RPA initiatives often begin outside IT, with a business organization driving the technology adoption for its purposes. In many cases, too, there is a strong perception that this adoption requires only minimal involvement with IT or the broader set of technical organizations. While RPA does simplify the creation of automation scripts, governance of both the usage and operations is necessary to achieve the goals of automating with RPA.
Robotic process automation (RPA) can perform a wide variety of actions, making it analogous to an “automation Swiss Army knife.” But, like that tool, the wide variety of capabilities often comes with constraints on the ideal use cases. For instance, a Swiss Army knife might contain a saw, but trying to fell a large tree with that saw will likely end in failure, frustration, and, perhaps, a broken tool.
Many of the challenges that many organizations face when implementing RPA are due to the company’s implementation rather than the technology. Learning from what worked in the past and incorporating those elements into your automation culture is the key to scaling RPA within your organization.
Putting constraints around the use cases, aligning developer persona to those use cases, and putting in just the right amount of software development life cycle (SDLC) management are the keys to success with RPA.
These five best practices are based on feedback from our customers who are pioneering RPA:
1. Create an automation center of excellence by establishing the right governance model (CoE).
A Center of Excellence (CoE) can provide guiding principles, governance, and a repository of best practices, reusable components, and technical expertise that everyone in an organization can access.
The following actions can help you create an effective automation CoE:
- Form an executive committee on automation, which should have a C-level sponsor who can help create cross-functional buy-in and drive adoption. This could be a key participant or the CoE leader.
- Create a charter for the CoE. Goals and principles should be included in the charter and roles and responsibilities. The governance structure, which outlines the CoE’s rules and guidelines, should also be included in the charter.
- Create a centralized governing body. It should be in charge of governance and law enforcement.
- Assemble a CoE team. Subject matter experts from critical areas impacted by the shift to automation, such as pipeline, DevOps, IT, and more, should be included on the team.
- Keep an eye on the CoE. Reporting can help you optimize your automation project pipeline and track the ROI and performance of your live bots.
Quality, security, and compliance are all ensured by a strong governance model. It outlines automation standards, bot frameworks, and best practices. It also specifies the metrics used to assess bot performance.
The governance model determines individual team members’ roles and the overall model for RPA operations. One of three structures can be used to build this model:
- Centralized governance: It shares services and best practices from the center of excellence (CoE) across all organization functions, using common standards. Remember that coordinating these efforts can cause the program to slow down as it grows.
- Decentralized governance: It allows business units to be more self-sufficient, get up and running quickly, and see a quick return on investment. However, this can result in the fragmentation of people, technology, and standards over time.
- Federated governance: A centralized CoE and standards are used, but business units retain local ownership. It balances agility and scalability by combining the best of both the business and IT worlds.
2. Promote early automation success within your company.
Another key to success is to foster an automated culture. This is accomplished by enthusiastically evangelizing the benefits of automation as a key organizational value.
Evangelism should come from all levels of your organization, including the executive committee and CoE, and employees. Here are some examples of how RPA evangelism could benefit your company:
- Create a portal for internal automation. Users should be able to make and prioritize automation requests, calculate ROI, and monitor requests using a dashboard through this intuitive self-service portal.
- Mark important anniversaries and congratulate yourself on your accomplishments. At both company-wide and departmental meetings, this can be done.
- Set aside days for automation. Encourage employees to bring ideas for automation to these meetings and assist them in developing their bots to make their jobs easier.
- Make eLearning available. This can be either done in-house or through a third party, such as an RPA vendor and can help employees at all levels understand their roles in an automated organization and how to use the solution.
3. Choose an agile mindset for automation development.
The real work begins with developing automation that fuels a truly efficient organization, not with RPA evangelism. Using a cutting-edge development methodology like agile to build, test, and deploy bots is the best way. By adopting an agile mindset, processes can be broken down into smaller components that can be automated more quickly, resulting in better and faster bot creation. The agile methodology began in engineering and information technology, but it quickly spread to other organizational functions. Marketing teams, for example, are increasingly employing the agile methodology, which relies on sprints and daily standup meetings to help them meet deadlines and deliver high-quality content.
Rapid iteration and constant communication are key components of agile development. Once a bot is built, it is monitored daily until it is finished, including user acceptance testing. New bot enhancements should ideally be released every one to two weeks. It’s important to remember that deploying a bot isn’t the end of the job. Bots must be constantly monitored and optimized. Examine critical KPIs, such as bot failure rates, to determine where and why failures occur, make improvements, and ensure they perform at their best. Functions should choose an agile mindset whenever possible to ensure RPA success.
4. Go beyond RPA with full automation capabilities.
RPA can significantly boost your company’s efficiency. If it’s part of an end-to-end solution that integrates people, systems, data, bots, and artificial intelligence (AI) into a single workflow, it can accomplish even more. This is referred to as “complete automation.”
Complete automation must include the following:
- Workflow: With comprehensive business process management capabilities, orchestrate all resources into a single workflow, driving productivity and exceptional customer and employee experiences.
- Low-code RPA: Create bots quickly to handle high-volume, repetitive tasks, allowing people to focus on more important tasks.
- Artificial Intelligence: Classify documents, extract data, embed the next best action, and more with best-of-breed AI services from vendors of your choice.
- Low-code Data: Integrate data from anywhere without expensive migrations.
- Business Rules: Use zero coding to define and automate complex business logic.
- Case Management: Improve performance by handling exceptions and ad hoc activities with task management and actionable data views.
5. Put humans in control, not just in the loop.
While automation takes away the tedious aspects of a job, the best RPA programs keep humans in charge. Automation should not be used to replace people in your workforce. Instead, it should be about allowing them to concentrate on more important tasks while maintaining process control.
Efforts should be made to automate processes from start to finish while keeping humans at the centre and, ultimately, in command. This entails providing employees with the right data at the right time to enable them to make decisions. For better decision-making and understanding, you should converge real-time data from across the organization to provide a consolidated, 360-degree view. A key benefit of task management and case management is that it keeps people in control, allowing them to deal with ad hoc and exception activities as they arise. Employees can also use intuitive interfaces to analyze all relevant data at once, allowing them to make quick decisions and intervene at critical decision points.
When people are only “in the loop,” they miss the critical information needed to make better decisions and take immediate actions.