RPA CENTER OF EXCELLENCE INTRODUCTION
Intelligent Automation (IA), and specifically Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is becoming the new frontier of automation and is primed to change the landscape of process and service delivery across all functions (in both the back office and front office). However, a growing appetite for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) brings with it its own set of challenges. Early adopters have already learned that the introduction of robotics is not a “quick fix” and works best as part of a broader optimization and automation strategy, rather than necessarily as point-in-time standalone solutions, many organizations are recognizing and beginning to plan for the potential enterprise-wide impact and benefits of robotics, by building an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE).
But what exactly is an RPA CoE? When should an organization start evaluating the need to establish one? And how does one go about implementing it?
WHAT IS AN RPA CENTER OF EXCELLENCE?
An RPA Center of Excellence is a central governing body that helps run automation projects across the organization. It provides best practices, structure, insights, and support to the business to identify and deliver automation opportunities, in a virtuous cycle.
It combines people, process and technology to assist in shifting an enterprise’s mindset and resources towards an end-to-end automation/RPA, combining complementary technologies and new roles focused on augmenting business processes capabilities.
A proper CoE is a launch platform to scale RPA with tactical and strategic goals, creating a new ecosystem that enables the exponential growth of automations, and re-uses knowledge and automation assets.
KEY ELEMENTS OF IMPLEMENTING AN RPA CoE
An RPA CoE is a central govern body that Discovers, Builds, Manages, Runs, Engages, and Measures automation projects across organizations. It empowers the integration of people, process and technology that shifts an enterprise mindset and resources towards an end-to-end automation beyond RPA.
The article takes a closer look at the fundamental aspects of an RPA CoE setup (People, Process and Technology) along with different operating models and the key element of RPA Change Management.
A CoE OPERATING MODEL
In our experience, once different areas of organizations are introduced to, and understand the capabilities of, RPA, the demand can become off the charts, with everyone lining up to get their processes supplemented by “bots”. An appropriate, adaptable and scalable model is key to meeting these needs, and a CoE model is a great way of offering this capability.
There are three different operating models with each offering its own sets of advantages and disadvantages.
One: Federated – Independent RPA CoEs within each business unit
- Each business unit is fully in control of the automation projects and their prioritization
- All IA CoEs will benefit from strong process knowledge as close to (within) each business unit
- Lessons learned and best practice for automation at high risk – need to enforce a strong, regular exchange of best practices between IA CoEs from different business units.
- High risk of incoherence in the approach for IA deployment, support and implementation methodology
- Incoherent technical solutions may be applied – the risk of always ”reinventing the wheel”
- Certain IA roles will be duplicated and not fully utilized: e.g. the IA Support team in certain IA CoEs may have less work than others, same for IA Solution Architects, etc.
Two: Centralized – One IA CoE serving all Business Units
- Unified and centralized IA support for all Business Units
- Higher expertise, lessons learned and best practice for automation easier to disseminate within the center
- Standardized IA deployment, support, and implementation methodology
- Potential prioritization challenges of automation projects due to the high number of business units served
- Relies on distant communication
Three: Hybrid – Several IA CoEs serving several business units, linked to several smaller IA CoE dedicated to individual
- High complexity projects delivered out of main IA CoE, smaller IA CoEs handle low-medium complexity automation projects
- Decreased risk of prioritization challenges due to existence of smaller dedicated IA CoEs
- Higher process knowledge specific to business units concentrated in the smaller IA CoEs
- Lessons learned and best practice for automation at risk (expect discrepancy in know-how between main IA CoE and smaller IA CoEs)
- Potential incoherence in the approach for IA deployment, support and implementation methodology
PEOPLE – BUILDING A COE TEAM
RPA jobs are not just for IT professionals. Business analysts, process Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), Continuous Improvements leaders, among other roles now have the ability to evolve their roles towards RPA. Every role related to enterprise processes (execution, supervision, analysis, owner) has the opportunity to champion the automation possibilities and carve out a role for themselves leading the RPA journey.
At Chazey, we recommend building your own RPA operating model. It has several essential roles and functions that need to be fulfilled with well-defined responsibilities. A good RPA CoE setup requires you to hire the right people to fulfill the following critical tasks:
- RPA Sponsor – RPA 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
- RPA Change Manager – They are a catalyst in the transition process, developing a robust change management plan to secure a smooth transition and transparent communication
- RPA Champions – These team members are accountable for the CoE activities and drive the adoption process of automation throughout the organization.
- RPA Business Analysts – These analysts are subject matter experts that will create the process definitions and maps used for automation.
- RPA Solution Architect – Oversee the infrastructure of the RPA solutions.
- RPA Developers – They are responsible for the design, development, and testing of the CoE automation workflows.
- RPA Infrastructure Engineers – They provide support for teams involved in the deployment and future operations of the automation CoE.
- RPA 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.
- RPA Service and Support – This team is the first line of support in case of any queries or issues during CoE implementation.
(Source: Sample roles from UiPath – Enable RPA CoE)
RPA CHANGE MANAGEMENT
Given the short implementation times and quick wins RPA can provide, organizational change management in support of RPA initiatives is commonly overlooked or granted only “nice to have” status – as opposed to recognizing that it forms a critical and vital enabler of such a potentially significant change program. Leadership teams that fail to have a change management plan in place may find RPA projects derailed early on.
As a central governing body that runs automation projects across organizations, the CoE needs to help drive RPA Change Management and organizational redesign before/after work process disposition.
At Chazey, we recommend three core factors to support Organization Change Management, to help everything come together smoothly and ensure a successful RPA program.
- Effective Stakeholder Identification and Management
An RPA deployment’s ultimate success requires the full cooperation and buy-in at every level of the organization, and the very first key step of this exercise is to identify your stakeholders and secure top-level management sponsorship.
- RPA Communication Strategy
Communication requirements will be driven by RPA project activities, key milestones and the needs of key stakeholders, which should have been identified at the start of the project.
- Employee Engagement Plan
The Employee Engagement Plan sets out a recommended strategy and approach for transitioning the operation to the new ”Future State” enabled by RPA, while understanding and factoring in employee impacts directly related to the implementation of this new way of working.
(For more information on RPA Change Management, refer to Chazey’s article of “Three Core Factors to Effective RPA Change Management”)
The RPA journey is best viewed strategically versus tactically. It oversees the RPA project pipeline, project prioritization, solution development, project delivery, training, standards, governance, business sponsorship, engagement and value realization. Implementing a CoE model ensures RPA programs embedded deeply and effectively into the organization and enable your organization’s RPA journey to operate at a maximum level.
To learn more about RPA and an RPA CoE, watch Chazey Partners’ digital workshop on an RPA CoE implementation.
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