11 lessons learned from Automation rollouts – 2015 to present

Copyright by Laura J Robertson


SwissCognitiveIt is written based on my RPA project and programme experience over the last 5 years rolling out RPA with vendors such as UiPath, Pega Open Span and Thoughtonomy. It is intended to give both higher level and more detailed lessons of what can go wrong (and right) in automation/RPA rollouts. 

Prioritisation and choice of the right process is key

This means a definitive Process description, plus the formulation of a questionnaire to assess automation feasibility using higher level and lower level questions as you go through the automation lifecycle. This evolves as more becomes known about the process. If the process to automate has not already been chosen this helps assess viability, but even if it has been chosen, this step can assess how appropriate the “as is” process is for automation

Process assessment Roadmap leading onto an automation plan should follow. This should help embed the changes for the longer term and lay the building blocks for building a Centre of Excellence, which is where RPA, along with other initiatives can be done at scale

Most importantly: Celebrate successes and build RPA from there – don’t start with the most complex process just because this has highest ROI – you will fail!

Ensure you are solving the right problem, with the right toolset.

To be successful, you must first understand your success criteria. There is more than one reason to perform an automation project – to achieve better transparency of work in progress, to automate hand-offs between teams in an end to end process, to improve consistency and quality of processing, to increase capacity or to reduce cost. Understanding the outcome desired, and how this will be measured, is critical.

If you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. RPA is not the only automation approach available and will not always be the most appropriate. However, where legacy systems are involved, which do not have easily accessible APIs, where people play an essential role as the ‘glue’ between a number of systems, RPA may provide a quick and cost effective approach to automation.

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Don’t do change management as an afterthought. 

I have developed a “5R model” for this purpose based on my experience and learnings. The model looks to not only assess if the organisation is ready for change, but also whether reverting back to old habits/bad processes might occur. Are you really ready for this?

RPA is rapid but it is not a miracle worker

You don’t have to have all the answers as an SME, but it helps to bring in an Automation Expert that does have the practical experience. Understanding RPA and its benefits will not turn a PM or a technical domain expert into an overnight developer. Get R&R quickly defined up front, a lot of the vendors suggest templates for that very reason. Ensure the training plan is clearly defined and realistic in the timeframe available. […]


Read more – Laura J Robertson
Photo by Alex Knight