Those of us who have been around the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) world are starting to get a sense of déjà vu. More and more companies are expecting non-technology resources within the organization to know how to use RPA. Although RPA technologies were originally intended for business resources to more easily develop and manage automation, it really wasn’t realistic as software providers promised: “If you can use Excel Macros, you can use X RPA solution.”

So what should be the make-up of a successful RPA implementation team?

Reality bites

When the rubber meets the road at the outset of an implementation, it becomes very clear that “macro monkeys” were building robots that had one of two problems:

  1. They broke when they got to real-world situations.
  2. They were not maintainable in the long run.

In fact, not only was it not possible for business resources to create reliable, real-world automation, but even hard-core technical resources needed a certain aptitude and specialized training. To develop good automation, specific engineering discipline is required, and most developers need training to cultivate it.

The rise of the machines

The rise of the machinesAs RPA has risen in popularity over the last year or two, we have seen a resurgence in expectations that business resources will be able to develop automation. Is there hope that we will be successful this time around?  Spoiler alert: It is possible, but definitely not easy.

At  Cognizant, we call our vision “Robot Utopia” (more on that in a future post). Robot Utopia makes heavy use of the ability of business resources to identify, build, execute, monitor, and maintain automation.

Key automation ingredients

Our research on this is not yet complete, but there are a couple of principles I’d like to share with you.

The first is that the business resources cannot be trusted to engineer a good solution. But when properly trained, they can identify opportunities that are the foundation for creating reliable components for automation. It is very important to have professional automation engineers involved to provide reliable reusable components (think Lego blocks).

The second major lesson relates to engagement. The business resources have a real job to do and they will only invest in automation to the extent that automation will make their job easier. Convincing them to spend their time learning relevant automation techniques, and then building, operating, and maintaining automation is a critical component.

The edge of tomorrow

If business resources are going to be part of your RPA development strategy, take special care not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The best way that I can recommend to do that is to work closely with a partner who has experience in exactly these matters. Ask the tough questions. Get comfortable with the plan and make sure that your partner has attended this rodeo before.

Shaun Dawson

Shaun Dawson

Shaun Dawson runs Cognizant's Global Center of Excellence for Intelligent Process Automation, which includes RPA. He has over 20 years of experience... Read more