Survey reveals biggest benefits, challenges to RPA solutions

Nolan Greene,

Analyst firm Gartner recently reported that the global market for robotic process automation (RPA) grew 63% in 2018 to $846 million and is projected to reach revenues of $1.3 billion in 2019. Given the robust growth of RPA (both attended and unattended), we decided to survey more than 500 business leaders from a range of industries around the world to get real insight on what’s working and what isn’t. Here’s what we learned.

What’s working with RPA

  • Improved efficiency, accuracy, and effectiveness: 51% described their robotic automations as helping to improve operations.

  • Improved employee experience: 42% thought their employees’ experiences were better as a result of implemented automations.

  • Reductions in cost: 45% of respondents said robotic automations helped reduce overall business costs

Surveyed companies are finding value in robotic automations, with a majority responding that RPA and robotic desktop automation (RDA) deployments are more effective than anticipated. But they’re also mitigating unanticipated challenges.

Biggest challenges with RPA

The length of time to deploy robotic automations and the amount of maintenance required to keep them running are the biggest challenges cited by surveyed business leaders.

  • Breakage/failure of bots: 87% said they had substantial problems with broken bots.

  • Harder to maintain: 41% claimed they are spending more time and resources than expected to maintain automations.

  • Long, difficult deployments: 50% described automation deployments as longer and harder than expected, with just over one third of implementations deploying on schedule (the average time to deploy is 18 months). Approximately 45% of deployments took between 1 and 2 years, and 24% of respondents described deployments taking upwards of 2 to 3 years. The only group that said they successfully deployed robotic automations in a timely fashion were decision-makers who led RDA implementations.

We believe these challenges are inhibiting true RPA scale. Deloitte, in its recent survey report, “The robots are waiting,” found that, as of 2018, only 4% of surveyed organizations had reached scale with RPA, up from 3% the year before. We believe addressing these challenges should change the conversation on scale.

Key concepts for RPA success

Besides avoiding the three most critical mistakes of RPA deployments, enterprises that want to plan for automation success should keep in mind the following:

It’s critical to understand your processes down to each individual step and exception so that you can identify the best opportunities. Manual, repetitive tasks and moving data from one area to another are where robotic automation can really optimize workflow.

Attended RPA bots (RDA) are faster to deploy, bring accuracy to work, and are more dynamically responsive to application changes. Automating a smaller percentage of a large group of workers – such as 20% of a 500 person contact center or 50% of large back office teams – is highly likely to produce transformational results with regard to person-hours.

Bulk operations where human input is not required are better for RPA unattended, such as integrations to facilitate inputs and outputs across applications and systems where APIs don’t currently exist. However, as a process becomes more complex, variable, or fragmented, the cost of maintaining these bots may eclipse the value being provided. Analyst firms like Gartner address this concern – see Gartner’s recent Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation Software.

Business and IT need to work collaboratively to understand the operational roadmaps, overall outcomes, and the amount of investment required to maintain automations. The lifespan of an RPA bot is typically 2 to 3 years, and automations can break because of activities like basic software updates.

Robotic automations that integrate with an overall intelligent automation platform approach will provide a better foundation for successful, long-term transformation. RPA can be a short-term solution to automate legacy applications. However, given the pace of change with digital devices and applications, broader enterprise initiatives like intelligent process redesign should be prioritized. For a deeper dive on this topic, I encourage you to read Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Intelligent Business Process Management Suites, which includes a section that specifically highlights RPA’s role – and limitations – within an intelligent process automation platform.

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Tags

  • Topic: Robotic Automation
  • Challenge: Digital Process Automation
  • Challenge: Legacy System Innovation
  • Product Area: Robotic Automation

About the Author

As Senior Manager of Product Marketing for Pega Robotic Automation™, Nolan Greene helps our clients create new opportunities for digital transformation and effective customer engagement.