catalyst for the request you are making. Managing a transformation is really no different. When looking at bringing automation into an organization, you need to be thoughtful in how you present the idea to your team. Start with addressing why you are taking on the initiative, answering questions, dispelling myths, and helping your team understand why automation is to THEIR advantage.
Automation of repetitive tasks has many benefits, but it will be difficult for people to see past the fear of “Is my job going to be eliminated?” if you’re not having an open conversation about what the automation means. Help your team understand that RPA and automation of all types are there to help them feel more human in their jobs.
In your experience, what are the things organizations most often overlook when getting started with RPA initiatives?
While I believe that a Proof of Concept is important, end-to-end transformation is the ultimate goal. I think a lot of organizations get caught in a position where scaling becomes difficult, or they end up creating process bottlenecks elsewhere when bringing in RPA to solve a single problem.
I believe it is critically important to start with the people and the process before bringing in the technology. Talk to your people, identify where they believe the most significant time savings will come from, then look at the process holistically. There are other tools, like process mining, that can help direct your RPA implementations to ensure that you are automating the right portion of the process and identifying downstream effects.
Gartner expects that by 2024, organizations will lower operational costs by 30% by combining hyperautomation technologies (such as RPA) with redesigned operational processes. But the key is the combination of the technology along with the redesigned processes. You will not be effective at transforming your organization unless you take the holistic approach.
What are the areas to watch in intelligent automation over the next 1–5 years?
I believe we will continue to see the lines between specific technology platforms blur. This has already begun with the coining of terms like “Hyperautomation” that combines previously separate capabilities under one umbrella. Consolidation of the industry will also play a part in this. Large solution platforms are developing or acquiring integrated offerings that will allow them to solve a number of challenges with a more connected strategy.
We will also continue to see the types of technology that we use in our everyday consumer life, like voice and augmented or virtual reality, start to make their way into our business technology stacks. Elements of this are beginning to take shape with Microsoft’s Cortana or voice-to-text for emails, but we will start to see it enable things like document searches or combine with other tools to become true virtual assistants.
Any final thoughts?
A company cannot successfully digitally transform or drive innovation without a culture that encourages trying new things rather than perfectionism. Change is hard. A digital transformation is a journey; it’s going to take time and have some bumps in the road along the way.
As you move through your Transformation, use those goals as an opportunity for transparency. Every lesson learned and applied allows you to recalibrate your efforts and adjust expectations.
Helping your team to understand the iterative process of true transformation will help you pivot quickly, maximize your innovation efforts, and lean into our human nature of being less than perfect.
When you bring together the right collection of capabilities, you can quickly respond to business needs and accelerate the rate that you solve your business process challenges. Scaling the solution becomes easier. You don’t have to find a new technology solution, vendor and process each time a project begins. You can shift your focus to the “Art of the Possible” and reimagining the way you work.
Note: these answers are Ema Roloff’s based on her deep experience managing digital transformation and intelligent automation initiatives. These comments do not represent any team or company Ema works for or has worked for.