Why are IT departments nervous about RPA ?
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
This article explores reasons why IT Departments can be resistant to introducing Robotic Process Automation and offers some suggestions for how leaders can influence that thinking.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) involves the use of specialised software to automate repeatable and predictable computer based processes performed by humans. It is attractive to many companies as it performs repetitive tasks at reduced cost with superior data quality. Solutions are often less expensive and quicker to deploy than traditional systems integration as it works with the user interfaces of existing systems.
So why are IT departments nervous about it ?
It’s not on the IT road map - Mature IT departments have a strategic road map that includes an approved architecture. This has been signed off by IT architects and involves significant investment. RPA is rarely included as part of the roadmap.
There are other alternatives - RPA represents just one tool in the toolkit. Business process redesign, traditional systems integration and use of APIs are seen as more robust solutions. RPA software is a technology can be appropriate where those other solutions are not commercially feasible.
They didn’t think of it first - RPA projects often begin in operational teams and are presented to IT management as an alternative way forward.
They have less control - Introducing RPA requires a very collaborative and agile mentality. This may clash with existing methodologies were there are clearer roles for IT.
So what can be done ?
Start with the problem first - Many practitioners are focused on implementing RPA rather than properly assessing the business problem. You will gain credibility for recommending a balanced solution that considers process improvement and traditional systems integration as well as RPA.
Get started - A working proof of concept is a great way to demonstrate to senior stakeholders the value of RPA technology. The advantage of RPA software is that there are few barriers to getting started. Software can be installed on local desktops and does not require any systems integration. Vendors will support you with evaluation software and technical support at this stage.
Find a champion in business operations - Most successful RPA programs I have seen start their life in business operations and are championed and led by a senior operational manager. Your proof of concept will go a long way to influencing senior stakeholders. Your champion needs to be very senior in the organisation (Preferably the COO or CEO) as they will be required to exert influence with their peers in other departments.
Invite IT to participate - To have ongoing success you will need the IT department to support your RPA program. After you have impressed your senior stakeholders with a proof of concept ensure you invite IT to participate in the next phase.
Position RPA as a tactical stop gap - The solution should be quick to deploy and relatively inexpensive in comparison to a strategic IT transformation. I have seen business cases stalled for years awaiting a strategic solution. Its ok to build a robot that you throw away in a year provided it is quick to implement.
Pitch it as innovative - IT Professionals are often attracted to innovative and disruptive technology. RPA is the first step on journey that leads to Artificial Intelligence applications later on. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that.
Be respectful of IT Architects - When you are thinking about scaling up your program it is important to invest significant time with the Chief Architect explaining the merits of RPA as a tactical solution. The IT Architect has the power to veto your project so it is important that RPA gains a place on their roadmap. Remember to take your business champion with you.
I'm keen to hear any other suggestions on how IT departments can be encouraged to be more supportive of RPA programs.