At what point should a start up start automating tasks?

This question pops up quite often when I’m speaking at conferences on RPA. From a startup perspective there are probably two views depending on technology.

The first is there is no need to automate (in the RPA sense) because the technology stack is configured in such a way that everything is straight through processing from the ground up.

The second view is that technology is not a key element and the startup begins with separate unconnected technologies that run the business. For example a web sales system, a customer CRM, a finance system and maybe even a separate order management system. All disconnected technologies. Hypothetically speaking, automation should start as soon as the company has established what processes they need.

In reality, in scenario 1, eventually something doesn’t connect into the ecosystem correctly and here automation can be used to serve the purpose of integration. This would happen at point of need rather than at any specific time.

Scenario 2 on the other hand tends to be an unrecognized need and doesn’t happen quickly enough! The barriers to automation have really fallen and the price point for getting started is zero. However, it’s easier (but more costly and less efficient) to add staff than add technology when the startup is less technologically competent.

Not deliberately getting into sales mode so my apologies but scenario 2 was one of my motivations for writing a book on this topic (see profile if interested), it was clear small businesses had lots of opportunity for RPA but falsely perceived that it was out of their reach.

From a learning perspective, I also run exec briefings, these are short interactive sessions to provide leadership teams with the insight into RPA. These are interesting to run as they also serve as myth busting, there are more incorrect perceptions of RPA than correct ones it seems!!! This serves to reinforce the point that businesses start thinking about automation a lot later than they should.

Rob King (VP Product, UK Country Director at The RPA Academy)