by Josh Ensign

Given the amount of attention around Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in recent years, many organizations feel like they are lagging behind in an important new technology and missing out on a potential competitive advantage. But many early adopters have struggled to realize true value from their RPA efforts, so an organization newly implementing RPA has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others.

Early RPA movers focused heavily on using automation to drive cost savings. Some organizations have found success with this, using RPA to reduce headcount or to slow the growth in hiring. RPA can be a powerful tool to drive operational excellence or to complement your ongoing continuous improvement efforts.  But the true value in automation is when it takes away monotonous tasks from teams, freeing up people to perform the creative and innovative work they want to do. You already employ highly trained professionals who could add meaningful contributions and value to your business, but are bogged down in repetitive tasks. Effectively executed RPA can enable your employees to act in innovative, transformative ways, while helping you win your war for talent – because people value creative, valuable work.

Successful implementation of RPA is another common hurdle, and here you can easily learn lessons from the mistakes of others. For successful execution, focus your initial efforts on quick wins – automate where it will quickly deliver value, and then reinvest that value. Build your institutional proficiency in automation before applying it to your most complicated (and likely high-value) opportunities. Centralize the governance of your RPA, enforce a standard method for prioritizing automation opportunities, but enable the people doing the work to generate the ideas – the opportunities where RPA can provide value.

Another key is that your RPA efforts must fit into your larger business strategy. RPA is a tool, not a strategy, and too many organizations use “implement RPA” as a placeholder for valid business decisions. The key to getting real value from automation is by applying RPA to support or amplify your business strategy.  Focus on how RPA can accelerate what your company needs to do – or should be doing. Use automation via RPA to accelerate your journey.

If you have wondered whether you are late to the game on RPA, you can rest easy. Many organizations have struggled to derive the value from RPA that they expected, but these early struggles have pointed out some considerations for those who follow after. Keep these lessons in mind for your own RPA journey. Focus on why you automate. Be thoughtful on what you automate, making sure it pushes you in the right direction. Then execute automation successfully.