6 reasons why Robotic Process Automation (RPA) projects fail and how to avoid them

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RPA project SDLC phases1. Planning: Choosing the right process to automate
2. Analysis: The requirements battle
3. Design: How to avoid creating a bad solution design
4. Development: Recognizing environment differences ahead
5. Testing: Test scenarios that are often missed out in RPA projects
6. Hyper-care: What if the robot malfunctions too often?

1. Planning: Choosing the right process to automate

The first step in an RPA project is to pick the right process to automate. The person doing the selection and assessment should be familiar with the process candidates and the RPA tool. There are two approaches to assess if a process is feasible for RPA, which are the top-down and bottom-up methods.

2. Analysis: The requirements battle

When a process has been selected for RPA, we can then start gathering requirements. If RPA is the organization’s first automation project, it is likely that most of the stakeholders/users are not familiar with the technology. Thus, the RPA business analyst must give an introduction of RPA to the relevant stakeholders. It would be easier for the business analyst to gather requirements from the users when they are aware of how RPA works and its benefits. Often, the business analyst may find that users miss out on certain steps and output required when in requirements discussions, as they may not be familiar with automation and to what extent the RPA robot can or cannot do.

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

3. Design: How to avoid creating a bad solution design

After understanding the requirements, it is time to create a blueprint for our robot! RPA robots are automation technologies designed to reduce redundant work tasks for humans and, therefore great at doing repetitive and low-value jobs.

RPA Solution Design Tips:
1. The main looping logic to process all records (data input)should be in place for every process
2. The robot should generate results for each record (data input), such as "OK", "failed" and remarks if needed 3. The robot should notify the user when it has completed a process through window pop-up, email, etc.4. Roll-back planning: if an error happens, go back to step X to continue processing the next record5. Roll-back planning: if system failure happens, stop the process and close the application before the robot exits6. Ensure that all used applications are closed before robot exits

4. Development: Recognizing environment differences ahead

RPA robots rely on the user interface(UI) to know how and when it should input a shortcut key, click, or execute a function. Identical application screens in all environments (Development, User acceptance testing (UAT), and Production environments specifically) would help make the development process more manageable. However, application behaviors are often slightly different in each environment and when used by different user types. Thus, the developer should plan with ‘contingency’ plans when such discrepancy is identified.

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5. Testing: Test scenarios that are often missed out in RPA projects

There are two main areas to test on the RPA robots: RPA-related and business requirements-related. When doing testing, it is easy to miss out on the RPA technology-related functional specifications since it may not be explicitly listed out in the design documents. Here are some test scenarios for both areas:

RPA-related scenarios
- Window, object not found scenarios
- Multiple robots running the same process at the same time
- All applications closed before robot exits
- Log file is saved and readable for each process run
Business-related scenarios
- Data input not provided scenario
- Successfully input name, age, and save customer profile
- Calculation result is correct
- Print error result if name was not provided and continue the - Number of FTE saved (macro KPI)process

6. Hyper-care: What if the robot malfunctions too often?

Congratulations! Your RPA robot has now been deployed! Now is only the matter of monitoring the robots to make sure they are executing the process as triggered.

Some sample RPA KPI includes: - Number of FTE saved (macro KPI)
- % of time/run that needs human intervention
- Number of records to process per hour/day
- Number of records processed successfully by the robot
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