How to Avoid Becoming the Next Bot Failure Statistic

They automate tasks and free up employee time so your company can achieve more with fewer resources—in theory. But as many as half of all bot projects fail. Here's how to ensure you get the ROI you were promised.

Leaders are increasingly turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to deliver shareholder value and meet the new organizational imperative to do right by everyone an enterprise interacts with – employees, customers, suppliers, partners and more. But 30 to 50 percent of early enterprise RPA projects fail, underscoring the need for leaders to take a different approach if they want to realize the promise of RPA.

RPA is the automation of manual tasks using a combination of software, bots, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The market for the technology is projected to grow 31.1% by 2025, and it’s easy to see why: RPA enables businesses to solve customer problems faster, free up employee time spent on administrative tasks and ensure compliance with trade or government rules, which results in more time and resources to achieve both corporate responsibility and business goals.

But nearly half of RPA initiatives fall short of delivering these benefits because executives haven’t laid the right groundwork. Organizations design bots in the vacuum of business process without addressing the complexities of the technology, so they end up with bots that do little to solve employee and customer challenges. Here’s how you can create a foundation that allows you to fully realize the power of bots to automate your business.

Define ownership early

To speed up the pace of business and create better operational experiences, you need ownership and accountability for your bots. Identify and communicate which business roles have ownership of bots and define employee KPIs to reflect this new responsibility. Doing so gets both IT and business stakeholders in lockstep with bot performance goals, improves bot productivity (because someone is on point to ensure they’re performing as needed), and helps your teams build bots that reflect a customer-centric design. Clarity of ownership then translates to faster and more effective bot development and faster time-to-value for automation as a whole.

Build a center of excellence focused on consistency

Many leaders assume that bots will always perform consistently because they’re programmed to automate specific tasks, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. You need oversight to ensure that bots are only collecting and storing data that’s permitted by law and that they aren’t violating any labor laws.

Create an internal automation center of excellence focused on auditing bot performance. Start by developing a security framework for your bots that ensures that data access and work activities are in line with organizational rules. Then task your center of excellence with ongoing bot auditing to certify that bot activities reflect corporate values and business purpose and that their adoption translates into improved employee and customer experiences.

Operationalize your bots

As companies adopt RPA, the number of bots deployed inevitably grows as new use cases are identified. But the operational strategies used for a proof of concept or small-scale bot deployment no longer work when your organization has hundreds of bots focused on individual tasks. Data generation skyrockets, and digital work must be coordinated or chaos will ensue.

Bots can take much of the day-to-day manual and administrative work off your employees’ plates, freeing them to focus on higher value tasks and empowering your business to rapidly scale operations. But they can only do so if you have a plan in place to make bots’ quality and maintenance needs a part of your operations. Your plan should be both corrective and preventative. Put measures in place to monitor, trace and fix problems before they occur, and utilize historical behavioral data to predict when issues may occur. New roles like bot operators, bot trainers and bot moderators can help enforce bot operationalization.

Executives must create a solid foundation to realize a return on investment and unlock the transformative potential that bots can have in the modern workplace. By tying KPIs to bot performance, ensuring that bot activities reflect corporate value and business purpose, and ingraining bot quality and maintenance into your operations, you can ensure that your automation efforts consistently put people at the center, ultimately enabling you to improve the experiences you offer to all of your stakeholders.

Ram Sathia
Ram Sathia is vice president of intelligent automation at PK, an experience engineering company that empowers the world’s best-known brands to connect with customers and employees around the world. Ram has nearly 20 years of experience helping clients decrease time-to-market, improve quality and drive efficiency through transformative RPA, AI, machine learning, DevOps and service virtualization initiatives.