We’ve outlined best practices to establish an RPA center of excellence that will be sustainable, maintainable and bring process and technology improvements.
Robotic process automation (RPA) isn’t new, but it has emerged as an effective tool for organizations to automate repetitive tasks, increase efficiency and reduce overall costs. In fact, the RPA market has grown to five times the size it was five years ago, according to Gartner.
As your organization begins the journey into robotic process automation, there are several ways to approach an initiative, each of which will vary based on your company culture, available resources (human and technical) and investment in RPA technology.
No matter which method you choose, we recommend establishing an RPA center of excellence (CoE) as part of your long-term strategy. An RPA CoE enables you to integrate RPA throughout your organization and provides the necessary capabilities to manage the program once you launch it. You can think of an RPA CoE as a repository of information that facilitates knowledge sharing, collaboration and effective automation.
Below are tested best practices to help guide you on the path to establishing an RPA CoE that will be sustainable, maintainable and continually bring process and technology improvements to your automation initiatives.
1. Establish an RPA CoE Team
Create a clearly defined team with documented roles and responsibilities, which will help bring structure to every RPA initiative.
Roles should include the following:
- RPA Sponsor: Typically an authoritative figure, an RPA sponsor is responsible for promoting your organization’s RPA initiative and helping ensure buy-in from employees.
- RPA Developer: This person is responsible for designing, creating and testing the RPA solution.
- Solution Architect: The solution architect role can be both an IT Architect as well as an RPA Architect. Similar to a building architect, this role will establish the structure of the RPA solution and oversee both the development and implementation phases.
- RPA Automation Specialist or Controller: This role will help control the execution of the automations and support the RPA program in its daily use.
- RPA Business Analyst: The RPA business analyst is the subject matter expert responsible for working between the IT team and business leaders to ensure RPA solutions will provide value to the organization.
It’s important to note these are the minimum roles you should include in your RPA CoE, but you may also want to consider roles such as RPA Champions, RPA Change Manager and RPA Service and Support. Dedicated Project Managers can also be a part of the team. However, you will likely bring in project managers on a project-by-project basis.
Creating a charter and mission is critical to the team’s success, as it allows your team to manage their environment accordingly and create a common set of goals and values. The team should be self-governing, to some degree, given that individuals who work in this type of framework are considered highly desirable.
2. Build a Proof-of-Concept Bot
Create a proof-of-concept (PoC) bot to perform a basic task. The bot may or may not be complete, but it should help demonstrate how your organization’s chosen tool will work in your environment.
Additionally, the PoC bot will provide firsthand knowledge of the ease of use and complexity of the tool, the benefits the organization can derive from automation, and how the tool can be part of the larger technology stack. Work to ensure everyone understands the tool, its capabilities and limitations and the best way to make use of it.
Having informed technologists and users will aid in driving the adoption across the enterprise and lead to well-educated, informed decisions.
3. Establish an RPA CoE Steering Committee
The RPA CoE Steering Committee should understand the culture and technology of the organization and how RPA can thrive, as it will provide oversight and governance to the RPA initiative.
Comprised of cross-functional team members from across the organization, including HR, Operations, IT, Finance and Audit, the RPA CoE steering committee will ensure any automation initiatives support the overall strategy of the business and IT organization. It will also ensure the RPA solution drives economies of scale.
This group can help identify “quick wins” so that others across the organization can see the potential of the technology.
As with the RPA team, the CoE committee should have a clearly defined charter that outlines roles and responsibilities for its members, frequency of meetings, goals, assets, challenges and other business-related deliverables for which the team is responsible.
4. Create a Strategy and Roadmap for Your RPA Center of Excellence
Too often, organizations continue to work on automations and deploy them without an overall strategy or long-term plan in place. This is where an RPA center of excellence roadmap is essential.
The roadmap will outline the near-term and long-term objectives of the program and will not only consider the technology needs of the organization as part of RPA but also will take into consideration the organizational and cultural aspects of the project.
Organizational change management (OCM) is a key aspect of any RPA journey and will help to minimize the fears of staff, especially those directly impacted by automation. The more everyone understands “where we are going” and the positive impact RPA can have on their daily workloads, the more buy-in organizations will see from employees and the stronger the initiative will become.
5. Create an Effective RPA CoE Governance Process and Model
As RPA begins to cross departments in the organization, the need to create new automations will grow. You need a demand management process in place to govern this process.
This model should include, but is not limited, to:
- Process discovery and selection
- Prioritization guidelines
- Return-on-investment (ROI) calculations
- Oversight of knowledgebase and any documentation associated with the overall RPA program or a given automation
- Establishment of best practices for both business and IT, including the RPA team
- Knowledge and insights on best practices
- Continuous service improvement (CSI) methods.
6. Define an Operations and Support Model
Organizations have placed the responsibility for RPA with IT, but many of them also place the management and support within the business units. Regardless of where it resides, you need a defined model as to how you will handle testing, deployment and ongoing maintenance and support.
- How will RPA deployments fit into the overall IT change management and incident management processes?
- Will deployments need to follow enterprise standards for production implementations, or will they create their own?
- How does the service desk play into incident management?
- How will you communicate changes about applications being used within an automation to the RPA team so they can change automations accordingly?
- What are the testing and user acceptance guidelines?
All these components are critical to the success of an RPA program and how it is supported daily throughout the organization.
7. Manage Organizational Change
RPA directly impacts employees likely more than any other changes taking place throughout organizations today. That’s why it is important to be proactive in your approach to organizational change management. This includes not only the oversight of employee morale as you roll out changes but operational planning and organizational redesign recommendations needing to take place for RPA success.
The more information you can share with staff members – for instance, an RPA 101 program – the greater likelihood they will accept the program and subsequent automations.
Communities of interest (CoI) groups with members from across the organization who can act as RPA champions can help to ease the transition across the organization.
8. Continue Collaboration with IT
As RPA continues to grow in your organization and automation accesses more internal and third-party applications, the more the RPA Team, IT and end users require collaboration. Application changes end users request that IT makes can have a direct impact on deployed automations and could cause errors in the environment if not properly addressed.
You need to establish more frequent and effective communication and collaboration to minimize potential impacts.
Develop a CoE to Boost Your Organization’s RPA Success
Creating an RPA center of excellence may feel like a daunting task, but when implemented properly, it can have immense benefits to your organization. RPA can help improve customer satisfaction, create efficiencies, decrease turnaround time, minimize repetitive processes and enable staff to focus on more meaningful tasks, and more, all with a minimum investment.
Consider working with an expert to help you define, educate and prepare your organization for RPA success.