Behind every successful Robotic Process Automation (RPA) program is an outstanding human team. RPA can transform the way an organization does business – freeing human workers to focus on higher-value tasks while cutting costs and driving better productivity, accuracy, and efficiency. But with 30 to 50% of projects failing to achieve desired results, knowing how to staff your RPA team for success is critical for keeping your automation journey from derailing.
Even before the global COVID-19 pandemic, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) stood as the fastest-growing segment of the enterprise software market. And Gartner predicts that companies will turn to automation like RPA faster than ever before as they zero in on quick, effective solutions that can insulate their business against future disruptions.
RPA offers resiliency for back office operations in the emerging work-from-home business model by reducing dependencies on manual processes and individuals. RPA can also make organizations more agile in the fast-changing business environment by enabling timely access to actionable data and insights.
But while Deloitte reports that 53% of organizations have started their RPA journey, only 3% have achieved any form of scale. Too often, the problem boils down to an enterprise ill-prepared to handle the challenges of an RPA implementation.
RPA projects can be led by in-house operations with adequate time, money, and resources, or they can be outsourced to a reputable third-party provider. Many companies find that a hybrid model that establishes a partnership between some in-house resources and a reputable RPA provider is the best way to effectively scale and manage risk.
Choosing the right path forward can be the difference between accelerating your RPA journey and suffering dismal results that cause senior stakeholders to withdraw their support. Answering four key questions can help organizations determine whether an internal or external approach is best for your RPA team structure:
- Is RPA considered a strategic asset for our organization?
- Do we possess the in-house capabilities and skills to perform a successful RPA implementation, or we will need to hire or train resources?
- Are there at least 100 business processes with the potential for automation in our organization?
- Do we fully understand the limited availability of RPA talent in the market, as well as the high demand for these professionals?
In the broadest strokes, businesses that answer all these questions affirmatively may feel better prepared to consider an internal RPA journey. Generally, this approach is most cost-effective for large global organizations that carry deep pockets and sizable workforces. In those cases, even small productivity gains can translate to significant cost savings.
But most organizations lack the resources to support an in-house RPA team. Recruiting and training a specialist technology workforce can be a costly endeavor – and requires a substantial pipeline of projects to drive the ROI you need. If your organization answered “no” to any of these questions, it may be hard to justify the commitment of an in-house structure. Let’s dig deeper into the key factors to consider when determining the best RPA team structure for success.
The seeming simplicity of RPA technology tempts some companies to launch their RPA journey with internal resources. But unfortunately, many are unaware of the challenges they can face if they fail to build the right structure, expectations, or investment for their project.
Whether you outsource or create an in-house RPA team, a dedicated RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) is essential for a successful implementation. Overworked IT departments rarely have the bandwidth to pile the demands of automation on top of everything else on their plates. Implementing RPA in an organization also requires a new set of skills to effectively design, monitor, and optimize usage of the bots.
A CoE creates a hybrid team of business process experts, enterprise architects, and innovation leaders tasked with imagining, building, and maintaining a company’s process robots. But the ongoing shortage of skilled IT workers nationwide can make staffing these RPA roles in-house a challenge.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be a million more job openings in computing than qualified applicants this year. The newness of RPA technology makes developers with extensive RPA experience an even scarcer commodity, driving salaries and turnover rates sky-high. The tech industry reports the highest employee turnover of any business sector with a churn rate of 13.2%.
Training in-house staff is possible but increases project costs and timelines. Inexperienced RPA teams are likely to underestimate the complexities of implementation as well, or struggle to anticipate day-to-day process exceptions that can impact bots’ productivity.
Many companies also don’t anticipate how RPA roles will morph throughout the journey. Turnover rates often increase among developers after the bulk of bots are deployed. That’s because the most advanced developers tend to prefer the challenge of building robots to supporting automation in production – and the hot job market makes it easy to move on to the next best thing.
Without a substantial pipeline of projects, in-house organizations may suddenly find themselves faced with the daunting task of rehiring key positions once the project shifts into support mode.
On paper, building an internal CoE can appear less costly than hiring a third-party provider. But many enterprises find out the hard way that internal CoE costs can spiral into budget overruns once they factor the number of hours spent training, hiring, supporting, and maintaining an internal RPA team.
By comparison, partnering with an outsourcing provider with an established CoE can help keep costs under control. With numerous implementations under their belts, outsourcing teams are experienced in mitigating issues that might cause project delays. They are trained to identify which business processes should be automated for the best ROI. And they know how to correct inefficiencies in a process to deliver the best automation results.
Choosing a partner with a transparent risk-sharing model also helps companies budget properly by establishing the project’s price tag upfront. Since the outsourcing provider’s platform has been thoroughly tested, external RPA teams can also typically provide faster development cycles, creating the quickest time to benefit and adoption.
Partnering with a third-party provider further removes the risk of hiring and retaining RPA specialists in a tough labor market. The steady stream of development work from an array of clients offers another key advantage, enabling outsourcing providers to generally experience less turnover - ensuring consistent access to top talent throughout an organization’s journey.
"Partnering with a third-party provider further removes the risk of hiring and retaining RPA specialists in a tough labor market."
Third-party solutions provide greater flexibility as well, allowing organizations to easily scale resources up and down. They also typically maintain broad experience with other automation technologies like Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning that can add benefit through your intelligent automation journey.
The list of RPA success stories is lengthy – and transformational. Insurance firm AXA saved nearly $200,000 in six months after deploying 13 bots in its UK office. RPA increased monthly product inspections from 4,000 to 10,000 per month for multinational conglomerate Lotte Corp.’s e-commerce marketplace. RPA established a new quoting process for a leading designer and distributor of rigid packaging products that led to more than 80% productivity gains and ROI of less than one month.
But key to successful RPA implementations is a human all-star team that can scale a company’s pipeline of RPA opportunities from ideas to delivery and value realization. Managing change is never easy, and putting the best RPA team structure in place can make or break a project.
An in-house RPA team may make sense under some circumstances for the largest organizations. But for most companies, a hybrid model that leverages the resources, knowledge, and experience of a third-party RPA provider with the business expertise of in-house staff will ensure the best business outcome.