According to Mckinsey, almost 70% of digital transformation initiatives fail. Common pitfalls include a lack of employee engagement, inadequate management support, poor or non-existent cross-functional collaboration, and a lack of accountability. Furthermore, sustaining a transformation’s impact typically requires a major reset in mindset and behaviors.
The Need for RPA Vision
Automation until recently has been task-specific using in-built components available within the applications ecosystem that were very limited in functionality. The applicability of RPA was very limited in scope and did not warrant the need for specialized developers.
Whereas nowadays, the concept of Robotic Process Automation is broadening throughout the organization. The focus cannot be on tools but a more holistic transformation effort involving people and processes.
While it is accepted that leadership is the fundamental enabler of this transformation, it becomes more important for leadership to describe the strategic intent and articulate how it aligns with the Organization’s vision.
Communicating strategic intent
- Clarity of thought in defining the vision.
- Unambiguous action steps to communicate the strategic intent and transformation changes.
- Create a state of adequate organizational readiness.
- Create buy-ins, executive sponsors, and RPA evangelists.
- Generate interest, engage employees and reinforce strategic goals as a single version of truth using proper messaging channels.
- Pre-emptive measures to stay away from hype and quell fears.
- The right operating model factoring the organization’s cultural context, phase-wise implementation plans, and monitoring progress.
- Validate changes and be responsive
- Communicating the value achieved at various stages of the transformation with subsequent culture-shaping
- Calibrate and evaluate the RPA maturity of the organization
Key Considerations in the Transformation Effort
- What people would want to engage in which roles when transitioning through the various stages of the transformation.
- Communicating changes at the opportune time using effective channels with coherent and consistent messaging.
- Getting people equipped to implement and use the new Solution. This involves educating, training, distributing learning resources, multi-media how-to content, etc., and empowering them.
- Awareness to raise risk and issues proactively and Implement proper control mechanisms to mitigate those risks and issues.
- Encouraging participation. Even leadership roles shouldn’t be too far from RPA operations where the change is happening. Ownership is not a lot without much participation.
- Conversations formal informal are needed to explore the domain and enrich understanding.
Communicating the Change
Problems that could arise if the change is not communicated
- Conflicting interpretations of the RPA initiative, differing modalities, and end outcomes. This can lead to events not aligned with the Organization’s vision.
- A chaotic, unorganized and non-collaborative effort with indefinite timelines.
- Unnecessary politics and ownership issues.
- Employee inertia, resistance, and even push-back.
Why communicating Change is important?
- It not about touting the technology, but about engaging employees and convincing them that that’s what is needed going forward. Without the people’s capability, technology and process changes will fail. There should be trust and credibility.
- Employees need to know
- What is happening?
- Why the change and why now?
- What is to be gained and what is at stake?
- What is in it for them?
- What is the cost of not seizing the opportunity, and what needs to be achieved?
- What needs to be implemented?
- What processes to automate and why?
- How to go about it?
- How does it help the organization’s vision?
- To create a general perceptive sense of the organization’s ability to succeed or avoid failure in the marketplace and improve customer satisfaction.
How can it be accomplished?
- Describe and communicate the envisioned future states by declaring milestones.
- More complex the IT landscape, the more difficult the implementation efforts. Assess the IT landscape and measure the tone and frequency of your communications in that regard.
- It is necessary to translate the transformation changes into some work-breakdown structure at least at a broad level to communicate what the change means and what roles and responsibilities are required. Associate articulated strategic intent with measurable prioritized goals.
- Communicate what it takes to succeed – Process knowledge, unwavering focus strategic priorities, nurturing new work relationships, etc.
- Use a multi-pronged communications approach. Leverage e-mail, social media, internal bulletin boards. Invite suggestions, conduct townhalls, Q&A sessions with executives, and put up a microsite to disseminate information.
- Encourage employees to collaborate and share domain knowledge as there can be some friction as the change can lead to job uncertainty. There is a lot of flux that needs to be overcome and the company’s position on reskilling and retrenchment needs to be communicated.
- Make known the partner ecosystem, the technical vendors, the tools set, etc. to the employees at the right time.
- Use Jargon-less simple language. Don’t explain in a way that a layman cannot understand. Every employee needs to get the message. Executive may have spent a lot of time contemplating the RPA initiative, but not so many other employees. Be practical and stay away from the hype. Of course, make resources, documentation, and access to RPA champions available to those interested in more details.
- Demonstrate with proofs-of-concept what can be achieved, and the value realized – efficiency, expense reduction, customer satisfaction, etc. Share your assessments about the challenges involved and lessons learned at every step.
- Encourage the employee to think and scout automation opportunities, to come up with ideas of what is possible. Without goals, people can stray from their efforts. They may want to support the initiative but not know-how. It is the job of the leadership to guide them. Explain the objective to seek business value in the automation projects. Keep automation scope limited to projects that can potentially deliver value.
- Highlight the need to prepare processes for automation in parallel. Call up practitioners to share their insights and views. Create multi-media content, webinars, and instructional videos that employees can refer to.
- Explain the organizational setup for the RPA practice – the COE, the Shared IT team, the infrastructure availability, resources hired and moved, and the ‘goto’ people for things on RPA. The CoE has an important role to play in communicating RPA enterprise-wide.
RPA is also very different in the sense it is not just a technology solution. It’s an in-parallel virtual workforce – bots doing the work of the human. This has wide-spread ramifications in the organization’s cultural context as employees have to orchestrate their work alongside bots. It helps that RPA as technology is easier to understand and adopt.
What makes it difficult is the shaping of behaviors and acceptance of employees to make it happen. RPA is too much call it if you like “in the face of” employees to leave it to their better judgment and understanding.
There must be a formalized communications strategy and structure for the RPA initiative. Failing which employees could get to their conclusions and their efforts could go astray. Employees will have to be explained, guided and this requires not just a clear vision but also a clear understanding of how to go about communicating that vision.
And, it is the quality of change communications that could very well define the success or failure of the RPA program in your organization!
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