Robotic process automation is a key component in accelerating digital transformation in the world today. But how do you ensure your approach to automation is optimised? A Centre of Excellence may help…
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can automate and digitise the repetitive processes typically performed by human operators, and it is proving increasingly popular in the business world.
In 2018, analysts at Gartner forecast that worldwide spending on RPA would hit $680m in 2018 and that it was on track to reach £2.4bn spend in 2022. Gartner predicted that 85% of large companies will have established some form of RPA by 2022. More recently, Brandessence Market Research estimated that RPA generated $2.7bn in global revenues in 2020, and is expected to achieve $18.3bn in 2027.
The purpose of RPA is that it cuts the fat from the lean, refining processes to their essence through the deployment of bots. So when it’s weaved into the fabric of an organisation and crossing departmental boundaries, a fragmented approach just won’t cut it.
As we revealed in a recent report published by The AI Journal, if you’re taking RPA seriously, you need a Center of Excellence (CoE).
Say you’re at the point where your CEO and leadership team are onboard with RPA, you’ve introduced the technology across a couple of processes and they are literally paying dividends, slashing costs, eliminating human error and streamlining customer relations. What’s the next step?
Pulling the Strands Together
Within AI circles, there’s a consensus that those companies which have enabled RPA to truly thrive across their businesses have formalised the process by forming a CoE. The benefits are numerous. As its name suggests, it becomes the nerve centre of company-wide RPA and creates a standardised framework that makes subsequent project roll-outs significantly smoother.
A CoE also delineates RPA leadership, providing governance and helping the company define requirements, optimise resources and manpower, promote best practice and advise other departments and operations on how best to implement RPA. In short, it pulls together multiple strands from across the business and validates a centralised approach to RPA.
But that’s not to say that a CoE should become a department like any other, or an adjunct of another department such as IT. It should stand alone. Possibly a CoE’s most important characteristic should be nimbleness. After all, RPA is designed to introduce efficiencies by bringing disparate elements into a cohesive whole.
In the words of provider UiPath, a CoE is “essentially the way to embed RPA deeply and effectively into the organisation and to redistribute accumulated knowledge and resources across future deployments”.
Here are some of the facets a CoE should oversee: governance, by establishing standards, policies and procedures across the business; organisation, by managing internal and external responsibilities and dealing with change management; technology, by selecting the right tools for jobs; processes, through executing and monitoring RPA; and operations.
New Skill Sets for Your RPA Strategy
An RPA strategy requires learning new skills – through training existing staff, bringing in new talent, or even outsourcing – to effectively design, monitor and optimise automation and the roles within a CoE should reflect that.
At a fairly basic level, a CoE team should comprise an RPA sponsor, or leader – someone who oversees strategy and implementation across the business; an analyst who has responsibility for the roadmap, assessing business processes and tracking the reporting on ROI; and a developer in charge of creating, testing and deploying bots, as well as providing technical support both in terms of maintenance and development.
Ensuring Your RPA Strategy Can Handle Change
There are other positions too that will become necessary as a business’s RPA strategy evolves. One of the most important is that of the change manager.
It may sound simplistic, but as RPA becomes more bedded into a company, what is happening to all intents and purposes is that robots are taking on more roles. The company makeup is changing. It’s therefore vital that change management is not overlooked, as it so often is. Effective change management will smooth the path towards greater automation.
Meanwhile, as RPA begins to permeate multiple elements of a business, the importance of IT support will become more pronounced. The CoE should therefore engage with IT functions such as infrastructure, service and support, security and compliance. This is why many companies appoint an IT liaison to the CoE, someone from IT who will synchronise automation requirements with the department.
Establishing a Council of Excellence
Finally, a business might also consider founding a CoE council that meets regularly and acts as a steering committee for overarching governance and direction. This should be a group of key representatives from across the business – from IT, finance, auditing and HR, for starters. The council will ensure that objectives are in line with company direction and meet management goals and expectations, and encourage and facilitate greater take-up of RPA across the business.
Clearly, establishing an RPA strategy is just one aspect of a business’s digital transformation. It therefore follows that a CoE is aligned with a business’s vision for the future. Given that RPA’s raison d’être is to bolster efficiencies, cut costs and improve customer relations, a CoE should be a driver of that transformation.