by Josh Ensign

Overinflated promises of ROI have businesses scrambling to implement an automation strategy. Learn how to identify where and why your organization can reap realistic benefits from automation today. 

No matter the type of organization you’re a part of, you’ve most likely encountered someone within your organization – or a consultant outside of it – who has suggested using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to help you reach your goals, create solutions for your business, or – and perhaps the most attractive factor –  deliver major savings for your company. Organizations are being sold massive promises on automation and its results.

The data we hear regarding the success of automation and its potential return on investment (ROI) are staggering. Popular statistics being bandied about include that it’s possible to automate half of all the work that humans are currently doing, and that there is a 2000% ROI to be gained through RPA development, with an 85% cost takeout of automated processes.

RPA is a relatively new technology, but with 90% of businesses either currently pursuing automation or having already pursued it,¹ Robotic Process Automation is one of the most popular Future of Work initiatives for organizations to consider – and many are doing so because they are eager to see those savings.

The Realities of Automation

These are huge numbers and impressive forecasts, but the truth is this: you need to learn how to apply automation and how to successfully implement it in order for RPA to actually give the best benefit to you and to your organization.

The reality is, when it comes to actual execution, only 50% of attempts to deliver automation actually function.² Yes, this means half of all attempts to automate fail. Even worse? Experience tells us that less than 3% of companies are able to realize true value from automation at any appreciable scale. These are frustrating numbers, especially when compared to all the hype surrounding the potential of automation.

The Real RPA Value: Free Your People

We see the real value in automation when it takes away monotonous tasks from teams, freeing up people to perform the creative and innovative work that leads to strategic growth and business success. There are incredible numbers of highly trained professionals who could add meaningful contributions and value to their respective businesses, but are mired in repetitive, inefficient tasks and procedures they just aren’t inspired to do.

At its finest, RPA is a means of freeing up both your employees’ time and their imagination so they can do more of the things they were trained to do – and want to do. When judging the value or success of an RPA project, this should be the first consideration you make.  Understand that freeing your high value team members is how you start the transformation of your business.

Where Businesses Get it Wrong

Traditionally, organizations have only valued the one-time cost savings associated with automation. But when talking about capturing value, this is a limited view.

There is certainly nothing wrong with a one-time cost savings, but you create far more value if your automations help solve your bigger business problems.

For instance, if you desire scalability, automation can increase your capacity to capture revenue or help grow your margin by transitioning variable costs to fixed costs. The resource productivity that is gained through iterative automation can be redeployed to improve higher value-added parts of your business.

A caution: RPA can be a tool in your organization’s strategic arsenal, but if you expect to use RPA as a strategy, you’re going to be disappointed. Automation is a tool to use on the journey you need to take to achieve your business goals and fulfill your vision.

The Bottom Line

Your RPA efforts need to fit into your larger business strategy. First, automate where it makes sense to automate. You don’t need to start with massive, global, end-to-end processes. Focus your initial efforts on quick wins – automate where it will quickly deliver value, and then reinvest that value.

Transformation is a gradual journey. Automation via RPA can only accelerate that journey. First focus on why you automate. Be thoughtful on what you automate, making sure it pushes you in the right direction. Then execute automation successfully.