Rejoy Nair

According to Gartner, through 2021, 40% of enterprises will have RPA buyer’s remorse due to misaligned, siloed usage and inability to scale and by 2021, task centric RPA offerings in their current form will be obsolete.

The rapid RPA adoption has created a lot of publicity in the market. Resulting in many organizations to jump into the RPA bandwagon without proper analysis, planning, strategies, and defined business objectives. Which in turn has led to failed automation attempts due to the inability to identify the right processes, build checkpoints, and security issues. All this ultimately results in dissatisfaction. Many organizations fail to realize the need for governance, continuous attention, changes to automation rules and scripts as per the changing business scenarios, defined best practices, reusable assets, expectation management and more. And all this is only possible if you have a dedicated RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) taking care of all these things to make your automation journey a success.

The RPA Centre of Excellence

When organizations decide to evaluate the implementation of RPA beyond the POC/ Pilot stages, there can be confusion as to how processes should be selected and how bots are to be deployed. Creating bots cannot be slow, unreliable and error-prone outcomes. Value is impacted when trying to scale. Hence organizations must try to set up an RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE) when they scale up to institutionalize and operationalize RPA implementation. For effective communication, the CoE should preferably use a demo to address even basic queries like What RPA is? what RPA is for? How to identify suitable use cases? It is always useful to show these working demos in communicating RPA and responding to queries raised to get buy-ins. CoE should ensure standardized mechanisms or methods to recommend implementation for any process, submission of process and to receive feedback regarding the status of the implementation. The CoE performs an important role in streamlining complexity and optimizing the time needed to deploy bots. Also, the final responsibility lies with them for Identifying opportunities to deploy bots. Within a CoE setup, Process automation can fit within the agile approach. The CoE should make sure that the Automation delivery approach should fit into an agile way of work ethic.

There are 3 key areas of focus for CoE – Demand generation, Discovery, and Automation Delivery

1) Demand Generation

“Demand generation” implies the need to sustain continuous throughput of bot development. There must be enough processes to assess and automate. This necessarily requires creating RPA awareness throughout the organization. The CoE should educate Business and IT about RPA, its benefits and what it takes to implement it. The Initiative should generate interest to jumpstart org-wide process discovery for RPA. They should leverage executive sponsorship and automation champions to evangelize RPA and create widespread awareness regarding process automation and its benefits.

2) Process Discovery

“Process discovery” is the mechanism to create process inventory that can be prioritized based on automation potential, benefits, and other factors. The CoE can rank opportunities based on impact and deep dive into these opportunities. The CoE can establish an approval process for automation opportunities that have been assessed based on a business case, potential Return on Investment (RoI), Potential benefits and complexity. This process results in the CoE to maintain a healthy and prioritized automation pipeline which becomes the source of work for automation delivery teams. They will have to identify potential candidate process across the organization. They will need to put in place a prioritization model which is weighted and can provide a list of priorities where to focus efforts first. There is also the additional benefit of identifying processes that need some level of optimization, standardization or improvement to be considered for automation. A business case must be built which requires observing the process, conducting a detailed process walk-through, step-by-step automation analysis, coming up with a high-level design for the solution and the future state and calculating the RoI for the automation. This automation assessment must present a clear view of what the impact would be with enough information for the executive team to decide as to whether to proceed with automation or not. It should also provide the epics or stories with story point estimates that go into the initial backlog. This provides a centralized view of automation opportunities that can be the source of input for agile delivery teams.

3) Automation Delivery

Automation Delivery starts with the automation pipeline; automation opportunities are added to the product backlog. It is recommended that the Automation workflow be implemented continuously and incrementally. The CoE should identify a build-release process for on-demand deployment and a support process to manage and maintain the bot once deployed. Agile automation delivery uses the basic scrum framework which is the best fit for robotic process automation. The product owner is focused on maintaining the product backlog and has visibility into the automation pipeline. Sprint review is to inspect and adapt the increment. The idea is to demonstrate the bot increment to the stakeholders and make sure there is an acceptance to move forward and consider it done.

The product backlog and automation pipeline are tools to provide visibility into the future and anticipate needs in terms of RPA licensing requirements, infrastructure needed to deploy automation, access to business applications, test data, etc. It is recommended to have this visibility before the start of work on user stories to maintain agility. It is very important to capture and document keystroke level detail of any process as well as the solution design for each story. There must be a clear definition of work done. Requirements, Solution design, test cases, acceptable quality, approved by product owner are some of the examples that constitute the definition of work done for an automation project. There must be a continuous build and release management for bots. For organizations following DevOps, it is important to incorporate delivery of bots into the DevOps practice. Finally, effective handover to production support is critical. Part of the definition of ‘done’ must include artifacts that must be handed over to production support to ensure effective support after deployment.

So, in conclusion, Organizations looking to implement RPA must have an Organization framework through the creation of a CoE that formalizes the enablement of the operational aspects using demand generation and process discovery to create an automation pipeline; and the ability to scale up to deliver and deploy automation solutions using an Agile methodology.

Rejoy Nair

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