You might be wondering – what is antifragile? This is a concept coined by renowned author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his New York Times Bestseller “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder”. Things that are antifragile benefit from volatility and shock. Fragile items, on the other hand, break under duress. Antifragile, to be sure, is not the same as robust, which merely states that something is able to withstand stress better.
So how does antifragility relate to Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? Plenty it seems.
You’re only as Strong as Your Weakest Link
Firstly, the antifragility of a system depends on the fragility of its constituent parts. A good example of this is the evolutionary process of natural selection in humans. And so is the case for our robots as well.
We should expect some of the robots already in production to fail. This could be due to improper design in the first place or the selection of the inappropriate RPA tool. However, this need not be a bad thing. Rather than condemning and writing off RPA entirely, you should embrace these failures and take the opportunity to strengthen your robotic framework, thus making your digital workforce more antifragile.
Be Prepared to Fail
Secondly, for a system that is antifragile, progress is determined by chance in a complex system of trial and error. What this means is that you need to adopt an open and innovative mindset when it comes to deploying RPA within your organizations.
Consequently, it is recommended to start off your RPA journey with Proof of Concepts (PoCs) and Pilots to ensure the right processes are selected for automation (absolutely critical) and that there is a viable and proven business case for automation. Some degree of perseverance is required: you must be willing to cut loss if the results of your PoCs and Pilots are unfavourable; yet it is vital for you to stay the course in order to reap the eventual benefits.
How to Handle Volatility
Thirdly, antifragility stems from volatility. In our world of RPA, this translates to incomplete requirements during the configuration stage, frequent and ongoing changes to the workflow, and lots of variations and exception handling. A far cry from the controlled environment that IT professionals are used to.
To cope with all these volatilities, you can consider using the agile methodology instead of following the waterfall delivery methodology. And any attempts to eliminate these volatilities will be futile and self-defeating. For example, in highly regulated environments like banking or healthcare, changes are not only inevitable but uncontrollable as well.
Manage your Risks
Fourthly, to become antifragile, you need to manage your risks arising from unpredictable events.
So you have deployed your robots into production and the displaced FTEs are redeployed into other functions? Is this happily ever after? No, you will still need a plan B to your digital workforce. This might mean ensuring that your automated processes are properly documented, maintaining the currency of your processes’ Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), having additional and alternative processing capacities, etc.
Ultimately, you should view RPA as an additional option you can leverage on to achieve your organization’s goals such as greater productivity and reduced costs. Not one where you are being squeezed or hamstrung by.
Skin in the Game
Lastly, to ensure success, make sure all your stakeholders are fully aligned throughout your RPA journey. From your executive sponsors down to your RPA vendor. Everyone needs to have their skin in the game. For example, for your operations team, make the usage of the robots part of their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to drive adoption and acceptance.
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