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Chapter 3

Overcoming Barriers to Intelligent Automation Adoption

Implementing an intelligent automation program takes hard work and dedication. Fortunately, the time and effort will pay off in spades, with benefits spanning the business—from cost savings and efficiency to customer and employee satisfaction.


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To help you realize those benefits sooner rather than later, we address the most common challenges to intelligent automation adoption and provide solutions you can implement now.

You’ll be able to navigate the early days with ease by learning from organizations whose intelligent automation programs have been welcomed with open arms across all business departments.

So, what are the biggest obstacles to implementing an intelligent automation program?

It may or may not come as a surprise that technology is rarely the problem. Rather, humans pose the greatest opposition.

There are fears of intelligent automation programs taking over jobs, worries the technology will disappoint, concerns about the resources required, and overall low morale about facing the unknown.

Cultural adoption is at the core of most solutions, so let’s look at specific tactics that have been tested and proven successful.

Obstacle #1: A new intelligent automation initiative elicits fear in employees

Not every employee will be on board from the start, whether they’re well versed in intelligent automation or brand new to it. For the novice still wondering, “What is the main purpose of intelligent process automation?” education is best.

From education programs and internal educational videos to roadshows and RPA days set aside for learning the technology, the more chances your people get to discuss business benefits and ask questions, the faster adoption will spread.

Events like these help the tech-savvy, as well. Opportunities to brainstorm and workshop solutions to increase efficiency will elevate the excitement and settle skepticism among IT leaders, who, ironically, often push back the hardest.

So, how can you get your IT team to support intelligent automation adoption?

The first thing to do is listen. As you would with any major change, ensure your people feel heard by showing appreciation for their opinions and giving their concerns validation.

Then provide an example process to demonstrate its trustworthiness and potential. Naysayers will quickly see the advantage of digital workers accomplishing something in months versus two to three years of human effort.

Statistics and data can help alleviate concerns across the IT team as well, especially when the company’s vision is at the heart of your explanation. Focused on user experience? Share poll results showing positive feedback and higher customer satisfaction ratings.

Determined to stay competitive? Display before and after time-to-market averages for new offerings. Looking to scale? Compare the cost of a human team to that of one digital worker whose process is reusable.

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Obstacle #2: Employees feel the intelligent automation initiative is forced, or they lack excitement

It’s important to make people feel like they’re part of the journey, not alienated by it. The solution to this starts at the C-level. Executive sponsorship has a direct relationship to successful adoption. In short: leadership, leadership, leadership.

As for the excitement, opportunities for fun abound. Hold a naming competition for your new digital workers and get creative. Design a look for each worker.

Highlight their personas by having them post on social media. Celebrate their birthdays, work anniversaries, and other major work accomplishments.

Once employees have gotten to know their digital teammates, invite them to come up with other ways in which everyday tasks can be improved. Use cases are unlimited, and the more innovatively employees think, the better.

You could also work with your team members to decide how they will use the time returned to them.

Obstacle #3: The technology won’t deliver or will disappoint

Doubt and disappointment could present other challenges to overcome. Prevention is best, which can be done by demonstrating effectiveness and setting clear expectations from the start.

Not only do you need to discuss what ROI will look like at the beginning of your journey, but you’ll also need to maintain expectations as you scale. Have a clear plan or proven implementation methodology.

Often, people don’t need to see the full plan, but just knowing it exists may quell their concerns.

You can also avoid disappointment by automating the right processes. Not every process is ideal for automation, so it’s important you include process analysis in your planning.

Remember:

  • Automate processes that are already strong; automating a broken process won’t fix whatever is wrong with it.
  • Align decisions with business objectives.
  • Share a timeline for evaluation (and improvement).

The greatest benefits are realized a few years from the program’s start, so wait on making any major decisions or changes until after the first year or two.

Obstacle #4: Robots will steal human jobs

Many employees perceive an intelligent automation program as a threat to their job. But is intelligent automation out to take over human jobs? In short, no.

On the contrary, they often create new and exciting job opportunities. So, how do you eliminate worries about the impact of intelligent automation on employment?

Simply put, hire from within. Many companies have had outstanding success with this. First, ask who’s interested. People who want to learn something new, are teachable, or demonstrate strategic thinking can be great assets to your intelligence team.

And while a strong background in technology is great, it’s not required. In fact, reskilled employees from all walks of life have become product specialists or citizen developers with certification to boot.

Additionally, hiring and training from within addresses concerns about the resource-intensive nature of an intelligent automation program.

Obstacle #5: Employee morale is low or decreasing

If you’ve done all of the above but you’re still struggling with cultural adoption, consider these top tips to achieve intelligent automation adoption:

  • Always connect any argument for intelligent automation back to your company’s vision.
  • Consider your audience when advocating for your intelligent automation initiative. If the benefit you’re highlighting is less overtime hours worked, the C-level will want to see quantitative data about cost savings. Elsewhere in the business, qualitative improvements are likely more appealing, such as clocking out to enjoy time with friends and family. Fortunately for all parties involved, digital workers love workings late nights, long weekends, and holidays.
  • Share heartstring stories. Showcasing success stories help and the more touching they are, the greater impact they’ll have. From faster COVID-19 response to doctors spending more time with patients, there’s a story for everyone.

Summary

Are there any barriers to using intelligent automation? Yes. But with this guidance, you can overcome them or–better yet, avoid them entirely.

  • Fear: Provide various forms of education and data-driven statistics.
  • Employee alienation: Involve employees in the process from the start and keep them informed throughout.
  • Bolstering excitement: Incorporate creative ways to humanize your digital workforce that includes employee participation.
  • Disappointment: Set realistic goals and expectations; have a clear plan.
  • Job takeover: Hire from within.
  • Low morale: Tap into people’s emotions with success stories and personal goals.

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