Consider this situation: every time a customer makes a written request to Company ABC, it triggers a series of events. First an offshore team reads the email to decide what the customer is requesting, and whether there is enough data in the message to complete the request. The team then enacts standard processes to retrieve data requested by the customer to update the customer’s account. Employees determine and forward collections and fraud cases to the relevant departments and identify and pass on complex queries to an onshore team. They then must choose from more than 100 templated responses depending on the action needed.
Robotic process automation, or RPA, promises a host of benefits to enterprises like Company ABC. RPA can automatically retrieve data from systems, give exceptions for complex scenarios, update templated responses with customer information and send a response to the inquiry. As more and more companies discover the benefits of RPA – namely lower costs, higher-quality outcomes and improved end-user experience – more companies are moving quickly to implement it. In fact, an ISG survey finds that the number of mission-critical processes supported by automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will grow by more than three times over the next two years.
But in that race, it’s important that both RPA service providers and their corporate clients remember that the one major reason for failed implementation of automation is user resistance. To make sure they roll out a technology that employees will actually use, enterprises should use a measured, careful approach that respects their end users’ needs for alignment.
Here’s a four-step process to do just that, to be discussed at the ISG Future Workplace Summit March 26 and 27 in New York.
First, think through what you’re trying to achieve. Enterprises should approach RPA systematically, using a Center of Excellence model that deploys focused resources for implementation, training, communication, and change and implementation management. This helps companies figure out how to prioritize the technologies they need, identify who oversees and executes process automation and measure the results. It's best to walk before you run, but 78 percent of automation deployments do not do this – they begin before they have a strong operating model or governance structure, resulting in silos of automation and less optimized rollouts.
Second, communicate. Most workers would be happy to have a better solution to their computer problems than having to tell an IT staffer that, yes, they tried turning their computer off and back on. Yet a stunning 76 percent of automation end users have a substandard understanding of how automation impacts processes. Employees need to understand why a new technology is being rolled out and, more importantly, why they’ll benefit from using it. Is it faster? More intuitive? Higher quality? Let employees know the end game and how they are involved in making the business run better.
Third, train, test and adapt. Most companies wouldn’t roll out a chatbot to customers without testing, and likewise companies shouldn’t roll it out to employees without testing either. At a minimum, small-group testing is essential, and so is a training plan in which employees are exposed to repetition of the new process so they can build “muscle memory.” Employees also need to feel their opinion is valued, so be sure to create a closed-loop mechanism for workers to implement feedback into process automation.
Fourth, motivate and reward. Automation success is most often about the “will,” and not the “skill.” Building motivation is an often-forgotten but nonetheless critical part of successfully enacting change. The company should find pockets of success and celebrate that success – whether with verbal recognition, free pizza or some more-formal kind of reward.
Getting people to change their habits is hard work. It’s tempting to skip the change management and focus just on the new technology. But without adopting a measured approach that includes these steps, a company’s investment could fall short of expectations. Employees may fail to grow and attain new skills. In the age of continuous technological disruption, failures like these can put companies at risk of falling behind.
Join me to explore this topic at the ISG Future Workplace Summit March 26 and 27 in New York.