For companies just starting to use automation to replace transactional, non-judgmental, every day/totally boring tasks, it is absolutely essential to “market” the concept of automation within the organization. Why? The use of robots seems too futuristic for many, and there will be a lot more fear than one would expect.
Address Typical Areas of Resistance
First and foremost, you must overcome the “robots are going to replace humans” stigma. Actually the opposite is true: if employees do more high value work (and fewer low value, manual tasks), their job is more likely to be secure in the future. Employees also need to truly buy into the notion that introducing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will make their job better and more meaningful. Employees will become enthusiastic when they see how their work will be more interesting - after all, we are humans, we have complex brains and a desire to do something that isn’t so robotic. Marketing campaigns should capitalize on this!
There is also a general lack of understanding of how common the use of work process automation is (over half of organizations and rapidly climbing), and where automation can/should be used. In addition, most employees and department heads generally don’t realize the total volume of work that is done manually today because they rarely have the luxury of taking a step back and analyzing their processes. A good marketing campaign needs to convince the audience that there is, in fact, a substantial amount of manual work that is executed today, and that there is a better way that benefits everybody.
Where Should Early Marketing Efforts Be Focused?
Once your IT department makes bots available for business owners to use, the first step is to get buy-in from senior leaders and help them understand the landscape. A short slide deck should include key pieces of high-level information executives want to see such as:
The basics – what is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? Where is enterprise automation used today?
What are bots?
How can bots help the organization?
What are the different types of bots (RPA, chatbots, cognitive and machine learning)
What is the ROI?
What are typical use cases for internal use (e.g., Finance, HR, IT, Marketing, Internal Customer Service)?
What are good use cases on the Business Operations side (e.g., Banking, Finance, Hospitality, Healthcare, Insurance, Retail, etc.)?
What are some real world examples of successful bot implementations in similar organizations (include stats on how successful organizations have accepted, managed and operated with bots)? What is the competition doing?
The most convincing argument I’ve used is the the number of hours that can be saved and the year over year return compared to the investment. This requires analysis and serious number crunching. In addition, funding and supporting an RPA program may not come up in the first conversation, but you should always be prepared for the question.
If your IT department has agreed to centrally fund the bots, that removes a large barrier to entry! If that isn’t the case and automation will have to be locally funded, look for budget line items that can be impacted or large chunks of high-volume effort where FTEs can be repurposed.
If you aren’t part of Finance, talk to them. Finance generally has the greatest use cases and ROI, and chances are that they are already using automation or looking into it. If they aren’t, they should, and this is an opportunity to partner in the cause. It is quite common that Finance funds the initial use of robotic process automation because it reinforces their case and builds support for serious investment and expansion.
Convincing the Businesses and Process Owners
Once senior leaders are on board, the toughest “sell” is to the levels below. As mentioned earlier, process owners who are VERY sceptical about using digital employees will need help reinventing the work of their existing team. This is also preemptively important for ensuring that their budget for humans will stay intact.
Be ready to engage groups who have already embarked on substantial efforts to reduce the cost of human effort – what are some key selling points for them? A good example here is Human Resources. In large organizations, it is almost a given that their teams have been heavily staffed by offshore resources for thousands upon thousands of transactions. There is still a lot to be gained here. RPA is an improvement over offshoring given the inconvenience of time zones, but that is minor compared to this: a lot of validation and cross checking is typical in an offshoring scenario because there are significant human errors. Offshore teams tend to move too fast (they are generally motivated by volume completion), thus they skip steps and make mistakes.
So, bring in the bots! Bots, when programmed to the EXACT specifications of the process owners, have a 0% error rate and produce a final report detailing what was processed. In one client scenario, onshore teams spent 90% less time reviewing and validating offshore work and more time working on priority projects. An added bonus was cost reduction. Bots are fast and free. Offshore resources are not, so dollars were saved and senior leaders were extremely happy with the result!
Calculating and Communicating the Return
Once you can climb the mountain (convincing executive leaders the idea is a good one), and get to the top of the mountain (convincing business and process owners of the benefits), you slowly start the easier descent down the mountain. The descent is the sweetest part because of the tremendous return on investment you’ll have the pleasure of reporting to stakeholders. It’s where we get to see, in clear, quantifiable terms, what the automation did for the team that invested its trust in that bot.
The ROI conversation is most effective when proactively anticipated during the requirements phase by asking teams to think of the most eye-catching metrics for a particular automation. You don’t want to be trying to think of how to quantify the benefits after the bot has been deployed, because there may be things that must be done prior to deployment to capture the most impactful metrics. Generally, the best Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are cost efficiency, risk reduction, quality/error reduction, etc.
Be sure to heavily emphasize the business impact (i.e., what is the automation accomplishing, how is that connected to customer experience, revenue, etc.) and how long it now takes it to perform the work. Measure that against the time it took the humans to do the job manually, not because we want to say, “look how long humans take to do work”, but rather we want to articulate how quickly and with what error rate (ideally 0% with 0 exceptions!) impactful tasks are executed. Tracking metrics is so important because it is the proof in the pudding that shows the investment in the automation was a worthy one, and serves as powerful marketing collateral for maintaining strong leadership support and growing the program.
Creating and managing a new, automated, digital employee can be very positive for everyone if marketed properly before and after the fact. And organizations with multiple bot workers ultimately end up achieving new heights because employees no longer have to deal with that spreadsheet that has thousands of rows, thankless cross checking of voluminous reports or processing a myriad of monotonous transactions in their systems. Bots can result in all that; trust us, we’ve seen it in action!