RPA myth busting: Common robotics misconceptions (part 2)

HYPE in lights

Continuing on my first post, let’s demystify some commonly-used RPA sales pitches. What uncomfortable facts are being swept under the rug? Where should buyers exercise caution before investing their time and resources in a robotics initiative?

Here are three more RPA claims that are overplayed:

 “RPA solutions can be delivered in 4-6 weeks.”

A 4-6 week window is actually somewhat doable, but this claim is trying to hide some very important context. Let us take a closer look and list all the necessary dependencies: Does the company already operate within an RPA ecosystem, complete with developed vendor relationships? To what extent has the company grown an Automation Center of Excellence and stocked it with the hard-to-find talent required for end-to-end robotics delivery?

If the company has:

  • Performed a deep process assessment and chosen to automate processes that are manual, repetitive, and standard
  • Implemented the proper technology backbone (servers, VDIs, dedicated support streams, etc.)
  • Obtained all the necessary executive buy-ins, IT “green lights” and budgetary approvals
  • Acquired the necessary resources to support every RPA project phase

Then, yes, 4-6 weeks per process is not an exaggerated statement. But how many of companies can confirm they have all these things in place? If you are at the beginning of this RPA journey, get yourself ready for at least 2 years of intensive RPA prepping. If you are in a hurry, consider partnering with a company that has already taken this difficult journey — and potentially cut this time by 70%.

“RPA has 100% accuracy.”

Do you work for a company where all systems have only valid, sorted, accurate data? Are inputs always in a perfect form and documents always free of errors? Is everything lean, structured and ready to be processed? Of course not – and this why “100% accuracy” is a total myth.

Even fancy robots will sometimes miss mistakes in source data and process them as if part of standard procedure. Moreover, a single missed mistake could be dragged through an entire sequence of robotic processes and sub-processes, causing a snowball effect that can decrease that mythical 100% statistic by quite a bit. Remember, RPA will be only as good as the data quality you pump into its engine chamber.

“RPA already utilizes AI technology and can handle any task.”

It is often difficult to separate real AI science from that of science fiction.  Looking at examples from IBM Watson, Google DeepMind, and others, it is clear that we are close to building intelligent scripts and algorithms that adjust to the environment without major restrictions. But is this amazing “AI sauce” already a part of RPA, which is often the cheapest enterprise automation option? The answer is no. Don’t be fooled by sales people or conference presentations that say otherwise.

Skilled and autonomous chatbots are indeed able to follow scripted conversations and address many customer queries. And OCR technology offers a way to effectively extract non-digitized data from documents like invoices and post them to ERP systems. However, both are costly additions to RPA’s base capabilities.

We are entering a new era where advanced analytics, machine learning, and pattern recognition can combine with RPA to generate new pockets of value. To get to the era of “AI in enterprise business processes,” however, we will need to not only fully embrace currently available technologies but also prepare for RPA 3.0 or even RPA 4.0. Only then will a good cost-to-benefit ratio for AI in this services branch be likely to exist.

RPA is an interesting and exciting space. But it is also a very tricky business, especially for buyers. I have no doubt that many companies will be able to create value from RPA. Many already have. To be successful today, however, companies need to be aware of what is and is not possible, while constantly calibrating expectations in order to properly manage expectations. Once real success starts to be realized, new ways to deliver value will become more and more apparent. Eventually, it will become easier to deliver that value with more frequency and on greater scale.


RPA myth busting: Common robotics misconceptions (part 1)

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  1. […] RPA myth busting: Common robotics misconceptions (part 2) […]

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