A Robotic Process Automation (RPA) journey marks a watershed moment for an enterprise. Without question, a lightning-fast digital workforce that can accurately perform back office tasks around-the-clock can have a game-changing impact on business continuity, productivity, efficiency, costs, and customer satisfaction. But the wrong RPA partner can destine a project to join the 30-50% that fail, causing senior stakeholders to lose faith in the technology.
Deloitte reports that 63% of businesses use dedicated third-party partners for their RPA journeys, recognizing the critical need for skills and support unavailable within their organizations. Their concerns are well-founded: organizations that leveraged external RPA implementation partners reported significantly fewer difficulties than those that relied exclusively on internal resources. For instance, 50% of in-house teams had difficulty redefining and redistributing their human workforce, compared to 36% of businesses that partnered with third-party providers.
Businesses can outsource their RPA implementation completely or look for partners that will customize a hybrid approach, combining the business expertise of some in-house resources with the provider’s knowledge, resources, and experience.
But hiring an RPA partner is far from a guarantee of success. Not every implementer is cut from the same quality cloth - and a poor choice can leave businesses with few automations that deliver minimal value. While Deloitte predicts universal RPA adoption by 2024, only 3% of businesses that started an RPA journey have achieved any form of scale.
As demand for RPA soars, so does the number of providers. Choosing the right RPA partner can be overwhelming – and many businesses don’t understand what separates a top-tier provider from the rest. While technical RPA expertise is important, other criteria are just as critical to ensuring an implementation process runs smoothly, causes minimal disruptions to existing workflows, and achieves desired results.
Let’s examine seven key considerations for choosing an RPA implementation partner that can lead your project to success.
|1- Look for RPA partners who combine technical expertise with process improvement and business transformation capabilities.|
Make no mistake, RPA is a disruptive technology. When implemented properly, it has the potential to transform the way a business works – improving the productivity and efficiency of routine tasks and freeing human workers to focus on higher-value activities. However, applying automation without fixing the underlying flaws in a business process – or picking the wrong processes to automate – can cause RPA projects to fail.
Too many RPA partners have technical expertise but don’t understand process design. As a result, they apply automation without analyzing where the business process they’ve been tasked to improve fits with the company’s operational profile and greater strategic goals. Unfortunately, all that accomplishes is sinking resources into making inefficient processes run faster, and delays the benefits of potentially higher value and more business critical processes.
RPA partners with extensive business operations and process knowledge are experts in identifying the parts of your business that can benefit most from RPA. They are trained to spot inefficiencies and redesign processes to achieve your goals. They also won’t force an overly complicated solution to achieve 100% automation. Exceptional partners know how to thoroughly evaluate every part of a process for its automation potential and only involve steps that deliver the right ROI.
Taking time to understand business needs delivers another important benefit: the ability to help stakeholders structure a business case that gets buy-in from senior executives. Implementers that only focus on the technical side of RPA are poorly prepared to sell a business transformation to the C-suite.
But RPA partners with business expertise are experienced in positioning the investment to fit the company’s broader goals. They also have a proven methodology that enables them to articulate total costs and potential benefits.
|2- Choose an RPA partner with the right depth of experience in the RPA tool you are using - Certifications are important!|
Sounds obvious, right? But too many RPA journeys stall because the RPA implementation partner lacks the talent and expertise to overcome challenges that arise. Many providers tout the ability to work with any RPA software as an implementation advantage. However, there’s truth to the old adage: jack of all trades, master of none.
RPA providers who narrow their focus to implementing a single, top-quality product become real experts in the technology, which can lead to innovative solutions. Deep experience with a platform can also ensure faster development cycles, creating the quickest time to benefit and adoption.
Ask for certifications that prove a potential RPA partner’s expertise. For instance, UiPath, the leading enterprise RPA software company worldwide, has bestowed an exclusive Services Network (USN) Certification on 22 service delivery partners. Joining this elite global network accredits a UiPath partner with RPA skills that mirror the exceptional quality offered by UiPath’s internal professional services team.
Quality RPA partners further understand that adding complementary technologies such as Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning to a solution can sometimes provide the best outcome. But technology changes fast - and many implementers struggle to stay up-to-date with the latest innovations.
Businesses should look for an RPA partner who maintains broad, current experience with other intelligent automation technologies - and how they integrate with RPA platforms - so they can design the best end-to-end solution.
|3- Consider a nearshore solution to combat IT’s talent shortage and the challenges of offshore models.|
Bench strength is another important criteria when choosing an RPA partner. Implementing, scaling, and supporting automation across a business is a long journey that demands continuity in service.
But the newness of RPA technology combined with the severe IT talent shortage in the U.S. makes resources with deep RPA expertise a scarcity. A quick search of Indeed and LinkedIn uncovered nearly 10,000 open RPA jobs – and the gap continues to widen as RPA becomes more pervasive. High demand for skilled IT talent also makes turnover an issue, with tech reporting the highest churn rate of any industry at 13.2%.
Key to a successful implementation is choosing an RPA partner that can guarantee the depth of resources you need to meet business deadlines. Besides talent on the bench, a quality RPA implementation partner should be able to detail plans for minimizing attrition, keeping staff current with new technologies, and creating a continuous talent pipeline.
Choosing a provider with an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) in a nearshore location close to the U.S. offers a cost-effective solution to mitigate these challenges. A CoE is a team of experts tasked with designing, developing, and maintaining a company’s process robots, comprising the right set of professionals in the team, including Solution Architects, Business Analysts, Developers, Infrastructure Engineers, Service Support and RPA Operators.
Nearshoring to Costa Rica, for instance, can reduce labor costs by 30-50% compared to hiring similar skills in the U.S. It also provides access to a highly educated workforce with strong English fluency in an area so proficient in tech it’s been recognized as the Silicon Valley of Latin America.
Nearshore solutions resolve many of the issues that have triggered a growing dissatisfaction with Asian-based offshoring models as well. More and more companies are reconsidering offshore solutions due to challenging language barriers, unforeseen cultural differences, the prevalence of “black box” operating models with little visibility to team structures and processes, and significant time zone differences that negatively impact communication and responsiveness.
The coronavirus pandemic also sharpened awareness of the shaky infrastructure, poor healthcare, and substandard living conditions that impact service delivery in Asian locations like India and the Philippines. In contrast, nearshoring to Costa Rica mitigates outsourcing risk with a modern infrastructure and world-class coronavirus management that earned United Nations recognition.
|4- Demand a transparent, risk-sharing cost structure.|
The time & materials cost structure favored by many RPA implementation partners creates the wrong incentives. When providers are paid on an hourly basis, the customer should stay heavily involved to ensure teams deliver toward the approved scope within the budgeted amount of time. Unfortunately, it’s all too common – and to the provider’s advantage – for circumstances to extend project timelines, leading to low budgeting control.
Choosing a partner with a transparent risk-sharing model helps companies budget properly by establishing the project’s price tag upfront. These RPA partners have the experience to guarantee results at a controlled cost. They are also incentivized to deliver a quality product on time because they must eat the margin if they underestimate the engagement.
|5- Utilize customer references to determine an RPA partner’s ability to successfully scale.|
The complexity of managing an RPA installation grows exponentially with the number of bots, processes, and process exceptions, and that leaves many vendors struggling to expand beyond the initial Proof of Concept (POC).
Vendor demonstrations can be dazzling, so it’s good practice to seek client references to gauge on-the-ground realities and the ability to scale through challenges and complexities. To truly measure customer satisfaction, ask about the number of companies that continue to work with the provider after the POC. Determine the average relationship in months and years the implementer maintains with its clients.
|6- Make sure your RPA implementation partner can also keep robots running 24/7.|
An RPA journey doesn’t end at implementation. Robots will inevitably require some tweaking to adapt to unexpected process exceptions like changes to an external website.
But ongoing maintenance and support require a different set of RPA skills than design and implementation. And unfortunately, some providers underestimate the amount of support needed to ensure a smooth RPA program.
When seeking an RPA partner, look for providers who can guarantee 24/7 operation of your bots through a solid support structure. Challenge them to help you understand how they will structure and provide governance of the support engagement. Just like service-level agreements (SLAs) provide mutually agreed-upon metrics that ensure providers meet expectations in a BPO engagement, quality RPA partners should be able to provide a similarly structured framework for guaranteeing responsive support.
|7- Prioritize a history of successful RPA implementations over experience in an specific function or industry|
Some providers will always have more experience than others in certain industries or processes. And while experience automating a specific area can be “nice to have,” it’s not a “must-have” for an exceptional provider. Implementers with deep expertise in RPA technology and business process design can create outstanding solutions for any industry or function.
Fixating on finding an RPA partner with a specific “resume” can cause you to overlook the best overall choice. Instead, dig into how successful a provider has been when confronted with other new situations. Focusing on implementers who have a verified history of delivering creative, sustainable solutions for any new challenge will ensure the best business outcome.
Exceptional partners will accelerate an RPA journey, from design to implementation to maintenance support. They will help set realistic expectations among senior stakeholders and provide a clear structure for controlling costs. They will also work diligently to craft an automation strategy that supports a company’s current and future goals.
Look for RPA partners who offer the flexibility to set up an environment in multiple ways; for instance, creating a structure for who owns RPA codes, workflows, and licenses that makes the most sense for both parties. When necessary, top-tier providers will also include contractual provisions that make it easy to transfer ownership to the client if the relationship ends.
Your RPA partner can make or break your automation journey. But even if previous partners have struggled to move your business past the POC stage, choosing an RPA partner that epitomizes these seven criteria can help you achieve automation success.