Although the technology is new, the benefits of RPA can already be witnessed in various industry sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, retail and banking. Robotic Process Automation can automate various mundane and routine tasks in the workplace using rule-based bots. The deployment of RPA can effectively improve productivity in the workplace and reduce human errors in business processes. RPA software does not require any coding, which makes it easier to transfer newer processes and tasks to bots. Additionally, RPA software enables better control of multiple business processes. With this approach, organizations can reduce overhead costs. According to reports, companies can save between $5 trillion to $7 trillion with the help of RPA. Due to such untold potential, RPA adoption is on the rise and the industry will be worth $3.1 billion by now, 2019.
Although there are various advantages in implementing the technology, business leaders must be aware of the potential risks in RPA. These risks can lead to major losses and affect the efficiency of employees and business workflows. The presence of RPA risks such as technical glitches, security issues and a flawed adoption and implementation process can reduce the profitability of the technology. Hence, business leaders must analyze all the possible risks in RPA for effective utilization of the technology.
Acknowledging the Risks in RPA
Every business leader must be aware of the following risks in RPA:
Incorrect Process Selection
Looking at the benefits of RPA, business leaders may wish to utilize the technology to its maximum potential. In the process, organizations may introduce RPA in as many processes as possible in a short period of time. Business leaders must know that RPA cannot automate every process. Hence, selecting appropriate processes to use RPA can be a complicated task. Ideally, RPA can handle processes that are repetitive, rule-based and consistent. Additionally, tasks that require little to no judgment and have low exception rates are suitable for RPA. Alternatively, control activities that are currently performed by employees due to time or resource constraints can be feasible for RPA. Processes that fail to meet the above criteria will be inappropriate for RPA and won’t offer enough value to be worth the investment.
Another crucial issue is that organizations may deploy RPA for specific processes in a department and neglect others. For instance, the HR department of an organization is utilizing RPA proactively. However, other departments such as sales, customer service and production that have not adopted RPA will miss automating several routine processes. With this approach, businesses will become incapable of utilizing RPA to benefit the entire organization.
Every software and device has its own technical issues such as poor design, operational bugs, or ineffective security measures. All these issues will introduce unplanned downtime that can affect the workflow of multiple employees. Hence, business leaders must plan to tackle these issues beforehand. Additionally, not having experienced professionals on-board to handle technical glitches, software testing and maintenance can introduce additional risks in RPA.
Organizations also need to strategize for integrating new software with other enterprise systems. In case the RPA software is incompatible with enterprise systems, organizations have to significantly reorganize their IT infrastructure. Fortunately, RPA solutions mostly interact with other software in the presentation layer, which helps them bridge several systems without restructuring the existing IT setup. Yet, organizations need to select suitable RPA software that effortlessly integrates with a wide variety of technologies and platforms.
Lack of Communication
The introduction of new software or technology will transform employee roles and business processes. Employees need to be informed about all the changes that will be integrated into the organization. Failing to communicate the inevitable changes in various workflows and processes can result in confusion among the employees. Also, business leaders need to consider that the introduction of RPA will affect various employees differently. Some of them would find their jobs more fulfilling with RPA handling their mundane tasks while others may not. Employees, especially the ones who aren’t tech-savvy, may be increasingly concerned about training and upgrading their skills for adapting to RPA. If business leaders fail to understand their employees while introducing any significant change in the existing processes, then employees may be unable to keep with the changes.
One of the major risks in RPA or any other technology is security. Bots can access vital data across various departments in an organization based on their allocated processes. Cybercriminals can attack RPA bots and steal crucial data from an organization. Experts have suggested that hackers can modify any session that a bot is performing to affect the operation of RPA. Such security risks can affect the productivity of an organization and leave crucial personal and corporate data vulnerable to illegal access.
Minimizing the Risks in RPA
Business leaders can execute the following steps to reduce RPA risks:
Make Informed Decisions
Before deciding how an organization will implement RPA, business leaders must extensively research about the promise and perils of the technology. Additionally, business leaders must carefully analyze different processes and identify which processes need to be automated. Therefore, business leaders should avoid rushing into RPA adoption and analyze various potential use cases of RPA in their organization. Also, business leaders can find out what other organizations are doing with the technology and plan their approach accordingly. For developing an effective strategy, business leaders must consider the following questions:
Which departments in the organization can benefit from RPA?
Which departments will be negatively affected by the implementation of RPA?
Where does RPA excel and where does it fall short?
After thoughtfully answering all the above questions, business leaders can figure out which processes would be suitable for RPA integration. Such processes would maximize the ROI and overall productivity in an organization.
Hire Experienced Professionals
To avoid risks in RPA, business leaders must employ skilled professionals that are experienced in the deployment and implementation of RPA. Such professionals can help in the development of an effective strategy for adoption and estimate the required budget. These professionals can also manage the technical aspects of RPA utilization such as resolving queries and bugs, testing and updating software. Additionally, skilled professionals can suggest software that can effortlessly integrate with different enterprise systems and platforms that are used in an organization.
The introduction of RPA will also give rise to new roles in an organization. New team leaders must be hired to effectively evaluate the performance of bots. Such team leads will handle responsibilities such as managing human interventions for process exception-handling and reconfiguring RPA software according to changes in process rules and activities.
Train the Staff
For maximizing the efficiency and minimizing the risks in RPA, organizations must communicate all the upcoming changes in a detailed manner and train their employees. Organizations must train their employees to help them understand the expected changes and their benefits. The training could consist of online and onsite exercises, tutorials, videos and webinars. The training must also explain the transformation of employee roles and processes and their effect on business workflows. Also, organizations must provide additional support for employees that may not be tech-savvy by introducing personalized training programs.
Manage Various Bots
An organization may utilize several bots for various business processes. These bots need to be tracked in real-time to understand which bots are handling various processes. For instance, thirty bots may be handling sixty processes in an organization. Hence, businesses must invest in a platform that can monitor all the automated processes in real-time. With this approach, employees can recover quickly in case automation fails temporarily. Furthermore, business leaders can view the big picture of how RPA is helping their organization with the help of such platforms.
Ensure Data Security
Organizations must collaborate with their IT teams and hired professionals to develop an effective security mechanism. For starters, organizations must encrypt all of their data and credentials. Encryption helps businesses ensure the integrity of their data. In case an attacker manages to access any confidential data, the organization will be able to detect such illegal access. Additionally, organizations must restrict data access to bots just like the employees. Organizations must never provide admin privileges or elevated access to RPA software, unless necessary. Furthermore, organizations must monitor RPA activity and login information to detect any malicious behavior and develop a mitigation strategy in case of a cyberattack. Also, organizations must conduct audits and reviews frequently to identify potential security loopholes.
Organizations can consider the above approach to reduce the risks in RPA. However, with the development and integration of modern technologies such as AI, machine learning and computer vision, RPA can transform into an advanced technology called IPA (i.e., Intelligent Process Automation). IPA can handle multiple complex business processes and learn from collected data. IPA may be capable of eliminating risks in RPA without any human intervention.
Naveen Joshi is Founder and CEO of Allerin, which develops engineering and technology solutions focused on optimal customer experiences. Naveen works in AI, Big Data, IoT and Blockchain. An influencer with a half a million followers, he is a highly seasoned professional with more than 20 years of comprehensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment.