Benefits of RPA: Strategic Plan or Quick Wins?

Benefits of RPA

I got asked an interesting question by a client this week that I have not been asked for many years, the question was simply this:

“Should I implement intelligent automation as strategic or tactical?” and while it should be an easy question to answer, there is much more to it…  Let me explain.


Different approaches

Firstly bear in mind that while automation in any form can address your issues very quickly and efficiently, there may be better methods to address or even eliminate the issues in the longer term.


Example process

A form comes into business via post (yes paper!), the form is scanned into the system and forwarded to the relevant area for a user to review, the user then must transcribe data manually into the core business systems.  If there is an error on the form the agent needs to contact the customer and request a new form.

Overall, the manual effort here is around 30 minutes per form, with over 5,000 forms a month (almost 18 Full Time Employees (FTE) a month!)



RPA Tactical RPA Strategic IT Strategic
Complexity to implement lowest moderate highest
Time to implement 1 week 1 month 3-24 months
Savings 95% 100% 100%
Cost lowest low highest


Lets take a look at these in more detail:


IT Strategic

Alter internal governance to not require a wet signature, implement an electronic form with full validation up front, feed the form directly into the systems. The best fix without question!

Now ask yourself, why haven’t we already done this?, the answer is likely a mix of various things, starting with resource availability within IT, project team availability, cross departmental meetings and sign offs, internal politics, conflicting priorities,  can you actually talk or make changes to the systems in the first place to mention a few.

All of these people and time requirements add up very quickly which is why IT projects incur exceedingly high costs and usually go well over a year to deliver, and quite frequently by the time they are delivered are no longer fit for purpose!, sound familiar?, thus most small functionality updates usually never get started and you end up supplementing with additional resource at the front end to accommodate.


RPA Strategic

Focuses on low impact streamlining of the process pre-automation, for example make a few simple wording changes to the form to remove the majority of manual errors, look to consume other technology that exists in the company that may work better, then automate using the streamlined process.

Unlike IT strategic, this approach isn’t done through the backend or by altering the systems in anyway, it is all done via the existing front end using what is in place on your systems without any changes needed, automations can talk and write to any system, thus no system changes to worry about. slightly longer to implement than a tactical solution due to potential sign offs needed for the form/process change, but results equivalent to an IT implementation @ a fraction of the time and cost


RPA Tactical

Automate the process as is without any changes to the process, documents or system using only RPA – removes 95% of the manual effort decrease the SLA and keep the customer updated re progress, sounds easy, well to be quite honest it is!, while it may not give the same result as a strategic solution delivered by your business’s IT, it will deliver a vast improvement over what you currently have and can be implemented almost immediately


Remember – with automation, you can easily do a tactical fix and then change it to a strategic approach when appropriate sign offs have been received meaning you get results immediately.  Phase 2’s are easy in the RPA world!

The main difference between strategic and tactical RPA implementations is the way in which you have set up your structure and strategy within your company and the skills of the people delivering, with strategic RPA you likely have a well-structured pipeline for your automations, have a specialised delivery method and team in place to deliver, manage and maintain robust automations quickly and in a way that scales well.


Top Down or Bottom Up

Bottom Up (tactical quickly becomes strategic)

Historically the most common approach, In this silo approach a LOB leader decides to implement RPA, they automate a few processes get there ROI and are happy with the result, then they identify a few more processes, and automate these, over time the improvements in efficiency and morale are noticed by peers and seniors which leads to requests for more and more, the business try’s to scale this out but 90% of the time fails due to a plethora of reasons ,thus they need to go back to step one, the most common reasons I have seen for this are:

  • Insufficient build and deployment standards
  • Incorrect structure and skillsets
  • Delays while getting sign off for a bigger budget.
  • Bots start to fail, and support diminishes.

Worry not though, all the challenges I’ve ever seen have been addressable and most have been fixed within months, enabling what was a small tactical solution to become one of the main strategic deliverables. Although I would suggest getting help when you start to avoid these and other challenges.


Top Down (strategic)

This is the approach taken by some of the most successful enterprises worldwide that I have worked with, the senior leadership team are all briefed, and in some cases trained on how to build bots, a proper structure, vision, and goals are put in place and a team built around RPA, all areas are engaged and a pipeline that was historically unknown becomes apparent.  Slightly longer to get started but saves significant time and delivers significantly more value in the long run.


Which approach you take ultimately comes down to who is in the driving seat and the support they have, both approaches work well, the quickest way to delivering the most value is a top down approach where automation and efficiency become part of all the business teams goals.


I have RPA, I am now digitally transformed, right?

Wrong! While automation is great and delivers a lot of benefits, it should not be seen as a silver bullet, it is purely an enabler for digital transformation.  It serves to increase capacity and free up time and resources to enable identification of core system changes in processes and systems that are needed.

We live in a rapidly changing world, if knowing all the new features and functionality you would need to serve your customers over the next 2-5 years was easy, companies wouldn’t have all the legacy tech debt they have nowadays, and that enterprise architects wouldn’t have to worry about the number systems that exist your business.

In my eyes this is why automation is so current and valuable, if you want it in place as a quick fix – no problem. Likewise if you want it as a long term fix that works just as well, nowadays we can build you a whole new GUI that pulls and pushes to all your other systems without your agents ever needing to touch them. Just think, all that extra information your users have had access to on your systems that you haven’t been able to restrict for one reason or another… solved, the need for 3 monitors due to the number of systems used… gone, the need for long training on many systems… gone!


So coming back to the original question, is RPA strategic, tactical or both….. my answer would be that it can be whatever you want it to be, I’ve yet to come across something I haven’t been able to automate reliably, or a challenge I haven’t been able to overcome with technology and an open mind.… the sky is the limit!


If you need help with defining a vision, planning, structure and strategy, implementation or scaling or even help fixing a stalled journey, get in touch with us.


Find out more about our current offer to get you started on your RPA journey.

Talk to an expert