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  • Sutherland White Paper

Top Five Reasons Automation Programs Fail To Deliver Business Benefits - Part One

The impact of automation on business operations is undeniable. It’s changing the way business gets done and it’s not just hype – it’s crucial for success. The projected growth for RPA software and services in the global market is estimated to reach $3 billion by 2021.1 Organizations that ignore incorporating an automation strategy will risk rendering themselves obsolete against competitors. “Automation is quickly becoming one of the key levers to drive operational and digital transformation. The rate of adoption of RPA exceeds any other enterprise technology that has come about in the last decade” believes leading advisory firm Avasant. Despite the increasing impact of automation, many organizations are unsure of how to implement programs successfully and lack the granular knowledge of how to drive success. In fact, according to Ernst & Young, 30-50% of initial RPA implementations fail.2 “Contrary to common perception, implementing RPA is not a slam dunk and RPA tools are not plug and play. Companies that rush into implementing automation without developing a roadmap or understanding the organizational impacts are bound to experience failure or misaligned expectations,” according to Avansant. So, what’s behind the failure of automation programs in enterprise businesses? This white paper will explore top reasons automation programs fail and four steps your organization can take to successfully implement a program.


1. Implementation of digital tools without a cohesive understanding of the marketplace. Many companies are succumbing to the hype that to be successful today an organization must embrace automation in every corner of the business. Some organizations are forcing big, shiny platforms into their existing processes simply to check the automation box on their list of things to do without first assessing their environment in relation to all available technologies. With today’s rapidly advancing digital toolbox, taking a “one size fits all” approach and failing to determine how the latest advances fit your organization’s environment can prove disastrous. Selecting technology that isn’t a fit for existing processes can compromise penetration, limit ROI, and derail the success of the program. Possibly worst of all, the organization can be set back by the upheaval of a failed first attempt, thus making the second effort even more challenging.

2. Existing legacy environments. Legacy environments cause major barriers for automation, but they are also an opportunity to develop a strong business case for why change is needed. A successful transformation strategy requires an organization to remain flexible and agile in adapting to changing business environments, processes and technologies. By definition, legacy environments tend to be highly customized and inflexible, thus very slow to adapt to rapid changes. Worse yet, many organizations find themselves mired in legacies across all functions and departments. They can severely limit automation’s penetration and effectiveness. Deploying automation around legacies is more complex, time consuming, and costly in addition to delivering a less than desirable ROI.

3. Underestimating the need for effective change management. The implementation of an automation program can bring monumental disruption to an organization from top to bottom. Successful deployment can hinge on the ability to manage change and many organizations simply aren’t prepared or are ill equipped to drive objectives through this disruption. The spiral of failure starts by ignoring the need to assess the coming changes from a people standpoint. Organizations must communicate on a personal level why the changes are strategically necessary, and how these changes will be manifested to quell fear of the unknown. Also, an organization must clarify new roles and growth opportunities for its workforce. Failure to explain the impact of change on a personal level will limit buy-in and foster knock down behavior possibly derailing the automation program from within. An organization must not underestimate the need to prepare for the changes automation will bring. Failing to effectively explain, drive and socialize these changes is setting an automation program up to disappoint.

4. Random acts of automation not linked to a digital strategy or transformation objectives. The most dangerous words in the digital universe may be “just take this process and automate it.” Randomly automating processes outside of a holistic strategy that is aligned with business objectives is setting automation up to fail. By expecting results without proper protocol, acts of arbitrary deployment unfairly put into question the benefits of automation. The shelf life of random acts are short and results aren’t sustainable due to the inability to adapt to surrounding business environments, processes and technologies. Also, deploying random acts of automation can trigger a whole host of control and compliance issues that can quickly derail any attempt at successfully implementing automation in the long term.

5. Complexities of RPA implementation. In truth, it isn’t the complexities of RPA itself that cause many of the challenges, rather the complexities of the surrounding environments existing in the enterprise. The constant motion of surrounding business processes and evolving technologies can force RPA into a continuous customization mode which significantly complicates and slows its growth as well as tie up key resources. In reality, many organizations fail their RPA by neglecting to adjust processes and install environmental governance to allow the proper coding, implementation and maturity necessary for successful deployment. When the automation inevitably delivers less than desirable results due to environmental overload, programs are viewed as a failure and momentum is lost

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