How to Succeed with RPA — Adjust Your Thinking

In Digital Transformation, Technology by Shelly KramerLeave a Comment


I attended the annual Pegaworld 2019 event in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. As a fairly regular invitee, I’m always interested in the evolution of the company, its focus at these annual events targeting users and partners, and how that changes over time. This year’s event was highly focused on empathy and how adding empathy “controls” into technology can deliver big benefits. I’ll write more on that later. While keynotes are great (sort of), what I’m most interested at these events is hearing from customers and listening to their real world experiences and thoughts while using technology. This year’s Pegaworld event featured a great deal of focus on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and how RPA is impacting the workforce.

There’s a good reason for that focus on Robotic Process Association (RPA) — it works. The RPA market is exploding, growing from about $250 million in 2017, predicted to be a almost a $3 billion dollar industry by 2021. Once automation is on your radar screen (and if it’s not yet, it soon will be), how to succeed with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is pretty simple, and it starts with adjusting your thinking.

How to Succeed With RPA — Adjust Your Thinking

When it comes to integrating Robotic Process Automation (RPA) into your operations it’s important to remember that many times these initiatives fail. That’s because the technology alone isn’t the solution. Internal adoption, experimentation, evaluation, fine-tuning—all those things matter. Success centers around things like the way you determine your processes, how you involve and communicate with your team, where you decide to start, and the metrics you’ll use to evaluate success.

I’ve researched, written, and talked a lot about the topic of RPA with many users of the technology. When it comes to successfully integrating RPA, a key theme resonates in every situation, and it’s that success is all about starting with the low-hanging fruit. When it comes to success with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), it really relies on just one thing —adjusting your thinking.

Getting Started With RPA — Organize Around Outcomes

When getting started with RPA, it’s important to step back and think about the outcomes you want to achieve, not simply about tasks. Organizing around outcomes requires a focus on how the customer acts or what the customer needs (whether your customer is an internal one or an external one), and customizing interactions best suited to deliver on that front. Customers don’t care about your legacy systems and the challenges they present, they just want what they want in the absolute most rapid, most hassle-free manner possible. Adopting RPA can help make significant inroads in delivering those solutions, but businesses need to focus on customer journeys and outcomes at the onset.

RPA Isn’t a Savior, It’s a Component of a Process for Process Improvement

A reality of RPA, and pretty much every technology solution as it relates to success with digital transformation, is that it is so not just about the technology. Success isn’t predicated upon the technology itself—it’s not and never will be a silver bullet. The same is true of RPA. It’s not going to do everything for your company; it’s but one component of a process for process improvement. And the reality is that a crappy process automated is still a crappy process, especially as it relates to customer experiences.

The real strategic transformation doesn’t come from the robotics, it comes from the overall transformation and reassignment of processes within your organization. There is a broader, and ongoing, redesign of the process that needs to be a continuous process to account for new use cases. If you’re doing it correctly, it won’t have a stopping point—you’ll continually be reevaluating, redesigning, and reestablishing new use cases and processes. This has to be a part of a longer DX strategy and a starting point/jumping off point rather than a finish line. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) alone isn’t the answer. Robots aren’t a magic bullet – they play a role in process transformation and, also in overall corporate digital transformation.

Customer Stories: Insights From Radial and Unum

A couple of the customer stories that resonated with me at the Pegaworld event were shared as part of a roundtable discussion moderated by my partner at Futurum Research, Daniel Newman. The conversation featured Melissa Harris, IT Delivery Director for Unum, an insurance company that provides supplemental insurance coverage in the workplace, and Robin Gomez, Data and Analytics Director at Radial, a technology company focused on omnichannel commerce technology and operations.

RPA Insights from Radial. Robin Gomez shared that where the team at Radial is seeing value in terms of using RPA to drive digital transformation is in aiding and assisting workers when it comes to helping facilitate process execution. He shared that once you get started with that, you can see experience some short-term wins with the lowest hanging fruit. In those instances, it’s relatively easy to measure impact, then automate some more. Robin described the adoption of RPA as “a symbiotic relationship between people and technology that helps accelerate adoption of tech, channels, engagement strategies, etc.”

Radial’s low-hanging fruit was the contact center. They found that using RPA to automate things as basic as logging in, changing over from one contact to the next, doing search across platforms were easy points of entry. These easy things that are painful for workers (agents) to do, and were determined as easy to implement ways Radial could use RPA technology to make these processes more efficient and less painful. Robin shared that the way Radial tracked metrics to show ROI was that the implemented RPA during the holiday season. The looked at the base metric of handle time for contact center and that showed the ROI they were looking for.

RPA Insights from Unum. Melissa Harris shared that Unum likewise started with the contact center, consolidating searches, as well as back office operations where claims, policy updates, etc. were handled as their low-hanging fruit for RPA implementation. She shared that the company’s contact center volume is such that is so much that they simply can’t respond without automation.

With regard to implementation, while everyone on the team agrees that responding to customer demand more quickly means happier customers, there is still some handholding with the implementation of RPA that needs to occur. The company approached that cautiously and makes sure that it’s clear that robotics aren’t being used to replace workers, they are there to augment. Once that message is out there and understood, and employees have seen that in action, they have seemed to be comfortable with both the improvement in processes and the fact that technology is helping with that improvement.

The Benefits of RPA

The benefits of RPA vary, of course, depending on where it is used. Robin Munoz shared that for Radial, the benefits they realized included:

  • Lower employee attrition
  • Decreased employee training time
  • Employee on-boarding process simplified
  • Increased efficiencies for call center and customer service teams
  • Decreased labor costs
  • Easier ramping up for holiday seasons

While these are all internal benefits, these are the kind of wins you’re looking for when it comes to RPA implementation.

As I’ve mentioned, when evaluating the benefits of RPA, no matter where you start, it’s a beginning—but it’s also an ongoing process. Success is in working with your team to continue to find those sweet spots and low-hanging fruit and experimenting and evaluating. As what you’re doing begins to show value, the process feeds itself, and you’ll find your team’s excitement about RPA growing, they’ll be bringing their own ideas and suggestions on process automation to the table, and you’ll find yourself automating more and more. Before you know it, you’ll have hundreds of “digital workers” making processes across the board easier, more effective, and adding value to the organization.

This is Digital Transformation — Not Technology, People

That’s what digital transformation is all about, and it’s not the technology, it’s about people. In the past we weren’t looking for (or thinking about) things like “how do we make this easier for employees” or “how do we make this better for the customer.” Now we are thinking about these things, and we’re building processes that think the way that employees think, or want and we’re focusing on what customers want and need from us. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Disclosure: I was compensated to attend the Pegaworld event, but the thoughts and observations here are my own.

Related content:

Robotic Process Automation Gaining Traction

The Right Way to Think About RPA – It’s Good For Everyone

Automation 101: Identifying What You Should Automate


The original version of this article was published on Futurum Research.

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”

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