Is your HR leadership driving your RPA strategy?

Should Your HR Department be in Charge of Your RPA Strategy?

Is this list complete? Feel free to add to it.

Here’s my take on the HR/People impact of RPA. Feel free to add to this list in the comments below.

It’s not only about RPA.

RPA is just the entry-point digital.

There is way more to come.

Yes, at the core of all of this is RPA technology. But the same is true about everything in our lives.

When I work with companies, the initial focus is always on the platform and the processes.

But then you get them thinking about really where they are going with this digital journey.

Then they realise how profound the changes will be.

That’s scary and exciting.

At the heart of many of these issues is the people impact.

That’s why I really believe HR needs to be alive to RPA, and at the top table.

Here’s my brain-dump of some examples.

At the heart of it all should be HR, recognising the following:

  1. Retention. As one department implements RPA, does anyone really believe that everyone is going to just move on to high-value work, now they are freed from the drudgery? The employees certainly don’t, no matter what you say. And if it is true for the first wave, it is not going to apply to all future waves. So how do you remove the risk of flight from all those departments who see the writing on the wall.
  2. Succession Planning. If all your Team Leaders and Managers come up through the ranks starting at the bottom, where are you going to get the next generation of Team Leaders and Managers when the entry-level jobs no longer exist?
  3. Training. This is an obvious one, I guess. But who do you train? Who can be retrained? Who can’t be retrained? And what jobs are you really going to need?
  4. Recruitment. Is HR going to review EVERY vacancy to see if a human is really needed or whether the process should be automated?
  5. HR Analytics. Maybe HR is sitting on the most important information about which processes to automate, as a priority! If a function is suffering from high staff turnover or absence rates, that is a sign that something is wrong. Maybe it is sheer boredom with repetitive tasks. Is HR going to drive the RPA roll out plan?
  6. Reward (1). In the old days it was easy. You know how many transactions can be processed in a 40 hour period, and the “value” can be measured from that. But now that staff are moving away from delivering transactions, and meant to be “adding value” how do you reward them. At a simple level, the supermarket checkout job disappears and that role becomes a “customer advisor” walking the aisles, helping shoppers. The value added is likely way greater than scanning items, but the value requires a different measurement.
  7. Reward (2). You used to run 20 people, now you run 2 people and 40 bots. Success is no longer measured in day to day delivery targets – those are almost guaranteed. Nor are you getting rewarded for implementing more efficiencies – you’ve taken the big leap forward. So how are your Team Leaders and Managers going to be measured for their reward?
  8. The 40 Hour Working Week. Your teams are now freed from transactional work. But what if they can add as much value in, say, 27 hours as they used to do in 40 hours. Will you let them choose to be present less, happy that they are contributing just as much? Or are we always going to revert to the 40 hour working week, no matter what?
  9. And this is even before we start talking about the impact of AI and Blockchain.

This is not an exhaustive list, obviously. Feel free to add to it.

But I really am asking, “is your HR leadership really considering the real impact of RPA?”

Human resources shouldn't be the only department in your company that is thinking about ways to employ RPA. Robotic Processs Automation is worthy of a CEO and account directors to implement RPA

Perhaps Human Resources shouldn’t be the only department in your company that’s thinking about ways to employ RPA.

Ignore RPA and Die; Embrace RPA and Thrive.
A Robotics Guide for Leaders and Account Directors.


A robotic process automation guide for company leaders and account directors.

The same question has come up over and over in the last two years.

And still I get asked it every single week…

It is usually mixed into the following comments

We are a BPO/ITO/KPO…. We are afraid of what RPA will do to our business… We are being very cautious… Our account directors don’t understand RPA…. They are afraid…. They don’t get rewarded for implementing RPA…. They do get rewarded for revenues and profitability… They see RPA as a threat…

“What shall we do about RPA?”

It took me a while to formulate a response that was clear enough.

This message works.

Think about a contract that is in year 3 of a 5 year deal.

The ball is in your court.

You can choose to do nothing.

You protect your revenues over the last half of the contract and prepare for a rebid.

At the rebid you present your RPA transformation plans.

And your client turns around and asks why the hell you sat on these ideas. Why on earth did you wait until the rebid to bring these transformation ideas to us?

All the while, in the build up to the rebid, your competitors will have been talking about RPA. Without you knowing it your credibility will be being chipped away.

So when you come to the rebid and present all these wonderful ideas, your chance of winning the contract again is close to zero.

You will look like you have been protecting your FTE-based revenues, to the detriment of the client.

You will look slow.

You will look opportunistic.

Or you will look dumb – did you not realise that the world had changed dramatically during the last few years of this contract?

[Note – soon RPA will be BAU, so hardly transformation, just keeping up with the market.]

So, let’s take a look at the alternative approach.

You will realise that your fears are absolutely misplaced.

And you will learn that – if you are bold now – you are embedded in your client for the rest of this digital transformation journey.

You have to picture the timeline.

Let’s say Day 1 of Year 4 is the 1st January.

You have trained your Account Director teams to have meaningful, strategic discussions about RPA and everything beyond.

You meet with your client executives and introduce your vision for transforming the operations, along with some strong ideas about where to get started.

That is Day 1.

No client moves fast.

Realistically it is going to be 2, maybe 3 months, before they can digest what you are proposing and you can jointly create a couple of areas to run a Proof of Concept.

So Month 3, Year 4. Still no impact on your revenues.

Day 1, Month 4, Year 4. You start a Proof of Concept.

At the fastest, this is going to take 3 months.

So, Day 1, Month 7, Year 4. Still no impact on your revenues.

But you have shown your client you can innovate AND deliver.

You’ve also dealt with one of the biggest temptations by clients in outsourcing scenarios i.e. to bring the robotic work back in house and run the bots themselves.

Key message to play – “if these processes were non-core when they were done by humans, they are still non-core when done by bots”.

Encourage your clients to automate core processes, instead, even with your help, now you have demonstrated your capabilities.

So, already, we are talking about revenue growth opportunities.

During the POC you will likely have talked about future processes to be automated.

But after the POC is completed and the results shared, then it is about ramping up.

And at that stage you are even more embedded. They need your skills and your technology and – crucially – your market knowledge and strategic leadership.

In the fastest possible scenario, maybe you have automated 6-10 more processes by the start of Year 5.

Day 1, Month 1, Year 5. There is no reason why there should be any impact on your revenues – certainly nothing material.

And you will have positioned your organisation as a thought leader, an innovator, a visionary – who they come to rely on, and get excited by the journey. It is a long time since they will have had such exciting conversations involving BPO or ITO. Take advantage of it and establish your credibility.

Now, it’s Day 1, Month 4, Year 5.

Worst case some micro, non-material impact on your revenues.

Best case – you have increased your revenues because your client sees what you can deliver.

Really what you are doing is absolutely essential. You are gradually adapting your business model to the new world.

This is not the client ripping up the existing contract and moving to a transaction based deal overnight.

This is natural, comfortable, collaborative change.

There is some chance that your initial revenue streams will be impacted.

But who is to say that the processes are not more profitable, even if top line revenues are lower.

Or that you pick up way more business because of your actions.

Remember that the choice is between doing something (regardless of impact) and doing nothing and ending up with zero revenue.

Some things you need to address – compensation structures is one of them. You need to incentivise your teams for RPA implementation, away from short term profitability. That will be the glue that makes the long term relationship and profitability stick.

At long last, your conversations with client executives will be exciting and interesting. For you and them.

The big consultancies are so stretched – and really don’t have the depth of real experience – so there is a gap in the market for you to fill.

Advise your clients. Lead them. Educate them. And you will be operating at a higher level than ever before.

Clients always complain that BPO and ITO suppliers don’t innovate.

This is your huge, once in a lifetime almost, opportunity to embed yourself in your client’s journey.

And that is how you must see the world.

Threat #1 = do nothing. That means you lose the contract.

Opportunity #1 is way more exciting and you keep the contract.

Tough choice?

BTW – we have a Account Leadership Course that we offer. It teaches your teams about RPA and Ai, why this is not a threat, how to talk with clients, and how to win business. Most importantly, it teaches you to become the strategic partner they always wanted, winning more work and longer contracts. Contact me at for private details of this training. And look at our site for all our RPA classes and courses