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Making the Case for Robotic Process Automation in Shared Services

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the “Term of the Year” that, if you believe all of the publicity, might be a strong candidate for the “Term of the Decade”.  While there are some pure-play Robotic Process Automation providers, if you attend a conference or take a look at anyone’s updated marketing materials, you would get the impression that every solution in the market is making the case that they are also deserving of the RPA label.  If your starting point is “What is it?” you might discover that getting to a decision on whether or not RPA should be a priority becomes even more complicated.

A recent PeercastTM in the Shared Services Leadership research area featured a $20B company with multi-functional Shared Services providing a wide range of administrative services, including Purchase-to-Pay, Hire-to-Retire, Record-to-Report, and Direct Support Services.  The company is recognized as one of the early adopters of RPA and its experience to date has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Attending the Peercast was a unique opportunity for members to gain insights without having to filter out any hype or spin, or fend off the flurry of follow-up calls from vendors intent on meeting monthly sales targets.  Because Peercasts are professionally-facilitated discussions between peers who are each practitioners working as employees of large companies across a wide range of industries, the only motivation of presenters or member attendees is to get to the truth as quickly and painlessly as possible.  To attend a Peercast, your company must have a membership with Peeriosity, and consultants and vendors are specifically excluded from membership. 

To get started, the featured company formed a small research team to complete online research of available solutions, followed by interviews with RPA vendors.  Requirements identified included:

  • The ability to audit results to measure success and failure
  • Centralized task management and security
  • Being able to implement without formal programming experience
  • A short ramp-up period to begin development
  • Live monitoring and real-time exception notification
  • Easy user report customization

Results to date have been impressive, with over 30 distinct automation across all service categories, with more than 200 additional automation targets queued and ready for implementation.    The next steps for the company include diversifying RPA solutions, since different providers have different strengths, and exploring more advanced automation tools, including pre-cognitive artificial intelligence solutions.

A related iPollingTM question explored the current status of member companies with respect to utilizing Robotic Process Automation in Shared Services.  The results indicate that 20% of the responding companies have implemented RPA, with 4% indicating a response of “Implemented – Satisfied” and 16% indicating a response of “Implemented – Too Early to Tell”.  An additional 10% have approved the project, 47% are currently evaluating, and 23% haven’t yet considered the opportunity.

Here are the details:

current status of utilizing robotic process automation in shared services ipolling peeriosity

With 77% of the surveyed companies have either implemented, approved, or are currently involved in the evaluation process for utilizing Robotic Process Automation, these results clearly show the significant amount of interest in RPA that exists in Shared Services operations across the globe.

The second poll question asked about the primary obstacles member companies face in moving toward Robotic Process Automation.  32% of respondents indicated that the biggest obstacle was a lack of clear information and understanding of the technology, 21% indicated that current processes weren’t standardized enough to leverage the technology, with 47% responded that the biggest obstacle is competing priorities. 

ipolling primary obstacle the company is facing with robotic process automation shared services

While it’s sometimes easy to be skeptical about the latest trend in technology, it’s clear that Robotic Process Automation has delivered proven results, and it’s likely that within a few months many who selected “Implemented – Too Early to Tell” will be expanding their implementations based on early success and the identification of new easy-to-capture opportunities.  Unfortunately, as is true for any new solution, mistakes will be made and projects will fail.  Having clear examples of successful implementations, insights into what to avoid, and a complete listing of lessons learned can be incredibly valuable to building your business case and increasing your chances of success.  Peeriosity members, by having direct visibility to each poll response, can interact directly with peers, giving them candid and unbiased visibility into what works, what doesn’t, and the reasons why.

What is the status at your company with respect to utilizing Robotic Process Automation in Shared Services?  How are you filtering through all of the hype so that you can truly understand the size of the opportunity with some hints for what is the right path for Shared Services at your company?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?


“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

 “iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility of all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.


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