Top 4 Automation Failure Points and How to Avoid Them

A startling 30-50% of automation projects fail. The problem does not stem from a lack of interest or investment in automation, but the inability to realize the business results companies expect from their automation investment.

Automation breaks due to infrastructure-related issues, software reliability, data changes and a host of other issues. And when a bot breaks in production, critical operations and end-user experience are compromised.

Why is this so hard, and why do so many automation projects fail outright or only achieve underwhelming results? Let’s explore the root of four primary failure points:

Failure Point 1: Business and IT Lack Alignment

Across all research on why these projects fail there is one consistent theme, the lack of alignment among teams, especially the inherent disconnect between the business and IT. The lack of alignment is usually compounded by a siloed culture that disconnects teams from reality and sends teams sprinting into diverging directions.

Agile development, the drive for innovation and a growing gap of understanding between functional leaders and technology professionals on realistic requirements and unified goals are increasing the chasm between business and IT priorities. The business expects software to “just work” while not appreciating the complexity of the technical endeavor. Meanwhile, IT feels underfunded and underappreciated given their significant and essential contribution. Recalibrating the connection between business and IT is necessary to optimize business outcomes and ensure automation projects deliver the desired return on investment.

Failure Point 2: Bot Fragility in Changing Environments

With multiple applications in an environment with many connections between them, the packaged applications that customers rely on— SAP, Oracle EBS, Salesforce, Workday and solutions like them — are facing frequent application releases and updates throughout the year, and sometimes even more frequent patches and fixes to address bugs and security concerns. All of this persistent and pervasive change results in a constantly evolving application environment. And that doesn’t even take into account corporate initiatives and Agile development efforts aimed at increasing efficiency and maintaining competitiveness.

Along with rapid application developments, digital business processes themselves are constantly evolving to keep pace with the changing competitive, business, and regulatory environments in which global organizations typically operate.

These changes in turn break automation, requiring frequent updates or re-writes. But updating or rewriting automation can be costly, particularly if you use code-based automation that requires legions of trained software engineers to maintain.

The expense of developing and maintaining bots is prohibitively expensive in the midst of all this change. According to Deloitte, SMEs can pay from $4,000 to $15,000 for a single bot. Forrester reports that 51% of enterprises with RPA programs have fewer than 10 bots in production.

Failure Point 3: Avoiding Automation of Complex Processes

Fearing these negative impacts of change, organizations often face a tyranny of lower expectations when it comes to their automation projects. When this happens, projects fail to produce the anticipated business outcomes and ROI because they’re limited to solving a single, straightforward challenge, often running rote, repeatable tasks, completing them faster than a human.

In the Forrester Report Use The Rule Of Five To Find The Right RPA Process, Craig LeClair describes the limitations as a rule of three 5s. First, viable bots should make less than five decisions. Anything beyond that get complex and difficult to maintain and requires some type of embedded rules management. Second, less than five applications should be involved in the entire robotic process. LeClair says the talent of software robotics is that they act like humans or a digital worker. But going beyond five applications may break the bot. Finally, the number of clicks in an RPA process should be less than 500 clicks. He says anything beyond that is probably not repeatable.

These limitations are self-defeating because the investment in infrastructure, software, training and consulting services is not justified to achieve these simple results. For automation to be successful and valuable long term, you need to build lots of it and use it to solve complex problems that are meaningful to the business.

Failure Point 4: One-Off Automation Projects that Aren’t Reusable

Most companies treat automation in an ad-hoc manner. People identify tasks that intuitively seem like good candidates for automation and then go about automating them on their own. The excitement of initial success then leads others to follow suit, finding additional tasks that are low-hanging fruit for automation. But the automation is a snapshot in time, lacking not only the needed change resiliency described above but also the ability to reuse and repurpose. And the missing connection between business and IT often means there’s no cohesive, overarching strategy to engage automation to support the big picture.

The inability to scale and reuse automation creates barriers to ROI. Rework is tedious, time-consuming and costly, so automation that has to be built from scratch for every effort is never going to deliver the kinds of returns businesses expect when they invest in something they thought would be faster, cheaper and empower them to do more with less.

Solving the Challenges to Unlock Value

Enterprises have set out to address these challenges in a variety of ways. Some hire expensive consultants, but that rarely solves the problems outlined. Others build additional complex frameworks on top of bad automation products, but if the underlying automation is fragile, no number of frameworks on top will help. And others simply resign themselves to the false premise that automation is just expensive to build and maintain.

Worksoft offers a unique approach to automation that unlocks its value by seamlessly connecting process intelligence, test automation and RPA. With Worksoft’s closed-loop approach, automation assets are no longer siloed between disparate systems and solutions. Instead, automation can be created, shared, and repurposed to understand, refine and run your business processes—all from one single Connective Automation platform.

And with the platform's Process Intelligence capability, we combine and align data from multiple process discovery sources to deliver process analytics to help you can make informed business decisions based on complete, accurate process data. You can even get suggestions and projected value for specific opportunities to automate and optimize, aligning the goals of business and IT. 

Automation That’s Different by Design

Designed to automate complex packaged applications and beyond, our proven, codeless automation engine is built for change and complexity. Rather than manually updating every instance of a change across processes and applications, our patented object action framework uses AI-driven algorithms to recognize patterns and employ a one-to-many approach to automatically replicate the change anywhere the object is used.

“A single update proliferates across the entire set of automation. One update to one object fixes thousands of steps in hundreds of different processes. It happens automatically, dynamically and consistently over and over again,” says Shoeb Javed, Worksoft Chief Strategy and Product Officer.

Worksoft automation was designed to deliver business agility, so in addition to navigating change, our approach creates a library of reusable automation assets that can be used to build scripts with speed, ease and consistency.

Euronica Olivier, Senior QA manager for Worksoft’s customer CHEP USA says “if you do it properly, you can reuse your test scripts in production or in other processes. That's where the RPA part comes in and that's where the regression testing comes in. And it’s not just bing, bang, go and do a whole lot of things for one project and move forward and never use that automation again. That’s wasted time, energy and costs. We reuse automation constantly and it works really well.”

To learn more about how the holistic approach of closed-loop automation can help you avoid common failure points and fast forward to reaping the benefits of cost savings and improved quality outcomes, download our Connective Automation Platform guide.