How to Overcome Automation Implementation Challenges
October 6, 2023
Automation has become a basic necessity across all major industries. It has transformed the process of regular work and taken it to the next level, which requires minimal human intervention. However, implementing automation requires preparation and correct strategies.
A recent survey reports that the majority of automation projects fail to take off due to their complexity. And for those that do manage to reach the execution stage, there is a 50% chance of them failing. A vast majority of business leaders are not happy with their RPA implementation speed.
If companies are aware and well-prepared to face the roadblocks in an automation implementation project, they will be able to enjoy all the benefits that automation has to offer.
So, why do automation implementation projects fail? And how can businesses experience a successful implementation despite the discouraging stats?
Automation implementation challenges to watch out for
There are several roadblocks that are commonly encountered by organizations when embarking on their automation journey. These challenges can be categorized into organizational, process selection-related, implementation, technical, and post-deployment pitfalls.
Here is a detailed rundown of the automation implementation challenges along with its possible solutions.
Organizational pitfalls of automation implementation
Lack of business and IT alignment
One of the major challenges of automation implementation is that the business and IT departments of an organization are often not on the same page. When integrating automation, the IT department is not usually involved until after the proof-of-concept phase, causing frustration and skepticism.
There is a noticeable difference in speed and cost to deliver between clients who have active IT support and those without. IT is absolutely critical to the successful deployment of automation.
Solution: The business department should highlight that the automation efforts are aimed at reducing the burden on IT and not replacing the system entirely. Organizations should be prepared to address the security concerns the IT department might have. Establishing an RPA competence center that includes members from both parties will ensure easy communication and better understanding between the two departments.
Poorly defined responsibilities
Another automation implementation challenge stems from the fact that there is no specific person that is responsible for different parts of the project, resulting in confusion, especially in the decision-making process. Furthermore, it is crucial for all employees to understand their roles and adapt to the newly automated environment.
Solution: It is best practice to explicitly specify the ones in charge of the various aspects of the project, such as project design approvals, execution, success rate measurements, etc.
Selection of the wrong business case
Oftentimes, businesses find themselves struggling with automation implementation due to the inaccurate assessment of the specific processes that require automation; businesses are either under-equipped or don’t have approval for automation design and integration. It is essential to understand the degree of technical feasibility in these cases. If a company selects an inappropriate business case for its automation efforts, it will enjoy limited profit.
Solution: Understanding which processes can be automated is a key judgment call. There are two directions that one can consider:
Automate repetitive tasks that are typically performed by high-salaried employees, so that they can shift their focus to tasks that will add more value to the company.
Automate straightforward manual tasks to eliminate the need for hiring new employees for that purpose. Ironically, RPA can also optimize the hiring process.
The overall RPA costs should also consider the price of the automation tool, infrastructure costs, and costs of monitoring and maintaining the deployed processes.
Defining automation strategy is critical to avoiding automation pitfalls. While automation is easy to use, its implementation takes time. A solid foundation with a clear strategy ensures scalability in the future. It includes a stable IT infrastructure, change management, trained experts, and communication plans.
Solution: Before implementing automation, there needs to be a well-defined strategy to guide the project. While doing so, some important questions to ask are:
What are the objectives for implementing automation?
Is it a permanent or temporary solution?
How can the results be measured?
When does automation present a viable solution?
What are the scaling goals?
Automation implementation challenges around process selection
Choosing the wrong process
Just because it is possible to automate something doesn’t mean you should. While, sometimes, automating a small process could yield substantial cost savings, a large-scale implementation could prove to be wasteful with no improvements. Therefore, to get the best out of automation for their processes, businesses need to choose the candidates with much thought and careful consideration.
Solution: Here are some aspects to look at when evaluating potential processes for automation:
Process structure: Template-driven processes that have standardized rules and require manual input repeatedly are more suited for automation.
Frequency of change: It is difficult to automate processes that undergo frequent change.
Standardization: If a candidate process has variations across the organization, the automation costs will be significantly higher than standard processes.
Frequency of execution: It is a waste of effort and cost to go through the complications of implementing automation for a process that is rarely used. A process that is executed on a regular basis is a stronger candidate.
Complexity: A process that involves high-level cognitive tasks is not ideal for automation.
Fault tolerance: Fault-tolerant processes are more feasible for automation than error-sensitive ones. For example, bots rely on UX to accomplish a task, and if the UX changes, bots are unable to adapt automatically. While it’s still possible to automate critical processes, the results have to be verified via other mechanisms or employees.
Business impact: For quick, visible results of automation, businesses should select processes that have high business impact, such as high-effort tasks that directly serve the customer.
After the selection process, the automation team should ensure they understand all tasks that are involved and how they fit within the business context.
Failure to optimize and streamline processes before automating
People generally lean toward performing tasks in a specific way and prefer that way even if it’s not the most optimal solution. However, automating unoptimized processes is a wasted effort.
Solution: Identifying and eliminating unnecessary steps can optimize and simplify a process. This task can be performed by SMEs, RPA developers, business analysts, or other participants.
Automating the entire process
It is not always feasible to automate the entire process. The cost could escalate significantly than maybe if only 80% of the process was automated. That additional automation may require code that’s a lot more complicated.
Solution: It is advisable to always assess whether a whole process requires automation and identify the tasks that will suffice. It is also possible to combine RPA tools with AI-based technology where RPA does not suffice but the employees still require relief from particular tasks.
Not benefiting from readily available solutions
There is a wide range of suitable off-the-shelf enterprise automation solutions to choose from that can minimize automation challenges. However, unique demands may sometimes require more tailored solutions.
Solution: Automation teams should compare the feasibility of using ready-made and custom automation solutions. If a process has unique requirements and legacy systems are involved, the readily available solutions can’t be adapted. In those cases, it is better to employ a custom RPA solution provider.
Technical RPA issues
Lack of a suitable infrastructure
If there is no proper infrastructure to support automation deployment, it is difficult to get the desired results.
Solution: To address this challenge, businesses should think of all the capabilities that they may require after automation and whether their current infrastructure can support these expectations. An infrastructure must:
Be powerful enough to run all scripts
Be able to operate 24/7 (A failover server helps)
Additionally, the systems should be centralized with no external factors influencing them and should have the ability to install updates without damage.
One of the most common automation implementation challenges is scalability. While automation is great, from the perspective of scalability, most projects witness a point of dwindling returns.
Solution: To minimize the issues around scaling, processes should work in parallel and independently. Scalability, then, becomes easier to achieve separately rather than attempting to increase the capacity of one automation process. Additionally, the architecture of the automation solution should be simplified and audited after deployment.
If the processes involve third-party (external stakeholders) input, there are chances they might not fit in and their interaction with the process may be inconsistent and not uniform.
Solution: To address these kinds of concerns, it is important to study the input provided over time by the external stakeholders. Check for consistency in their formatting and their order of submission and uniformity in their requests and contributions uniform.
It is best to keep third parties informed about the changes in the company and request more consistency. Otherwise, to handle this type of variation, the RPA can also be enhanced by leveraging other digital technologies.
Post-deployment automation challenges
Regulations and businesses often undergo changes, and ideally, RPA tools should also reflect this. Tangible changes aside, monitoring automated processes can help identify hidden issues that the automation team may have overlooked during the RPA implementation stage. The slightest change in the process itself may confuse the bots and lead to errors.
Even if the system functions fine without any modifications, it is bound to degrade over time with accumulated bugs or memory overflow if the data capacity reaches its limit.
Solution: The appointed process owner should be responsible for the RPA solutions and oversee the following tasks:
Ensure that the RPA software is up to date and all relevant adjustments take place.
While system maintenance, such as cleaning cache registers, copying data from temporary storage to a larger unit, etc. can be automated, the process owner should monitor and interfere when necessary.
Conduct endurance testing to assess the system’s ability to maintain performance for an extended period.
Security-related automation issues
Since bots have access to CRM, ERP, and other critical business systems, they can freely move data along different processes, thus posing a potential loophole after deployment that is prone to exploitation.
Solution: The following measures have been proposed by Gartner to address these security concerns:
All bots should have unique identification credentials, and bot operators should undergo two-factor identification.
The RPA access rights of the bots to the systems should be limited to the tasks that the bots need to perform. Video surveillance or screenshots can help monitor bot interactions with the systems.
RPA tools should be designed to generate consistent logs without gaps that are reviewable during suspicious activities.
There should be a risk management framework in place to guide RPA development, deployment, and operation.
Automation has the capabilities to handle the ever-increasing need for higher efficiency and productivity. Businesses can stay one step ahead in overcoming common automation challenges by taking small steps, prioritizing, upskilling, and, last but not least, acknowledging progress.
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