Robotic Process Automation (RPA): How to persuade skeptics

Robotic Process Automation (RPA): How to persuade skeptics

When you say “RPA,” people may hear “job loss.” How to allay common fears and make your case for the benefits of robotic process automation

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A three-step plan for persuasive RPA storytelling

Persuading skeptics and reducing fear is ultimately about telling a compelling and honest story. Huff from Kofax has found positive, repeatable results with this approach:

  1. Pick a winning automation proof of concept (POC) that is not too difficult yet aligns with a larger digital transformation initiative and will show business value.
  2. Actively engage the workforce with education and training to mitigate the fear of uncertainty of job loss and marginalization.
  3. Develop the POC with the very employees that will be impacted and ultimately benefit.

Step three is where the magic really happens.

This last step is where the magic really happens. Huff says most reasonable POCs should run somewhere between eight and 12 weeks. During that timeframe, he recommends making a three-part video, using interviews with team members. Part one occurs at the project start; Huff advises asking participants what they think about RPA.

“They will likely lean back, cross their arms, and articulate uncertainty,” Huff says. “They have a family to feed, and RPA might put that at risk. It’s completely understandable.”

Do a second video interview roughly halfway through the POC and ask participants how it’s going.

“You will see them start to crack a smile because they’re now educated on RPA,” Huff says. “Since they have been brought into the design and development, they understand that RPA is taking the dull and mundane work that they never wanted to do yet was the primary culprit keeping them from getting home on time!”

Make a final recording at the end of the project, when the RPA bot is running in production. At this point, Huff suggests asking participants if they see a future for RPA.

“You’ll see them lean in, smile ear-to-ear, and laugh at the fact that they basically pulled the robot out of themselves and now they have time and space to think, create, and optimize their work,” Huff says.

Now you have champions - and a video asset

Not only are the people impacted by the pilot now on board, but they’re more likely to become future champions. Plus, you’ve got a video asset that continues to tell their story in other contexts.

“Smash all three recordings together into a two- [or] three-minute clip, show it to executives, and have them present it at town halls or all-hands, and you’ll quickly work through a lot of the cultural issues that typically prevent RPA projects from scaling,” Huff says.

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free Ebook: Managing IT with Automation. ] 

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I don't fear RPA for job loss

I don't fear RPA for job loss. I am an RPA skeptic because too often I see it encourage bad designs, such as screen scraping sites for data. Sometimes you have no choice but usually its a band aide for something a properly designed sharing architecture could solve. Maybe the site's a 3rd party and you can't control that or don't want to pay for API access? Maybe you shouldn't be pulling that data into your systems in the first place. I realize there are some decent use cases for RPA, but often, I see people using it as they would use VBA and dressing up poor design and planning and weak programming as the future.

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