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Why RPA Fails: 5 Major Reasons

Robotic process automation, or RPA is one of the most accessible ways for companies to begin taking steps toward transforming the way they do business. With increasingly powerful computers and even the expanse of the cloud at your disposal, it’s now possible to build software robots that can take over many of the basic workflow tasks an employee would otherwise need to handle.

There are many benefits to a well-configured RPA deployment—but not all deployments feature thoughtful design or the correct capabilities. Companies can and do fail in their efforts to adopt this form of automation, which could prejudice them against trying such efforts again in the future. Knowing what not to do can make the planning stages simpler while reducing your team's stress levels as you put new tools into practice. First, learn some of the common problems with RPA that you might encounter.

In this post, we'll examine some of the key reasons why RPA fails and what businesses should consider while engaging with the automation process to ensure their investment yields tangible results. Topics that we will cover include:

Addressing the Limitations of RPA

There are many reasons why businesses choose to embrace RPA. Many basic tasks, especially in back-office applications, involve tedious and repetitive steps that consume time and energy. These interstitial steps are vital to the process outcome. But because they rely on user inputs, they can be slow and prone to errors, especially when they involve data entry.

RPA exists to address these concerns. Ideal for low-level applications involving repetitive, rules-based tasks and interactions with user interfaces, RPA removes human input from several steps of the process. Only at the most important moment does the robot present gathered information to an employee for use or review.

Businesses choose RPA because it saves time and money while improving accuracy—but it isn't always the right choice. Although it can be a driver of innovation for businesses, it can also be an Achilles heel.

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Sometimes, a process isn't suitable for RPA, even if it may appear to be a good candidate. Forging ahead without good governance and oversight of the process is one of the fastest routes to a frustrating and ineffective deployment. One of the easiest ways to avoid a failure point in your program is to avoid trying to deploy RPA where it doesn't fit.

Beware of scenarios in which you may need another approach to intelligent automation instead, such as:

  • Processes that are not fully mature or involve software or websites that frequently change.
  • Processes that are too complex or require too many steps that demand decision-making in between automated procedures.
  • Cases in which non-automated process revisions and improvements could generate the same results as RPA.

RPA is not a magic wand but rather a tool that requires judicious use for effective results.

Examining the 5 Most Common Causes of RPA Failures

Misunderstanding the value of RPA and the kinds of applications that it best suits is a key cause for failure, but misunderstanding is not the only reason why an RPA investment will flounder. What are some of the other reasons why RPA fails?

It's not always because of the limitations of the technology. There are five major reasons behind most RPA failures.

Poorly Communicating the Benefits of Automation

An RPA deployment could fail before it gets off the ground if the key players in your organization don't see its value. That means targeting more than the C-suite with value propositions: Consider the individual employees whose jobs RPA will impact.

If you don't communicate effectively about how automation will support their work—not replace their skills—you'll quickly experience pushback. Emphasize the benefits: You may never get the chance to replace manual steps with a robot if the employees performing the steps don't embrace this change.

Failing to Implement Effective Robot Management

RPA is not a "set it and forget it" technology—despite persistent portrayals to that effect. On its own and without the support of a larger automation platform with cognitive technologies, effective RPA requires strong oversight and sound management. Companies that fail to evaluate and analyze the effectiveness of their robots may not see the signs to indicate that a particular solution isn't generating results. Lack of oversight can bottleneck your efforts instead of streamlining them.

Struggles With Scale or User Interface Complexity

This problem is similar to the error of misidentifying processes as suitable for RPA. RPA cannot easily "learn" or "see" changes in user interfaces. If you develop RPA for systems that often undergo changes and upgrades, you will encounter robots that fail or break regularly. Those failures drive up maintenance costs and slow down the same workflows that you want to speed up. Misapplied RPA leads to rapid failures and, sometimes, the abandonment of automation efforts that might have generated value.

Relying on RPA in a Vacuum

RPA is useful on its own, but you will drag down its value and potentially impact your ROI if you miss the chance to evaluate its place in a larger structure of automation. What happens when you need to scale up, running not a hundred bots but a thousand? How can you sync these robots and how they impact other processes to connect disparate parts of your business?

Leave these vital questions unanswered and you could end up with an orphaned investment, with RPA tools performing low-value work and never rising to the full potential of intelligent automation.

Strategies for Using RPA Successfully

  • Engage with process users directly. Learn about the steps that they take and consider how much intuition and decision-making goes into each process. Chart out the step-by-step workflow, then consider what you can automate—and whether automating would add value in each case.
  • Develop clear guidelines for the oversight and management of robots. Use professionals who have a clear understanding of the process and can conduct oversight operations to analyze whether bots meet performance requirements.
  • Integrate RPA as a part of a larger strategy geared toward intelligent automation so your business can tap into additional tools for business process automation and other higher-level efforts.


Robotic process automation is a powerful tool. When businesses deploy RPA correctly, they unlock a quick way to get in on the ground floor of automation, realizing opportunities to make improvements rapidly. However, as is true for any major addition of technology to an organization, successful RPA requires careful planning. Identifying the right opportunities for automation, achieving buy-in from key organizational players and developing bots that can scale with growing needs are all necessities that demand a thoughtful approach.

With such an approach in place, your business accesses a natural gateway to something greater than basic RPA implementation: a true platform for intelligent automation. RPA is just one element of transforming today's business processes into tomorrow's creators of value and innovation.

With an intelligent automation solution that includes tools for building and deploying successful RPA, your business will be ready to Work Like Tomorrow.

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