Taking Automation to the Next Level

How to Scale RPA from the Tactical to the Strategic

INTRODUCTION

Robotic automation (RPA) has already become a critical element of digital transformation strategy across all industry sectors.

From banks to manufacturers to public sector agencies, the automation of specific parts of the organization is viewed as essential to unlocking the agility, speed and efficiency that they need to respond to rapidly changing customer needs and an evolving competitive landscape.
But the use of RPA is about to enter an important and challenging new phase, as many businesses look to move on from a period of experimentation to a focus on achieving deeper transformation.

Many organizations have adopted RPA solutions at a tactical level, leveraging software “bots” to handle repeatable manual processes. This has often been as part of focused digital transformation projects playing out across different departments and siloes, with little coordination.

This has led to a situation where many businesses are struggling with a fragmented landscape of automation projects, making it difficult to stay on top of issues such as licensing costs and bot utilization. A lack of a clear joined-up strategy also makes it more challenging to get both line-of-business leaders and the wider workforce to buy-in to an extended and more effective use of automation technology.

At the same time, automation technology is maturing and opening up new possibilities to buyers, with RPA solutions increasingly incorporating machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to enable more predictive and proactive approaches. We are now in the era of Intelligent Automation.

In order to understand how experienced automation users have successfully got their early initiatives off the ground and explore the tactics they are deploying to drive scale, industry analysts teknowlogy Group has undertaken a  major new study based on interviews with 100 senior business and technology executives at leading UK organisations.

This report discusses the technology and operational challenges that these stakeholders have faced, from how they developed the business case and prioritized processes for automation, through to the governance structures they have put in place to drive buy-in from all parts of the organization.

The report also offers practical guidance to senior decision-makers that are looking to learn lessons in how to lay the right foundations for developing a truly scalable strategy for automation.

KEY FINDINGS

  • UK businesses are aiming high with their automation strategies 60% of strategy leaders are aiming to automate more than 10% of their processes within the next five years. This is double the current level.
  • Early automation initiatives have delivered on their promise… 55% stated that the results of their early automation initiatives met their expectations, while 44% said they exceeded them.
  • …But the goals for automation initiatives are evolving  50% cite improving productivity and cost reduction as the main goals of their early automation initiatives. But improving business outcomes and accelerating speed to market will be key drivers for future initiatives.
  • Intelligent automation is seen as a game-changer 71% of automation strategy leaders believe that the use of machine learning/AI technology in automation could have a transformational impact on their business.
  • Business will take a hybrid approach to driving scale 25% already have a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in place to drive adoption and standardization of automation across the organization, but 79% see expanding their distributed teams as key to driving scale.
  • Complexity, licensing & utilization are the main technology challenges to scaling automation 31% cite the cost and complexity of bot lifecycle management as the primary challenge, with a quarter naming software licensing and low utilization levels as the biggest issues they have faced.
  • Skills and stakeholder engagement are the biggest operational barriers 30% identify a lack of skilled resources as the main operational challenge to scaling automation, with 24% citing a lack of engagement between business and IT leaders.
  • Automation strategies are being driven from the top 55% of organizations stated that their CEO is involved in building the business case for new automation initiatives.

PREPARING FOR LAUNCH:

Choosing The Right Processes, Measures & Goals
Many large and medium sized UK organizations have been exploring the potential of automation technology for several years.

Brands as diverse as EDF, HSBC, Unilever and Vodafone have put automation at the heart of their future strategies as they look to re-wire what are often decades old processes that underpin key moving parts of their business.

But how did these organizations get their early initiatives off the ground, and what lessons can those businesses that are currently at an earlier stage in their automation journey take away from this experience?

Industry analyst firm teknowlogy Group undertook briefings with 100 senior automation strategy leaders at UK organizations with more than 1,000 employees to better understand their progress. These stakeholders, which included CEOs, Line of Business leaders and Heads of Technology, are overseeing the adoption of automation at companies in sectors including financial services, manufacturing, utilities and government. A more detailed breakdown of the sample of this study can be found at the conclusion of this document.

One of the first aspects of building an automation strategy is to set out what you want to try and achieve. The study found that cost reduction was the primary motivation behind many of the first wave of automation initiatives, with 42% citing it as the main goal, including 46% of participants in the life sciences segment and 45% of retail executives.

initiatives in automation
What were the main goals of organizations’ early initiatives in automation?

The second biggest target for early automation initiatives was improved productivity (31%), and this was the number one driver cited in the manufacturing sector (47%). Rolls Royce, is one of UK manufacturing’s most forward-thinking organizations in extending its use of automation beyond the production line and into other parts of the business. The company’s treasury function, for example, has managed to reduce the time it takes to close each month from four days to a matter of seconds, by automating the collection of data from underlying financial systems.

Another key question for businesses preparing to tackle automation for the first time is how to identify the processes to prioritise. For the majority (61%), the starting point was to focus on the most under-performing processes, and this was the particularly the case in the financial services sector (75%). Less than one third of participants stated that they decided to start by focusing on those processes that would deliver the fastest RoI or by providing employees with tools to experiment.

This is understandable. It is typically more straightforward for strategy leaders and other key stakeholders to point to those parts of the organization that are broken and to build a business case for automation based on fixing or streamlining the component processes. But as we shall explore later in the report, the focus for new initiatives is clearly evolving as usage matures.

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