• May 22, 2024

Companies dazzled by the sunny predictions of ROI promised by many robotic process automation vendors can underestimate the challenges involved in a successful RPA implementation. In fact, a now-famous study from EY found 30 to 50 percent of all RPA projects initially failed. While that number will attenuate as the market continues to mature, a significant number of projects succumb for reasons that are not always apparent. From not fully understanding the processes they want to automate to failure to ensure that all stakeholders are committed to, organizations can fall into many traps that reduce the effectiveness of process automation.

There are many reasons RPA implementations—like any technology solution—can fall short of the hype and expectations they have generated. Here are several fundamental errors companies continue to make after they have decided RPA could be a silver bullet for productivity.


Companies lack understanding/have unrealistic expectations about the process they are automating

Many companies have a fundamental misunderstanding about what RPA is capable of when it comes to the processes they want to automate or of the complexity of any individual process itself. As a result, as companies work through an implementation, they often find themselves having to alter the robots to achieve the desired outcomes in an environment that was more dynamic than they initially realized.

Comprehensive, thoughtful design often suffers in favor of quick implementation. Essential in the planning process is devoting time to identifying the right processes a company should automate. More time should be spent evaluating the entire operating model and processes and then choosing the right ones within a specific operating environment than choosing a particular RPA technology or vendor.

Despite the promise of automation, RPA is not the kind of technology an organization can set-and-forget. If a process requires significant human intervention, it may not be appropriate for automation. That evaluation is best made way before a significant investment in the actual software.

Insufficient cross-departmental collaboration/lack of buy-in

Since automation can benefit so many areas within an organization, a digital transformation journey that includes RPA requires a high degree of communication between corporate departments. In siloed organizations that are trying to automate processes in various departments, the time required to respond can exacerbate small problems that inevitably emerge during any technology implementation.

Commitment to RPA from the top of the organization down is vital to move an RPA implementation past cross-departmental hurdles that can frequently crop up. The politics at work in a corporate environment also can have a significant impact on the success of an RPA project. Is the C-suite paying attention to or championing the project? Is the notion that automation could affect human worker morale or productivity a concern to corporate leaders?

Weak governance

While the effort and attention required to complete the initial implementation of an RPA project are significant, many RPA projects fail to hit expected ROI targets because they lack the necessary ongoing management and maintenance. Effective project governance gives organizations a framework all stakeholders can work within to make decisions concerning a project.

For RPA, some of the factors that will complicate governance are the number of vendors, bots, software version updates, process changes, data format changes that can happen. While the software’s configuration is constant, those other changes happen on a regular basis. How an organization reacts to them (and how quickly) can be the difference between success and failure of an RPA project. Each implementation is a complex matrix of moving parts relying on continuous planning, communication, and testing. Strong project governance is essential to achieving those goals.


Properly implemented process automation projects can have a staggering impact on productivity in a huge range of industries, but many companies have experienced results that have not lived up to the technology’s immense promise.

Education, planning and communication are fundamental needs for an RPA project—or any facet of a major digital transformation initiative—to succeed. Much of the work required for that success must be completed prior to any actual automation. Commitment to the project by corporate leadership, strong partnerships—both of a consultative nature and with technology providers—and strong command and control subsequent to implementation are critical for RPA to achieve its lofty expectations. [/um_loggedin]