Robotic Process Automation: The Implementation Journey for SMBs

What RPA Can Do for Your Business and How to Get There

If you hear the word ‘robots’, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Probably a walking, talking, humanoid, or maybe even a synthetic ping-pong partner. The robots we’re talking about today, however, are neither. We are of course referring to software robots, or RPA; able to perform simple and complex tasks in the workplace that make everybody’s jobs a whole lot easier.

But what is RPA? And how can RPA software help a business grow? That’s the question on the lips of every decision-maker assessing their options for a potential digital transformation strategy. Put simply, RPA leverages artificial intelligence to automate a range of processes, from data entry to customer queries.

As implementation of RPA systems becomes an increasingly common fixture for SMBs, we wanted to break down the RPA journey for a business, what the goals are, and how to embark on a road that will change the way your organization functions.

The Rise of RPA in Small and Medium-sized Businesses

As the aptitude of AI technologies has increased in sophistication, their uses and adoption in the business world have dramatically heightened in recent years. Its initial implementation was chiefly championed among large corporations which traditionally had the funds to foot the bill for costly software; now it’s a legitimately viable option for SMBs as the costs have reduced to an affordable rate.

The market and mainstream awareness for RPA in the business community has grown significantly; precisely because of its availability to SMBs. For many, the opportunity to automate repetitive, manual processes and use the saved labor for more complex tasks is a compelling prospect. In addition, improving the capabilities of expanding IT departments has become a key aim, with RPA acting as a vital component in achieving tech goals.

The RPA vendor industry is itself a fast-growing industry, thanks to the tumbling costs and affordability, and mainstream use of the technology. Vendors have begun marketing their solutions to small-medium businesses, with broad success so far. This is not too surprising to learn considering the market has grown from $271 million in 2016 and is expected to hit $3 billion in 2022.

The Stages of Implementing RPA Into the Workplace

1. Assess processes that have the potential to be automated

The first stage in any RPA implementation process is to audit your existing legacy workflows to determine which processes are appropriate for automation. The auditing procedure is absolutely crucial and must not be avoided.

It’s a common and costly mistake for businesses to implement automation software that they don’t need, only to go over-budget and lag behind on deadlines.

An estimated 30-50% of initial RPA projects fail in the early stages of implementation. This isn’t an indictment on the effectiveness of an RPA system, but an indication that the processes and workflows of a company have not been audited correctly (or at all).

This essentially adds up to an incorrect ‘diagnosis’, leading to unnecessary software being implemented. At Impact we understand how critical it is to have a full picture of businesses systems and workflows, via a formal assessment, before engaging in an RPA implementation.

2. Prioritize which elements you would most like to see RPA change

Build a list of priorities and determine what aspect of your business is in most need of automation. It could be any one of a number of reasons that RPA is an important objective for evolving your business:

  • Cost/revenue: Improving the potential for increased profits
  • Workflow processes: Getting more bang for your buck by easing repetitive and time-consuming workloads on employees
  • Error-free: Bots are capable of performing multiple processes 24 hours a day, seven days a week with perfect results. They don’t tire and never make mistakes, making them perfect candidates for dealing with routinely sorting and entering large amounts of data
  • Scalability: Bots are capable of working irregular hours and can scale up and down, depending on the work load. With humans, having to work when processes are in peak demand or low demand can be very inconvenient—for a bot there is no such issue

3. Partner with the right vendor for your needs

A good vendor should give you an honest assessment of your needs while respecting your limitations. As any decision-maker in an SMB will know, budgeting tech spend is a difficult task and often a costly consideration.

Having a clear roadmap for your RPA implementation journey is an essential way of preventing failure. Decision-makers can often feel pressured by industry competition to dive into a plan that they don’t need and can’t deliver, which will inevitably cause struggles down the line. Partnering with a trusted partner with experience like Impact can help set expectations and deliver your long-term goals.

4. Develop, implement, and assess

Once you’ve got a clear framework for moving forward, you can begin the process of programming and implementing the RPA system best suited for your needs and goals. Whether this is done in-house, with a vendor, or with an MSP is up to.

We’d recommend working with a partner who has the expertise to help you through every step of the implementation period and beyond. The likelihood is that something will go wrong, even if it’s just a minor issue—so be sure you have a plan in place for when you need help.

It’s important during the implementation period that the process is being led from the top and that any departments that will be affected by the new technology are on-board and understand the changes being made to their workflows. Establishing a positive culture for the new processes is vital.

Be sure that you have solid KPIs in place in order to assess the progress of the RPA system. This will make up an important component of the roadmap for the implementation and beyond to be sure that you’re getting what you want from RPA.

RPA KPIs can include:

  • Time saved performing assigned processes
  • Workload for humans
  • Speed performing routine tasks

The Challenges of Operating a Hybrid Workforce of Bots and Humans

With the implementation of RPA systems in a workplace, there is almost certainly going to be some form of resistance from employees. Whether it’s because of a reluctance to deviate from established practices, or a job safety concern, it’s imperative to communicate the benefits of RPA to your workforce.

Establishing a positive environment for change will go a long way to easing employees into the change. If fostered correctly from a leadership position down, you can communicate the message that RPA will make their jobs easier and improve efficiency.

When a business begins positioning its workforce as a hybrid of bots and humans, successful implementations are frequently determined by the effort put into ensuring the workplace has the appropriate structure and the workforce has sufficient knowledge to engage with the process.

The Future of RPA for SMBs and Where It’s Headed

As RPA becomes more affordable, it will be a common asset for SMBs going into the future as they continue to increase their spending on bots. According to Deloitte, 53% of businesses have already begun the process of RPA implementation, with that number expected to jump to 72% within two years.

To this end, understanding what an RPA journey should look like and how SMBs should approach it will become a primary consideration for vendors, MSPs, and businesses. For many decision makers going forward, having a reliable partner who can provide them with a solid roadmap for development, installation, and maintenance will be imperative for their business’ automation goals for the future.

Learn More About What RPA Means for the Future

Robotic process automation helps companies achieve and maintain a competitive advantage in their industry. Through leveraging the tools available, which increase staff productivity and decrease costs—companies can enjoy higher operating capacity while delivering superior customer experience.

RPA is just one aspect of digital transformation which is changing the way small businesses operate in today’s constantly evolving landscape. To learn more about how you can modernize your organization, reach out to our Managed IT team and speak to one of our experts today!