Organizations have been looking for ways to improve their efficiencies, reduce errors, and increase data security and privacy using robotic process automation (RPA). This technology has been implemented across thousands of organizations globally since it emerged over ten years ago. However, while the promise of huge gains in efficiencies has been proven, documented, and reported by many sources, some organizations are not seeing the same results. In this series of articles, the goal is to understand the primary reasons why some are realizing these results but others are only achieving marginal returns on their investments. To harness the power of the RPA platform, it’s important to consider the human element, the infrastructure, the road map of where you ultimately want to go, and the definition of success as the program progresses.
Scaling the Digital Workforce
When businesses embark upon entry into a new market segment, they often do so with a trial offering to test the waters. Will customers like the new product or service that has been developed? Are the features supporting what the customer wants? Is it priced right? These questions may have been researched exhaustively during the development cycle, but until the new product/service hits the market they are still unanswered. One of the most important questions that needs to be addressed after launching a successful new product or service is how to scale the business to accommodate the market demand.
Building a digital workforce program has a similar evolution. Most organizations do an enormous amount of research from an industry and competitive perspective. These firms run internal testing on the top vendors’ products and eventually select the one that offers them the best fit for their company. However, after the testing and trials are over and the product seems to work the way they were expecting, most companies stall on the next step - scaling the implementation.
As part of a successful digital workforce program, planning is a crucial step in getting the most out of the investment in the technology. Certainly, after the automobile was introduced to the market, people could have hitched the new vehicles to horses to be pulled around as expensive carriages, but that would not have been a practical way to embrace this new form of transportation. A successful digital workforce program will not simply be automating a few processes in a single department, no matter how much ROI that provides. The approach to scaling the digital workforce must be much, much broader.
Thinking Big, Starting Small
Successful RPA programs have several things in common. To begin with, they started small so they could understand how the technology really works and who should be engaged to make the program work. They found that both IT and business teams can effectively come together to form a center of excellence that offers both process re-engineering as well as technical assistance to support the broad range of automation activities. They focused on business outcomes that enhanced the way that the organization supported transactions, customer service, and employee engagement. They also looked toward the future where the whole company would be leveraging this new platform as a way to work differently, more efficiently and more effectively.
One of the aspects of scaling a digital workforce involves the “Big Thinking” mindset. Leaders who see this digital workforce as an opportunity to change the way that work is accomplished within the organization often find that the employees become more innovative in the way they approach their own work. Rather than simply accepting the status quo, these employees are empowered to look at the entire workflow with new enthusiasm. They are not concerned about the robots taking their jobs. Rather, they are excited to engage with their digital co-workers to offload the transactional tasks that add little value but still must be done.
By opening the platform to the entire organization, digital workers can offer both efficiencies and opportunities to human employees who can leverage this new capability to add significant value within their functional area, whether that is accounting, finance, operations, supply-chain, customer service, etc. The scale of the digital workforce expands to create an ecosystem of automation knowledge that can be shared throughout the organization and produce ever-increasing benefits.