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24 May 2018 3 min read

What can we learn from the RPA projects that have not been as successful as they set out to be?

Adrian Cross

Adrian Cross
Senior Manager | Financial services | New York

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been around for several years now and we have been hearing about the huge potential benefits and pitfalls from Robots since the days of the cult 1986 film ‘Short Circuit’. We don’t need to take up your time explaining the virtues of RPA; a quick Google search will find many papers, articles and opinions that sing its praises. 

Our conversations in recent months have really demonstrated that our clients are no longer interested in doing an RPA ‘Proof of Concept’ (POC), instead, they want to jump straight in and launch RPA programs, or set-up a Center of Excellence. We are definitely in agreement that the technology and business case is well proven, so a POC would be considered an unnecessary delay to rolling out RPA projects. The time would be better spent strategizing around the wider automation piece and planning how to realize the benefits. While we agree there are huge benefits to be had, it is important to be aware of potential pitfalls, which is what this blog looks to identify.  We have been working on RPA programs for a number of years and have gathered feedback on why some RPA programs have not maximized their full potential, some of these are shown in the quotes here:


So why are we hearing more and more about RPA programs which have not maximised potential, but instead have ended up being underwhelming, or worse, detrimental to the organization? 

We have been involved in conversations where there are fingers being pointed at the RPA technology, but in our experience the technology is rarely at fault. We believe there is a lot to learn on automation and from our experience to date in working with our clients we have identified five common pitfalls to avoid in order to ensure your automation program is a success:

  1. Prioritization - Incorrect identification, prioritization and scale of the process to be automated
  2. Management - Senior management is not actively engaged and supportive
  3. Industry knowledge - Selecting partners with little, or no, experience of the client’s industry
  4. Culture - Failure to focus on building capability and cultural change makes effort unsustainable
  5. Communication - Inappropriate branding and/or poor communication.

Whilst the fundamental challenges are straightforward, they are multiplicative rather than additive so they all need to be addressed, no matter how your organization is experiencing them. 

The tools, methods and experience are already out there, so it is important that both organizations who are in full project mode and those who are just embarking on the automation journey exploit this knowledge. Besides, Will Smith didn’t learn from ‘Short Circuit’ and look what happened to him in ‘I, Robot’ when he took the leap into AI.

Watch this space for a series of blogs on the above pitfalls and how they could be tackled as we delve into each of the five key reasons for automation program failure.