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sorting through the hype

Today, if you scrolled through the latest news regarding RPA, whether it be around new funding, company announcements in this space or industry growth, you would think RPA is scaling at an unprecedented pace for whatever company just decides to take the plunge. However, the reality on the ground continues to paint a drastically different picture. The truth is that, according to new data from 590 enterprises worldwide, only 13% of RPA adopters are currently scaled up and industrialized, while most RPA adopters are still tinkering with projects and not progressing towards enterprise scale adoption. Indeed, if there is one thing this tells us when it comes to enterprise RPA, is that it is not nearly as easy as the hype suggests. The problem doesn’t seem to be with the technology itself, so why are there such a large number of businesses that are, at best, slow to fully benefit from RPA software?

The Fallacy of Business Built, Business Managed

By far one of the most significant issues hindering the successful adoption of RPA for so many businesses is the perpetuation of the idea that RPA is simply a “business user tool.” This particular hype train has been fueled largely by RPA vendors with hopes of convincing you to buy their “simple and easy” RPA software so that business users can implement and deploy RPA on their own, and just then sit back and reap the benefits as the bots run autonomously in the background. Unfortunately, this marketing narrative is doing nothing more than continuing to fill the RPA education buying process with false hope and leaving buyers struggling through their initial phases of implementation, and especially when it comes time to scale within complex business environments.

So how did we get here? The truth is vendors are responding to the proverbial wedge that tends to manifest between IT and business. As is often the case, when this organizational discourse grows over time, it inhibits growth, creates additional silos (business and technology) and more importantly, trains the business look externally to deliver faster, cheaper, more adaptable technology solutions to keep up competitively and provide unique customer service. Indeed, RPA and its “low/no code design platform” was seen as a golden opportunity for businesses to break away from day to day IT dependencies they have traditionally had on application changes and enhancements, all while avoiding true root cause of the problem.

RPA and Collaborative Development

The truth is the foundation for short, and long-term RPA success requires real collaboration within an organization between people, process and technology, the three levers that need to be pulled to drive change and subsequent success in any model. To that end, organizations that are struggling to implement automation successfully would do well to elevate the role of IT, involving them often and as early as possible in all future efforts. In fact, according to a recent study by McKinsey, the success of automation programs is dependent on the early engagement of the IT functions, as more than 75 % of respondents from successful organizations say IT was involved in initial discussions of automation projects. Furthermore, as these “low code / no code” platforms were developed to be more “business friendly,” what this has mostly done is created a faster and better development tool for IT and offered in reality, not a way to break free of IT, but a golden opportunity to maximize collaborative development.

At the same time, business users also have a vital and integrated role to play, but it is not in developing the automation. Just because someone offers a “drag and drop” / “no-code” solution, doesn’t mean it’s for business users. The business user should be the ones identifying and documenting the opportunities and be an integral process in the agile process contributing to ongoing process improvement, testing, and adoption. That’s the beauty of an agile delivery, fueled by collaboration between business and IT for quick and iterative development.

Indeed, for RPA to truly scale throughout an enterprise, a more disciplined and realistic view of the people, process and technology that support it is required, or else we will all be sitting here in a year or two asking the same question. Only then can we hope to heal this business/ IT wedge and turn it into a much-needed bridge within our organizations. Only then can we begin to transform the organization into a more collaborative and agile environment where our initial business goal of flexible, faster and cheaper technology capabilities can be realized? If we do that right with RPA and subsequent disrupting technology introductions, we’ll create a win-win scenario for our industry, one which we’ll reap the benefits of for years to come!

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