According to a Telsyte survey, by 2020, the robotic process automation market is expected to reach $870 million in Australia and New Zealand, which represents a 45% growth compared with 2016. By the middle of 2017, more than half the businesses with over 20 employees had considered giving robotic process automation a try, while 12% had already moved beyond the “consideration stage” — that is to say, those 12% had started the implementation procedure.
If we focus on larger businesses (i.e., with more than 500 employees), the RPA picture is yet more dense, justifying an even brighter outlook: 38% of the economic organisations surveyed had already initiated the activation of RPA programs. So the Big Four are definitely not outliers when it comes to automation.
We will assume that you are among the open minds that have already given robotic process automation a try by mid-2018 — a justified assumption, given the percentages above. As you know that RPA is a strategic program that favours large-scale deployment, you might be concerned right now about how to scale your enterprise RPA and thereby move on to a mature model. The Telsyte study equates maturity with the stage subsequent to implementation, this is, the scaling stage.
The bit of mind-reading we just did is meant to explain why we believe it is worth spelling out some recommendations that lead to a successful expansion of RPA at enterprise level.
How to scale your enterprise RPA
Automation is enticing — once you start with it, you’d better keep moving forward in the direction of an enterprise-wide use for maximum gain. According to UiPath quoting a recent worldwide survey by technology research firm Gartner, 58% of the companies consider operational scalability to be a top business priority.
Given that scalability is among the top benefits of RPA, it comes natural that many CEOs consider adopting it at scale. The findings emerging from a Deloitte survey corroborate such expansion decisions, and support the above piece of advice: 78% of the businesses that have already given RPA a chance expect to increase, or significantly increase investment in RPA in the next three years.
So let’s see some suggestions for how to scale your enterprise RPA. Once you started the RPA journey by implementing a strong and stable infrastructure (as we were recommending here), you should be set for macro scale, enterprise-wide development. So on your marks, get set, scale up!
1. Be aware that RPA is an “enterprise platform”. This should help the strategic planning that we discuss next. You could, for instance, start in a company department where processes are more amenable to automation, and things are likely to work out according to higher expectations. HR or Finance are examples of such departments. Further, success here might be used as an argument for expansion across the whole business. This final step of scaling calls for a comprehensive, “bird’s eye view” over the business processes (see also (6) below).
2. Scaling requires a certain degree of foresight, operationalized in terms of medium- and long-term strategic planning. For instance, you could consider automating back office functions first and proceed to front office ones in a second step. All along the way, potential difficulties must be acknowledged and addressed, if possible before they become actual obstacles. Think employees’ resistance, keeping expectations realistic, deciding upon the right sequence of processes to be automated, figuring out the targeted scope of automation, etc.
3. Try to surmount an over simplified understanding of the benefits of RPA. A valuable piece of advice courtesy of the Deloitte report The robots are ready. Are you?, is that the benefits of automation are best understood beyond cost reduction. It is doubtlessly true that by delegating rule-based tasks to performance by software robots, less employees must be hired and those that are already in place can be assigned higher value roles, less free days or trainings need to be paid by the company, and the pace of production is considerably increased.
It is also true that arguments based on cost reduction and fast payback are what primarily drives investment in robotic process automation. However, there is a lot more than this! As the graph below shows, improved compliance, quality, and productivity have met or even exceeded investors’ expectations from the implementation of RPA. Therefore make sure you see the bigger picture when evaluating the benefits.