For enterprise firms and those in industries such as financial services and healthcare, intelligent automation (and especially robotic process automation, or RPA) is a no-brainer. Such companies always have large numbers of staffers performing repetitive, rules-based tasks that are obvious candidates for automation.
But what about small and midsized companies? Some of them may have already dabbled with an RPA platform or launched one of the 70 percent or so of pilot RPA programs that fail. Is there a case for RPA implementation at those companies?
The answer is yes, as long as a company’s leadership is willing to provide ongoing oversight and embrace significant change in how work is done. Smaller companies may see intelligent automation as a route to growth, or perhaps the very nature of their business demands automation, using technologies that have more recently become available.
In a tight labor market where smaller companies may find themselves at a disadvantage, the ability to grow a human-digital workforce can provide both an endless amount of digital talent and new and interesting career paths to attract human talent.To understand how smaller companies succeed with RPA, we interviewed business leaders who see intelligent automation as a key growth driver. We discovered that companies that have had successful RPA implementations tend to share four particular characteristics.
1. Get Strong Executive Sponsorship for RPA
The importance of visible, vocal advocacy from the top cannot be overstated. True executive sponsorship happens when the CEO and other leaders resolve to bring about a broad, deep change from a purely human workforce to one that augments human effort with digital technology. One CEO we interviewed is still personally involved in selecting which activities to automate even two years after a successful RPA rollout.
2. Focus on RPA Program Governance
Treating RPA as an ongoing company transformation with strong and ongoing oversight — and not simply handing employees a new tool in the hope they will find activities to automate — is vital to success. Leaders must be invested in working with employee groups throughout the transition and communicate where and how RPA can create new opportunities for existing employees. Leaders must also identify and prioritize automation opportunities across the company, with a full, shared understanding of the wider business case. In smaller companies, this is especially important; leaders we spoke to were personally involved in all the key companywide communications, making it clear to staff that automation would provide opportunities for growth.
3. Find the Right Talent to Take Advantage of Automation
Organizations must find grassroots champions with the enthusiasm, aptitude and skills needed to learn — and teach — the art and science of automation. If no such champions already exist, recruit them. However those employees are sourced, they must be fully invested in the success of the project and, crucially, able to identify automation opportunities hidden beyond the obvious ones.
4. Think About the Long-term Value of RPA
Most companies see RPA as a way to automate existing back-office processes, such as HR or IT functions. But the more successful companies, especially smaller ones, view value creation through a wider lens and pursue every avenue to gain value from their RPA investments.
RPA can deliver significant benefits to companies of any size, as long as their senior management is committed to transforming the business, prepared to offer relevant new career paths to exceptional employees and willing to not simply cut costs but also to explore every avenue of value open to them.
Not every company is ready to start the journey, but those that are can help shape tomorrow’s human-digital workforce today.