Ask Sawal

Discussion Forum
Notification Icon1
Write Answer Icon
Add Question Icon

Where rpa cannot be used?

4 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #
  • Process improvement or cognitive capabilities. "RPA is not a cognitive computing solution".
  • RPA requires structured data.
  • Reading and interpreting image or graphic data.
  • Handwritten Documents.
  • Balancing short-term needs with long−term priorities.
  • Partial Process Automation.
  • Governance and Security Issues.
Answer # 2 #

RPA is not suitable for processes that deal with unstructured data. Unfortunately or not, it is estimated that 80-90% of data at the disposal of businesses is in an unstructured format. And, according to a Deloitte survey, only 18% of businesses take advantage of unstructured data.

Answer # 3 #

But given all the benefits of RPA, RPA is not suitable for processes that:

In this article, we will expand on these 5 unsuitable processes for RPA. In addition, we will also guide you through how you can transform those processes into ones that can be automated.

If you still have doubts about whether your processes are suitable for RPA or not, you can reach out to an RPA technology vendor and have them assess your workflows. Read our whitepaper on RPA technology partners to learn more about the topic:

Some processes, such as quality control (QC), customer care, sales, or customer feedback analysis are examples of tasks that cannot, by their very nature, be fully automated. The important keyword here is, “fully.” Sure, for a more efficient customer care process, RPA can assist the rep in quickly retrieving all the customer’s previous interactions with the brand, their personal information, and other relevant data, such as their customer journey data, for more personalized recommendations.

But the next step, which is actually addressing the specific concern, requires human intelligence, social skills, empathy, and finesse.

For instance, if the company uses an RPA-based chatbot, the customer can quickly ask the chatbot for assistance by explaining their predicament (e.g. “I’m having a shipping delay.”). But the command catalog – made up of trigger words such as “shipping delay,” and the following rule-based answers to such queries – for recognizing the customer’s issue and suggesting a solution can only contain so many answers.

So processes that always need human involvement cannot be completely automated with RPA and then be forgotten about. Instead, the RPA solution can assist the human staff in doing their tasks more efficiently and with fewer errors. Human-in-the-loop-automation is a feature that can help companies partially automate their customer-facing processes, while simultaneously having the capability to delegate important tasks to humans when the robots can not go any further.


IBM’s end-to-end automation solution allows users to build RPA-enabled chatbots.

For example, a customer might ask the chatbot for “company’s operating hours.” The RPA-driven chatbot will:

But sometimes complex issues require human involvement. In that case, the chatbot will issue a support ticket and hand the case over to a live agent.

RPA is not suitable for processes that deal with unstructured data. Unfortunately or not, it is estimated that 80-90% of data at the disposal of businesses is in an unstructured format. And, according to a Deloitte survey, only 18% of businesses take advantage of unstructured data.

So if a company wishes to automate a process that’s built upon unstructured data – such as invoice automation, credit scoring, and resume screening – they should first start sorting and categorizing them. And that is not something that can be done by RPA.

The solution lies in IA: businesses should augment their RPA bots with other AI capabilities, such as OCR and NLP, that will allow the software robot to pinpoint, read, extract, and convert user data into a machine-readable format.

So if businesses embark upon automating a process with RPA without data type transformation, there will likely not be much success.

RPA is not suitable for processes that are too complex to begin with. So automation would only increase the complexity by adding more layers to it.

For instance, a bank in Southeast Asia had around a total of 2,000 RPA bots installed on employees’ computers. And most of what the bots did was copy-pasting data from one field onto the other, on predetermined schedules. As straightforward as that dynamic may appear, a Gartner analyst asserts that there was always a chance of operational discontinuity if the PCs’ user interface (UI) changed as a result of an update. The reason was that RPA bots function on pre-written, mostly simple, scripts and lack the ML capability to react to change.

Furthermore, the bank was unable to track which bot performed what because multiple departments and their bots were intertwined with one another. Finally, Miers, Gartner’s analyst, claims that the situation had gotten so complicated that the bank’s management was wishing to have never automated their processes at all.

Prior to RPA implementation, the IT team can leverage process mining to understand the as-is processes of the company to realize their inefficiency, and the actual level of their complexity, and get a realistic outlook on automation success possibility. Failure to do such due diligence prior to embarking on RPA implementation can be costly and result in automation-disillusionment, as was the case with the South Asian bank.

Learn more about how you can start prioritizing and choosing the suitable processes for RPA automation.

The cost of an RPA implementation process does not start and end with the solution itself. The pricing models of different vendors are only the first factor to consider in your cost model. Companies should also take into account:

All these costs should be accounted for with respect to the economic and monetary output that automation would bring to the specific department or to those that are downstream. Overestimating the RPA’s ROI for a process could backfire on the company, cost them resources, and derail their future automation projects.

Not all business processes stay constant. And the way certain processes are done – for instance, the way that intercompany accounting is carried out – could keep changing in terms of the technical infrastructure of the software applications, employee and department head turnover, governmental regulations, financial close season timing, and more.

Processes that suffer from these constant changes are said to be immature for automation. And companies are not advised to spend resources automating such processes that are highly prone to overhauls in the short term.

We suggest companies take advantage of RPA vendors’ free automation-maturity-assessment-tests to get a realistic and unbiased overview of whether their to-be-automated process is actually ready to be automated or not.

The questions that are often on these tests include, but are not limited to, the following:

To learn more about RPA implementation, read:

If you want a more in-depth look into RPA, download our whitepaper on the topic:

And if you believe your business would benefit from adopting an RPA solution, head over to our RPA software hub, where you’ll find the data-driven list of vendors.

And we will help you choose the solution best tailored to your business needs:

Teo Batchler
Camp Nursing
Answer # 4 #

When a company is struggling to complete a process assessment, develop a new automation or increase the efficiencies of an automation, the question of becomes what if RPA is not the solution we need? It’s a legitimate question that needs to be answered.

Let’s look at four scenarios that are not good fits for RPA, each of which can be identified in a thorough process assessment.

1. The process is not suitable for automation.

Nearly everyone has heard the standard pitch: processes that are highly manual and repetitive in nature and that consume large amounts of time are potential candidates for RPA. This is mostly true, but it is possible for a process to meet all the criteria and still not be suitable for automation. Questions that can help determine a process’s automation candidacy include:

While a process may remain on the bench during this first inning, do not rule them out of the RPA game entirely. Their candidacy potential can improve with additional in-depth assessments and documentation. Remember, successful RPA begins with a solid understanding of the process. Processes that fall into this lineup should be part of demand management as their suitability for automation may change over time.

2. The expected benefit of automation is not sufficient.

Automation assessments are designed to provide insight into the specific steps being performed with each process. Then you must examine the potential return on investment (ROI) for the effort. This evaluation takes into consideration the following questions:

If the anticipated ROI falls within the company's acceptance policy for new initiatives, RPA might become the next pinch hitter for your team. But ROI is not the only factor. For some organizations, soft benefits – reduction in error rate, increase in available metrics, improved employee morale, upskilled employees who can take on other activities – can add substantial return. Understanding the impact each benefit holds in an organization could mean the difference between a base hit and a home run.

3. The process flow can be improved to increase efficiencies, with or without automation.

The CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, Ralf Speth, said “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” This is true in the back office as well. Assessment results are often used to identify process improvement opportunities such as re-ordering process steps, removing repetitive or redundant process steps and removing steps done because “that’s how it’s always been done.”

In some cases, improving the process flow in these small ways can have a greater impact on overall organizational efficiency than automating them. Certain processes can be re-designed and then automated, leading to the best of both worlds; however, do not underestimate the time needed for re-design of the process and the re-establishment of process maturity before automating.

4. The process provides no value to departments or downstream processes.

Due to technology advances, software changes and departmental reorganizations, many processes can become unnecessary. Yet, in most cases, individuals continue to perform the work. Leaders must constantly evaluate processes to determine their value of the organization. There are three categories:

If a process is either value-added or necessary, additional evaluation may be necessary before continuing. However, non-value-added, obsolete activities could be eliminated, freeing up employees for other activities. This type of evaluation is relevant when searching for ways to increase the value of work being performed.

While most companies want to be a part of the automation game and quickly score big benefits – and it’s clear that RPA is often seen as the “gateway drug” into automation – it is not the solution for all scenarios and organizations. Nor is it the only solution out there. ISG helps companies understand what has automation potential and how to make the most of their investments. Contact us to find out how we can help you.

Hero Henshaw
Quality Improvement