When we think of automation, we think of deploying bots to make a company’s vision come true, and empower them in increasing overall business value. When it comes to RPA in banks or insurance companies, it is far more effective to deploy a software bot that performs repetitive tasks, at scale, round the clock with near-perfect accuracy. Scores of enterprises see RPA as the key to assist them in resolving challenges associated with cost and operational scalability.
To reach this objective effectively, we recommend and assist clients towards building an RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE), which helps in embedding automation effectively across the organization and dispense knowledge base as well as resources for future deployments.
What is an RPA CoE?
RPA has proven to produce an improvement in efficiency along with other benefits in a fast-paced consumer-driven market. However, implementing a well-structured and well-functioning RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) requires critical understanding, planning, and effort.
A competent automation CoE enables organizations to deeply embed RPA and replace human workers with robots that make processes faster, more efficient, and have fewer errors.
An RPA CoE allows businesses to automate the mundane tasks that human workers are often burdened with. While a human workforce is still necessary to create strategies and govern the business, their necessity in performing repetitive daily tasks will be massively reduced.
What is the RPA CoE supposed to do?
An effective RPA CoE is ideally meant to provide critical services through a high-performing operation model. This model will include the following elements:
A robust organizational core ensures that RPA is integrated throughout the company. It dictates the internal and external roles and responsibilities which support all the aspects of an RPA initiative. Simply put, this element defines the organizational structure of the CoE. Apart from the above, it is also responsible for acquiring and training new resources and seamless change management.
This element establishes clear robotic process automation standards, procedures, and policies along with governing bodies, escalation paths, and segregation of duties. It also ensures that compliance regulations, information security requirements, and regulatory standards are met. This element will also decide task prioritization, the level of access provided to different teams or employees.
A good RPA CoE setup will be able to choose the right automation tools for appropriate tasks and also take care of the maintenance and support aspects of these tools. Essentially, it acts as the architect of the robotic operating environment. It will also boost RPA integration into crucial areas such as the IT Service Management and the Configuration Management Database.
Essentially, the home of RPA, this element executes, monitors, and alters the complete life cycle throughout the organization. It is in charge of evaluating automation opportunities, deploying RPA into suitable environments with a stable, scalable support structure. The assessment, development, testing, and deployment are all part of this element. Change processes and incident management also fall under this category.
With the successful implementation of RPA, there are structural changes within the organization. This element analyzes the effects of the RPA on human roles, from changing job descriptions to overall operational change management. It also takes into account the changes in organizational structure, monitors the RPA, and provides support when needed.
Who is a part of RPA CoE?
Building an RPA CoE requires a lot more than a generic IT team. It requires an essential Operation Robotics Program that has several roles and functions that need to be fulfilled. A good RPA CoE setup requires you to hire the right people to fulfill the following critical tasks:
- RPA Sponsor – You will need to hire a robotic process automation sponsor, who will be in charge of ensuring that the CoE is established as a priority enterprise-wide. This sponsor is accountable for the overall robotics strategy.
- CoE Lead – This is a senior executive, that is accountable for the CoE activities, performance reporting, and operational leads.
- RPA Project Manager – Ensures that the robotics projects are delivered in accordance with the CoE strategy, thus enabling successful implementation, benefits to be reaped on time and within the designated budget.
- RPA Champions – These team members will drive the adoption process of automation throughout the organization.
- RPA and CoE Business Analysts – These analysts are subject matter experts that will create the process definitions and maps used for automation. CoE business analysts will also be in charge of identifying opportunities, providing a detailed analysis of the potential benefits and required resources.
- RPA Solution Architect – Oversee the infrastructure of the RPA from beginning to end. They assist in both the development and implementation stages of the CoE setup. They are in charge of the detailed design and licensing needs of the automation CoE.
- CoE Developers – These team members are responsible for the technical design, development, and testing of the CoE automation workflows. They also provide support during the organization-wide implementation of the CoE setup.
- Infrastructure Engineers – They provide support for teams involved in the deployment and future operations of the automation CoE. They mainly give infrastructure support for troubleshooting and server installations.
- Controller & Supervisor – The controller is in charge of monitoring, scheduling, and supporting the implementation of the CoE while making sure that business goes on as usual.
- Service and Support – This team is the first line of support in case of any queries or issues during CoE implementation.
What to consider before implementing an RPA CoE?
Before implementing an RPA CoE, it is crucial to understand the basics so that enterprise-wide adoption is smooth and effective. While identifying potential opportunities for RPA CoE setup, certain principles have to be kept in mind:
- If there is a step in the business process that is excess to requirements or does not add value, then it must be terminated or removed before automation.
- If a core system can be altered to implement automation cost-effectively, then executing this process is more of a priority for an effective RPA implementation.
- The client’s permission must be taken before automating any process that involves personally identifiable information and confidential data. RPA CoE setup should not be done at the cost of reduced data integrity or security. No sensitive information should be stored in the robotics database or work queues.
- If processes are currently outsourced to third-party providers, then the automation CoE must use the appropriate delivery methodology to provide robotics within the outsourced operation. In addition, the CoE must thoroughly evaluate the RPA vendors and, if suitable, enroll them as an implementation partner.
Now that the basic principles of RPA CoE have been noted, you need to decide on the scale, capabilities, and options for implementing the CoE. Your organization can deploy a CoE in various levels:
- Decentralized CoE or CoE as a support function – The decentralized model has its functionalities spread across an organization with different CoE capabilities being run by different business units. This model places fewer constraints on local business teams within the organization while simultaneously helping them gain momentum and expertise. It hands the demand for innovation over to the employees by empowering them to meet business goals by using RPA. This model is loosely-governed, and different lines of business establish their own CoE guidelines and structures. While this a great way to start an RPA initiative and could potentially cost less, it is difficult to scale and liaise with IT as there is no central control.
- Centralized or CoE as a Central RPA provider – In this model, all the capabilities required to meet business demands and facilitate RPA distribution throughout the organization will be handled by a centralized automation CoE setup. The CoE provides the collective resources and expertise required to deliver the RPA implementation successfully – this enables those in charge to view all initiatives in a centralized place and gives them stronger governance abilities over projects and priorities. A centralized CoE setup provides an end-to-end view of process changes, enabling more beneficial opportunity identification. A central model also provides a standard set of regulations for assessment, delivery, monitoring, and maintenance. All of the above features make scaling easier.
- Hybrid – Most organizations use a hybrid of the above two options. For example, a well-established CoE should be mature enough to handle decentralized business unit demands while still having centralized operations. In this scenario, the CoE delivery and operational support. At the same time, each business unit will have its parameters for development, prioritization, and assessment of automation processes.
- As stated, a hybrid model is best suited for mature initiatives that can accommodate features of both centralized and decentralized models. It has the scalability of the centralized model so that business growth can be accommodated without any limitations.
Building the RPA CoE
Now that we have covered the fundamental aspects of an RPA CoE setup along with principles, roles, and different models, let us take a look at some of the crucial factors in the building process.
If you want your RPA CoE to be an actual driver of innovation and digital transformation, then adequate planning is critical. Implementing RPA throughout an organization could lead to profound structural changes. However, prosperous businesses must remember that these employees have valuable experience and expertise at their disposal. As such, there should be a plan to reassign employee tasks or departments rather than letting them go.
Planning for structural changes allows you to differentiate between the tasks that are to be performed by a human workforce and tasks that are to be completed by automation. It also includes a clear communication strategy to clear employees’ worries and fuel innovation. The plan must also include a full description of where the digital workforce will operate such that employees know how and when to use it.
Explore New Opportunities
While many businesses might want to implement an RPA CoE set up, they do not know where and how to start. Questions about various factors like infrastructure, vendors, processes, documentation, and other considerations will likely be floating around.
The solution to these questions is to use a guide, either a consultant or an external firm, to help you explore and understand an automation CoE. A guide will make it easier to know how a CoE will work within an organization.
On-Site or On The Cloud
Another significant consideration is whether your business should host the digital workforce on local data servers or on the cloud. While large, well-established companies might have the resources to host the RPA CoE at local data centers while other companies would prefer to host it on the cloud.
Both options have their benefits and drawbacks, which is why many companies choose to use a hybrid model that is customized to suit their needs. The hybrid option could have some digital workers operating from local data centers while others operate in the cloud.
The digital workforce’s success can be measured through various metrics other than just merely settling for cost reduction. Determining success metrics early in the RPA program is crucial for successful companies.
Cost reduction, increased efficiency, and accuracy are some of the most apparent success metrics but, depending on what the automation CoE is being used for, several other factors will be involved. These could include innovation, customer satisfaction, scaling, and more.
Setting up the RPA CoE
Once the above considerations are made, we can start setting up the RPA CoE. This procedure involves a lot of complicated processes, so we have provided some pointers to keep in mind:
Big goals, small start
When setting up and implementing an automation CoE, it is crucial to have the big picture in mind, but take small steps. A small start will help you understand the technology so you can then decide the organizational changes needed, where automation can be used, costs, and necessary tweaks or adjustments.
Thinking big is still as relevant as businesses that view automation CoE as just another tool often fail to reap its real benefits. Looking at the big picture helps empower employees to innovate and makes them eager to work with their digital counterparts. It also helps in planning future scaling.
Human workers and digital workers can both complete transactional workflow tasks, but only the first can use their creativity and intuition to grow the business. Setting up a CoE that encourages employees to create rather than stagnate is vital to a successful program.
A functional automation CoE setup frees up human time spent on routine tasks, allowing ground-level employees to innovate. At the same time, subject matter experts can further use automation to help their creative endeavors.
Choosing the right resources
Since hiring trends have changed drastically in favor of the employee, selecting the right people and technology has become more significant. Setting up an automation CoE that can handle the essential yet transactional tasks can allow organizations to hire then employees who bring a multitude of skills and ideas with them.
An RPA CoE that does not allow you to better your service towards customers or clients is not fulfilling its potential. With the right automation CoE tools and implementation, a business can open up new opportunities to interact with customers, gain more potential leads, and close more deals.
Investing in customer experience is essential, and a CoE must be used in a way that simplifies processes and makes them faster. Customer service-related tasks, which used to take days to complete, can be fast-tracked while employees can also have more personal interactions with customers.
Your business’ needs will change as it grows, and your CoE should be equipped to evolve with it. A complete RPA CoE setup can make scaling easier as you can initialize more machines or software to do the work in a shorter time compared to the long hours it takes to hire and train new employees.
Essentially, adding more digital “clones” to the workforce is a lot easier than integrating new people into it, but this only works if the CoE has the capabilities to handle the demand.
Although overlooked and underestimated, CoEs are a critical part of building a robust RPA program. An RPA CoE has a wide range of benefits that can vastly improve business capabilities, but creating an automation CoE that matches your goals entirely is no easy task. A well-formed RPA Centre of Excellence can help organizations manage the full cycle of RPA, right from developing business use cases to supporting a vast bot ecosystem.
A version of this post originally appeared here.